Lackluster Xolos need to avoid costly mistakes

Tijuana plays one of Mexico's best teams Sunday

The more things change the more they stay the same.

At least that is what appears to be happening to Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles. New coach, new strategies, same result --.more wasted opportunities.

The Mexican Apertura season is coming to an end and the Xolos are at the brink of finishing last in the standings and relegation.

They can, for the most part, thank the same lingering miscues for that.

Failure to convert clear scoring opportunities. Giving up soft goals and the inability to protect leads and close out a match have haunted Tijuana.

Those things continue to plague the Xolos (1-5-4) in their first season in the Primera División, Mexico's top soccer circuit.

The team was promoted in May after dominating in their home field, Estadio Caliente, in the Second Division.

Those days seem so distant.

Tijuana has not won at home in five tries in this tournament. The team will get its first chance with new coach Antonio Mohamed at the helm when the Xolos host UANL Tigres on Sunday.

Things looked as they were changing for the Xolos during Mohamed's debut last week. Tijuana jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first minute against one of Mexico's storied teams in Club América at the historic Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Mohamed had his players where he wanted. They kept América at bay for 86 minutes only to squander the lead with a soft goal.

Christian Benítez sneaked behind a static Tijuana defense, took a loose ball and managed to send it to Xolos goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo, who couldn't handle the soft shot. The ball rolled off Saucedo's chest and crossed the goal line by inches.

Club América had spoiled Tijuana's chance at a historic win in its first match with a new coach. Former coach Joaquin del Olmo perhaps would have been long forgotten. The Xolos instead left with a 1-1 draw that probably felt more like a loss.

Veteran forward Raúl Enríquez could have changed that. All he needed to do is tap in a centered pass while sitting alone at the mouth of the goal. He sent the ball over the cross bar, instead. Another missed opportunity, more wasted points.

"We have enough of a team to win three points no matter if we're at home or the visiting team," said Xolos defender Miguel Almazan. "That's the way this team needs to think. We did see that at the start of the tournament. We played good matches. Unfortunately, we didn't get results. We had good opportunities, we held possession but we couldn't muster the winning goal. We hope that this weekend it will be a different story."

If the Xolos want to change the tale, they will probably need to play their best brand of soccer.

Tigres is one of the top teams in the tournament. It is the No.4 team in the 18-team standings with 17 points and a 4-1-5 record, with its only loss coming against Atlas. A win could send Tigres to the top of the standings. Jaguares de Chiapas, Cruz Azul and Chivas de Guadalajara lead with 18 points.

On the other hand, Tijuana has seven points, two more than last place Atlas.

"Tigres is a team that is always well prepared," Almazan said. "It begins with their back line. It is well organized. Possession will be fundamental. We must not be desperate.

"We know it is a competitive team, they've proved that in previous tournaments. They are where they are because of the players they have and because they take advantage of opportunities."



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