TIJUANA Richard Ruiz stood at midfield with his hands on his waist Tuesday night.
The Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles midfielder rested for a moment, trying to catch his breath.
That's what constantly sprinting after loose balls, speeding past defenders to recover a ball and moving into open spaces during an attack will do to you.
And such work ethic could result in an immediate reward. At least that's how it happened for Ruiz. The veteran midfielder scored for the Xolos on one of those dashes up the right sideline.
Ruiz scored in the 24th minute in a Xolos 2-1 win against Celaya FC in front of a half empty Estadio Caliente in a Copa MX Group 6 match.
The Xolos-Celaya game was the second leg of a home-and-home series in the first round of the domestic tournament involving teams from the Mexican First and Second Division.
The win gives the Xolos another three points in the standings and put the club in good position to clinch a slot in the knockout round of the tournament that runs through November. Tijuana came into the match in a three-way tie with Pumas UNAM and Celaya atop of the standings.
Celaya is a team from the Second Division or the Liga de Ascenso. It finished Tuesday's match with 10 men.
Ruiz helped the Xolos to the 2-1 lead after breaking away from his defender, sprinting up the right sideline. Ruiz cut inside, shed his defender, looked up at the Celaya goal and hit a right-footed shot from right to left zipping just out of the reach of Celaya goalkeeper Carlos Ramos' reach. The ball ended up just inside the left post as it crossed through the mouth of the goal, past the goal line and into the net.
Ruiz was part of a Xolos persistent attack throughout the match.
Ruiz' goal broke the 1-1 tie after Celaya scored on a Tijuana defensive miscue in the 21st minute.
Celaya's Julio Pardini sent a right-footed shot on a one-timer from just outside the 18-yard box into the net. The shot caught Xolos goalkeeper Adrian Zermeno off his line. The ball went in virtually uncontested.
Zermeno left his line after thinking he was going to receive a pass from defender Jorge Hernandez. But Hernandez never got off an accurate pass. Hernandez, with a defender clinging to his back, erroneously sent a ball back to the Xolos' penalty area but Zermeno was not there. That's when Pardini took advantage and sent in the equalizing goal.
But the Xolos offense did not let off.
Coach Antonio Mohammed continued to send players up field. Mohamed, at times, left three defenders at midfield as the team pushed up top despite leading the match into the 60th minute.
"It was an entertaining game that the people probably enjoyed," Mohamed said. "It could have finished 5-3. Our younger players are getting some playing time and they are growing in this competition. Many of them are doing interesting things."
It was similar to what Tijuana showed in the first half that began with a Raul Enriquez goal 14 minutes into the match.
Enriquez scored from just outside the penalty area with a right-footed shot. Ramos, Celaya's goalkeeper, got a piece of Enriquez' shot but it was not enough to keep it from landing in the lower-left corner of the net. The Xolos led 1-0 and Tijuana didn't let up after that.
But the Xolos were not completely safe. They caught a break in the 77th minute when Celaya's Guillermo Clemens, a second-half substitute, sent a shot that hit the bottom of the left post, missing out on the potential tying goal.
That play came after Celaya had a man sent off in the 75th minute. Martin Garcia was shown a red card for a reckless foul on Xolos reserve player Edgar Arce. Garcias's foul gave the Xolos a free kick at top of the 18-yard box.
Enriquez took the free kick and nearly scored. Ramos, the Celaya goalkeeper, had to make the save diving to his left.
Enriquez also nearly scored in the 63rd minute when he hit the left post with a shot from about 25-yards out on another free kick.
The Xolos left possible goals on their artificial home turf but the club will take the win.
"We fell short. We needed to be a bit sharper," said Celaya coach Miguel Fuentes. "But I am pleased with my team's effort. We continued to fight. Xolos players maybe thought this would be easy but I think we were competitive and had some chances."
The Xolos will take the win as they move on to the final part of the group stage. Tijuana is slated to face Pumas UNAM in Mexico City in the first leg of that series. The Xolos then return to Estadio Caliente Sept. 19 to host Pumas in the final match of Copa MX group play.
Tijuana is participating in the Copa MX while playing in the main tournament, the 2012 Apertura. The Xolos travel to Mexico City Friday to face Club America in a Week 6 match up before returning to Tijuana to host Jaguares.