Everyone expected goals when Liga MX’s Friday night showcase featured two of Mexico’s most exciting offensive teams who also happened to have problematic defenses. Yet, somehow Xolos and Club America played to a 0-0 draw in a match that offered plenty of promising buildup play, but no cutting edge.
From box to box, it was an entertaining affair in front of a party-like atmosphere at the Estadio Caliente, but play broke down where it mattered most, leaving players and fans alike frustrated by a dearth of quality chances.
In fact, Club America didn’t register a shot on goal throughout the stalemate. Las Aguilas best chance came just before halftime as a blistering counter-attack saw Oribe Peralta through on goal. The Mexican international tried to lob the onrushing Xolos’ keeper, but his effort fell on the wrong side of the crossbar.
The visitors were the better side on the counter. While Michael Arroyo and the young Diego Lainez were able to create opportunities for Peralta and Silvio Romero by running at defenders, Club America’s 5-3-2 didn’t get numbers forward quickly enough. This meant there was no real ability to break down Xolos’ young and (tonight’s [Friday] at least) resolute defense, once the counter had dwindled and there were bodies behind the ball.
Xolos’ approach play consisted of moving the ball swiftly between the Club America lines. Guido Rodriguez led the charge as the lynchpin between defense and attack, completing over 81% of his 55 passes.
The real driving force of the Tijuana offense, however, was Joe Corona. The American International received the ball in more advanced positions and often combined well with fellow country-mate Paul Arriola, who was eager to have a go at defenders.
“Me and Paul [Arriola] go way back,” Corona told The Stoppage Time after the match. “I kind of already know his game. If I have a chance, I am always trying to look for him and play as much as I can with him.”
With the American connection growing stronger just south of the border and the silky dribbling of striker Avilas Hurtado, Xolos created a lot of nervous moments, but no real chances were served up on a silver platter.
In the end, the young Xolos backline will be the happier of the two sides about the “clean sheet.” After leaking goals in its previous matches, there were concerns early on as right-back Michael Orozco hobbled off in the 25th minute. It was a good sign that the back-four seemed just as assured with Hiram Muñoz as Orozco’s replacement.
The club remained tight-lipped on the nature and extent of Orozco’s injury, but speculation is that it is the same issue that curtailed his time with the U.S. National Team during the last round of World Cup qualifying.
Neither side was happy with their performance and will be looking to bounce back when they resume league play in midweek.
With just five games left in the regular season and the Liga MX table extremely tight, the points are becoming ever more precious.
Man of the Match: Joe Corona
Corona dominated the midfield against America. Not only was he the driving force on attack, but his ability to work back was impressive. Corona’s tireless work without the ball meant he often broke up plays high up the field and played the smart pass to spearhead the offense from very advantageous positions.
Corona is playing with a confidence that is allowing him to dictate games against the biggest teams in Mexico. If he continues in this vein of form, Bruce Arena and his staff will surely consider bringing him back into the fold for the World Cup qualifiers in June.
One to Watch: Guido Rodriguez
In addition to attempting over 50 passes, the Argentine glides effortlessly across the pitch, covering a tremendous amount of ground. If Corona can drive the attack, it’s because Rodriguez takes care of all the spaces behind him.
The youngster is quickly turning into a midfield general. As one member of the media noted at halftime, “he’s just 22 and he’s shouting orders at his captain!”
It’s an observation, not of a lack of respect, but rather the respect that Rodriguez commands.
If Rodriguez can continue on this trajectory, he could be a possible replacement to link defense to attack for Argentina when Javier Mascherano eventually calls time on his illustrious career.