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The many reasons for Tijuana’s early Liguilla exit.

It wasn’t just one thing that did Xolos in.

Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente press release

While Juninho picking up a red card early in the return leg of the Liguilla quarterfinals hurt Tijuana, that in and of itself wasn’t the reason that León advanced. Xolos putting themselves behind the eight ball one too many times is the reason they weren’t able to advance. Fair play to León - they were able to make the most of their opportunities, of which Tijuana gave them plenty.

Certainly Juninho’s absence hurt Tijuana, but that’s too easy of an explanation. It absolves the rest of the club for the many mis-steps that sent Xolos into the offseason prematurely.

Tijuana couldn’t maintain possession and managed one single shot on goal in the first leg of the series. They also gave up three goals to León, two of which were absolutely preventable. Had someone marked Mauro Boselli or Diego Novaretti on their goals, perhaps it’s only a 1-0 win heading back to Tijuana.

Also seemingly lost in the fog of a playoff defeat is the fact that forward Milton Caraglio only scored three goals all season, and none in the Liguilla. Xolos simply must get more production from him. Dayro Moreno was able to carry most of the load, scoring 12 including the penalty against León on Saturday, but as the season went on he was used more as a right winger than a true forward. I like the extra dimension that Moreno adds on the right, but that has to be balanced with a scoring threat up top. Caraglio wasn’t that threat, and I’m not sure if Tijuana has a forward who can help take some of the scoring load off of Moreno.

Tijuana’s struggle to maintain possession was again on display in the second half, as time after time León was able to force turnovers and start breaks in on Federico Vilar. To his credit, Vilar stood on his head making a string of great saves, but his teammates did him a disservice by continually allowing runs and not looking to hold play and eat into the remaining time. No one likes parking the bus, but when conceding a goal means the need to score two while down a man, parking the bus is a viable option - especially when you’ve only conceded two goals at home during the regular season. No place is as fearsome to play for a road team as Estadio Caliente. This should have been a match Tijuana pulled out.