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Xolos continue to get positive results
The usual hallmarks of a Xolos performance – a goal or two, a hearty helping of tidy work in midfield and a miserly defensive approach – emerged once again in the 1-0 victory over Club León on Saturday. In stark contrast to the revamped visitors, Tijuana understands how to produce results with the players already in place.
Most of the time, the path to success starts with an early goal. Tijuana operates best when given the chance to entrench itself and rely the pace of Fidel Martínez and Duvier Riascos on the break. On those particular occasions, the Xolos are difficult to break down and opportunistic on the counter.
It took just seven minutes for the home side to establish its preferred operating practice and pave the way for a second consecutive victory. Alfredo Moreno benefited from a clever Fernando Arce pass, trucked through the León rearguard and tucked home past Christian Martinez to mark his 33rd birthday in some style.
Once Moreno staked the home side to a lead, the remainder of the match unfolded according to plan for a side that won five matches in the Apertura by a 1-0 scoreline. Tijuana absorbed pressure when prudent, kept its composure in an ill-tempered affair that ultimately yielded two dismissals and maintained possession through midfield when mandatory. Martínez and Riascos squandered chances to increase the lead, but the result never looked in doubt against a León side that has not found its footing after a series of high-profile moves in December.
Tijuana can take solace in its forged identity as the title defense continues over the next few months. A first foray into the Copa Libertadores will examine the club's modest depth and test Antonio Mohamed's ability to churn out domestic results week after week. Even larger clubs with higher wage bills struggle to compete on two fronts, particularly when the demands included lengthy excursions to South America.
While those concerns and several other potential issues are well founded in light of the tasks ahead, they come attached with a caveat in this instance. Tijuana – unlike many sides – knows what it can and cannot do well. If the Xolos maintain their discipline and remain compact, they may just conjure up a way to compete on both fronts. For now, their unbeaten run to start the Clausura underscores they have already concocted a method to produce domestic success.
Around Liga MX – Jornada 2
Club América handed Mexico defender Francisco Rodríguez his debut as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 away victory over Jaguares. Rodríguez replaced Miguel Layún after 67 minutes and watched Christian Benítez secure the points second after his arrival by turning home the remnants of a corner kick. Jaguares likely spent the rest of the night muttering about what might have unfolded if the assistant referee had properly flagged Benítez for offside in the buildup to Rubens Sambueza's opener just before the hour mark.
Oribe Peralta struck either side of halftime to give Santos Laguna a 2-0 home victory over a tattered CD Guadalajara side in Torreón. Peralta fired home a low drive 10 minutes before halftime to open the scoring and guaranteed the result by racing through the defense to notch his second in the 73rd minute.
Monterrey took advantage of a piece of poor distribution out of the back to snatch a 1-0 victory over Morelia. Omar Arellano collected a stray pass and played Neri Cardozo through the Morelia defense. Cardozo curled his effort around the stranded Federico Vilar to give the Rayados their first victory of the Clausura.
Cruz Azul secured a 2-1 home victory over San Luis despite the absence of Nicolas Bertolo and Teofilo Gutierrez with visa issues. Christian Giménez scored twice in the second half to cancel out Santiago Trellez's opener after 48 minutes.
Relegation contenders Atlas and Querétaro continued to confound the expectations by securing results again this weekend. Veteran strikers Omar Bravo and Vicente Matías Vuoso each scored to hand Atlas a 2-0 home victory over Pachuca. Gallos Blancos benefited from a blown offside call on Amaury Escoto's second goal in as many minutes to claim a 2-1 home victory over Pumas. The two sides remain deadlocked in the tussle to avoid the drop with 84 points from 87 matches (0.97 points per game).
Puebla – the next closest side to the drop with 92 points from 87 matches (1.06 points per game) – aided its own efforts to stay away from the mire with a 1-1 draw at Toluca. Ecuador international forward Félix Borja opened the scoring just after the hour by sliding home inside the far post, but Toluca midfielder Lucas Silva rescued a point with a low drive in the 89th minute.
Tigres capped off the weekend with a comfortable 3-1 win over 10-man Atlante in Cancún. Damián Álvarez set the tone for the evening by capping off a fine team move with a neat finish after 10 minutes. Esteban Paredes equalized for the home side before the break, but Lucas Lobos and Danilinho scored in the second half to provide the margin of victory and send the visitors to the top of the table alongside América and Tijuana.
Kyle McCarthy writes about the beautiful game for FOX Soccer, the Boston Herald and several other publications. Follow him on Twitter @kylejmccarthy.