Tijuana Xolos Liga MX Playoffs Preview: Xolos Look for Seemingly Impossible Task at Home

Credit: Xolos

Credit: Xolos

Game: Tijuana Xolos vs Tigres UANL

When: Sunday, May 21, 2017

Where: Estadio Caliente

Time: 6:00 P.M. PST

TV: Azteca America

The Tijuana Xolos will play the second leg of the semifinals series against Tigres UANL this Sunday, May 21, at the Estadio Caliente. The Xolos have a seemingly impossible task at hand and most people already have Tigres UANL with more than just a leg in the final.

The Xolos must play their best soccer that they can play with some vital absences. The injuries keep on rolling in for the border city side and the plethora of injuries is finally beginning to make a significant impact on the team. In the first leg of this matchup, both Aviles Hurtado and the captain, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, received injuries. Luckily, Hurtado will be at 100 percent for this encounte,r but Juan Carlos Valenzuela will not play in this game. Michael Orozco has been discarded for the rest of the season because of his injury with no chance to return as well. Miguel Herrera is likely to utilize a back four made up of Juan Carlos Nunez, Hiram Munoz, Carlos Vargas, and Damian Perez.  This is a risky back line and it will be interesting to see if “El Piojo” does use something like it and how it performs in such a vital game.

Joe Corona did not play the first leg away from home due to fatigue. Corona is likely to return to the lineup this Sunday. The San Diego native’s distribution in midfield was obviously needed in that game and could have made a difference in generating offensive plays. Miguel Herrera may opt to use the two-striker formation that gave him the 2-0 win at home against Monarcas Morelia in the quarterfinals. Henry Martin or Juan Martin Lucero may be used up top with Milton Caraglio to try and pressure Tigres with a plethora of offense. The Aztec Canines did not generate much of anything going forward last Thursday and will need to keep on applying pressure in this match. It should be intriguing to see what tactics Miguel Herrera does use at home against Ricardo Ferretti and Tigres UANL.

Tigres UANL is coming off a dominant 2-0 performance at home in the first leg. Los Felinos played beautifully, connecting passes with rapid pace, and really played as a unit in that encounter. Both goals in that game were the result of great passing play with some miscues from the Xolos’ backline in there as well. While the offense was fantastic in the game, the midfield and defense were impeccable throughout that encounter. Guido Pizarro and Jesus Duenas formed a rigid pair in the center of midfield that would not allow the Xolos to create much of anything going forward. The fullbacks in defense, Alberto Acosta and Luis Rodriguez, were also vital in that game, recovering several balls and generating offensive plays during the 90 minutes. Andre-Pierre Gignac was not in top form during that game, missing a couple of key chances, but a stellar performance by the French striker was not needed for the victory.

Ricardo Ferretti is known to be a phenomenal tactician that only cares about achieving the favorable result. The Brazilian manager is likely to sit back, protect his lead, and try to find an opening via a counter-attack with his pacey forwards like Ismael Sosa and Javier Aquino. This tactic is an effective one for Tigres UANL and it may be a hard one to break for the Xoloitzcuintles. If Tigres’ midfield and defense can play like it did in the first leg, there should be no problems for Ricardo Ferretti, and the team from Nuevo Leon will be in the final.

Players to Watch

Ismael Sosa

Sosa played a huge role in the first leg of this series. The Argentine’s passing and pace were too much for the Xolos to handle, which caused some slip-ups in the defense. The counterattacking style that Ricardo Ferretti may use in this game could mean that Sosa will prove to be one of the more important players in the encounter. The forward is one of the fastest players on Tigres UANL and the broken Xoloitzcuintles’ defense may struggle to contain him.

Guido Rodriguez

The Argentine was clearly one of the best players for the Xolos in the first leg. Rodriguez saved the border city side from conceding on a few occasions and really helped in the defense. With the absence of Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Rodriguez will have an even bigger responsibility and will need to sit deep in his defensive midfield role on certain plays. The 23-year-old will also need to be a leader and really command the two young center backs Miguel Herrera is likely to use. Rodriguez can also push forward and create havoc against his opposition. The midfielder was just called up to the Argentine national team which will certainly motivate the youngster to perform well in this game.

The Verdict

The match should be entertaining like the quarter-final match against Monarcas Morelia. This game should prove to be something similar to that, but a bit more exciting, with Tigres UANL being a much more potent opposition. Miguel Herrera will need to take huge risks and send everyone forward and disregard his defense in some instances. Transitional players like Joe Corona and Guido Rodriguez will be huge to distribute the ball going forward, but also defend and recover the ball as quickly as possible. The Xolos need to win by a score of 2-0 but if Tigres UANL does score one goal the Aztec Canines will need to score four goals. I cannot see the away team being shutout in this game, therefore, the prediction in the game is a 2-1 win for the Xolos. The victory will be a defeat as the border city side will be knocked out of the playoffs. The Xolos are capable of constructing some sort of amazing result, especially at home, and the game should prove to be a spectacle. Fuerza Tijuas!

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Francisco Velasco
Francisco, 21, Chula Vista area, Journalism student at Southwestern College. I have been a Padres fan all my life, did most of the series previews and recaps in the Padres' 2016 season for EVT. Now I focus more on the Tijuana Xolos soccer team, get press passes for every home game and write consistently about the team for EVT.

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