Game: Club de Fútbol Tigres de la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León vs. Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente
Date: Thursday, May 18th
Time: 7:30 PM Pacific, 9:30 PM Central, 10:30 PM Eastern
Venue: Estadio Universitario (San Nicolás de los Garza, N.L.)
Tigres (7W 4D 6L) finished seventh overall in the Clausura and defeated Monterrey to advance to the semifinal. Tijuana (9W 4D 4L) finished first overall in the Clausura and defeated Morelia to advance to the semifinals.
Tigres comes in as the overwhelming favorite, as this team was built to win championships. They dismantled cross-town rivals Monterrey in the quarterfinals, as Andre-Pierre Gignac caught fire and scored four goals over the two legs. Tigres is a cerebral team, preferring to play manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti’s tuca-taka style of short passes to move the ball laterally and look for an opening.
Tigres does have weaknesses. Lucas Zelarayan left the last match against Monterrey with an injury, so he may not be able to go. They were also bested by Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions League Final.
Tijuana is perhaps the polar opposite of Tigres with regards to their style of play. Xolos likes to hit teams on the counterattack as quickly as possible, forcing turnovers and then getting the ball out on the wings as quickly as possible to generate chances off of their pace. If left unattended, Aviles Hurtado can be deadly, however it has been scoring by committee lately, as there have been five different goalscorers in the last five games.
Perhaps because the offense is so dynamic Tijuana’s defense is a bit overlooked, however they’ve performed well all season. In their last eight games across all competitions, they’ve allowed only five goals - however three of those were against Tigres at the end of April. Goalkeeper Gibarn Lajud has really come into his own in the Liguilla, keeping Tijuana in with a monster save that has been compared favorably to the Seattle Sounders’ Stefan Frei’s save in the MLS Cup against Toronto FC.