The Tijuana Xolos played the second leg of their quarterfinal CONCACAF Champions League fixture against the New York Red Bulls on Tuesday.
It was a cold and uneventful night for Club Tijuana, with just over six thousand fans at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. The American side had a 2-0 advantage heading into this return leg and the Xolos needed at least three goals to advance to the semifinals of the competition. Instead of scoring three goals, the Xoloitzcuintles had a disastrous performance and ended up conceding three goals as the Red Bulls took a 3-1 victory in front of the home support.
The Xolos looked like the much better team from the initial whistle, but then fizzled out as the clock went on. Just 90 seconds into the match, Luis Angel Mendoza struck a potent shot that ended up smashing the post. “Quick” was one of the Xolos most dangerous players on the day for Diego Cocca as he threatened Luis Robles’ net a few times throughout the encounter. Mendoza finally struck in the 28th minute, as he capitalized on a perfect cross into the penalty area by Rubio Rubin.
Club Tijuana’s dominance and hope died down quickly as Tyler Adams made it a 1-1 game in the 28th minute. Things went from bad to worse for Cocca’s men as Juan Carlos Valenzuela picked up an injury before the end of the half and was subbed out for Hiram Munoz. The first half ended 1-1, but there was still some hope for the Xolos as they needed two goals to advance to the semifinals of the competition. The Xoloitzcuintles did not look great out of the gate in the second half as they seemed to have lost a lot of momentum and motivation.
Diego Cocca tried to be as offensive as possible as he subbed out midfielder Ignacio Rivero for striker Juan Martin Lucero in the 61st minute and brought on Ignacio Malcorra for Rubio Rubin as well in the 64th minute. The Lucero substitution left the Aztec Canines vulnerable and in the 70th minute, Marc Rzatkowski made it a 2-1 game and basically sealed the series. To add salt to the wounds, Alejandro Gamarra added another goal for the Red Bulls in the 76th minute to make it a 3-1 scoreline.
The Xolos’ defense was woeful on all the goals that were conceded on the night as plenty of gaps were left and taken advantage of by the Red Bulls. The Aztec Canines also did not seem to have anything going forward as there were only seven shots produced in this return leg as opposed to 30 in the first leg. Tijuana was embarrassed by a weaker team in this series with the final aggregate score being an unacceptable 5-1 in New York’s favor. The Xoloitzcuintles inclusively lost control throughout the game and did resort to aggression towards Red Bulls’ players, just like in the first leg. The Xolos will now focus on the Liga MX after this forgettable performance in the CONCACAF Champions League. The Border City Dogs will host Monarcas Morelia at the Estadio Caliente for their next match in the Clausura 2018.
Xolos’ Lineup: Gibran Lajud, Omar Mendoza, Juan Carlos Valenzuela (43’ Hiram Munoz), Pablo Aguilar, Damian Perez, Damian Musto, Ignacio Rivero (61’ Juan Martin Lucero), Rubio Rubin (64’ Ignacio Malcorra), Luis Angel Mendoza, Miller Bolanos, Alberto Garcia.
Questions do need to be asked on the day on some of Diego Cocca’s decisions that did seem to have an impact on the result. The most notable one was to not start Ignacio Malcorra or Mateus Goncalves. Malcorra has proven to be an impactful player for the Xolos over the past couple of seasons and is always a player that can generate some offense. Goncalves had not been impressive lately, but you still have to consider that performance he had against Pumas UNAM, especially in this game where plenty of goals were needed.