When Dayro Moreno left Tijuana unexpectedly in the beginning of the 2017 Clausura, it was uncertain who would take the lead for Xolos in scoring. Moreno (along with Morelia’s Raúl Ruidiaz) had co-lead the Apertura with 11 goals, and Xolos next leading scorers were Gabriel Hauche and Avilés Hurtado, who tied with four goals each.
The sudden loss of such an offensive force cast a huge shadow over the Clausura for Xolos. Admittedly, I was one of the doubters who openly wondered where the goals would come from.
Those fears would quickly subside. Avilés Hurtado has stepped up as a major force for Tijuana, inserting himself into both the Colombian National Team conversation and the conversation for best player in a Liga MX.
Hurtado has eight goals through fifteen games, tied with Pumas’ Nicolás Castillo for the Golden Boot (Castillo is also suspended for the next game thanks to a red card he picked up last week against Veracruz). Thanks in no small part to his career best numbers (his previous best was seven goals for Pachuca in the 2015 Clausura), Tijuana currently sits atop the league and has clinched a spot in the Liguilla for the second straight torneo. This is with an offense that saw two of it’s top three scorers leave before playing a match in 2017.
It’s not just his stats however that qualify him as the best player in Liga MX. He’s also made his teammates better, giving some of them an opportunity to shine. His transition from right wing to second striker (usually paired with target man Milton Caraglio up top) has also opened the way for Paul Arriola to establish himself on the right wing for Xolos - and in turn getting Arriola a look for the United States National Team. In a recent interview with Soccer Nation’s Nate Abaurrea, Arriola credits Hurtado with making him a better player.
“When you play with good players, they really can make you better. This season, playing with Aviles has really helped me a lot,” Arriola told Abaurrea.
Joe Corona said of Hurtado in a separate interview with Abaurrea “Having players like that, guys who can truly change the game from minute to minute, it’s amazing. He’s definitely a strong candidate to be the best player of the season in this league.” Corona went on to say “It gives you more confidence when you have players like that around you, knowing that they can change the game at any time.”
Both Arriola and Corona have seen their play improved by playing with Hurtado. As Xolos’ go into the Liguilla, they go in thanks in no small part to the best player in Liga MX.