Despite a scoreless draw against a reeling Chivas squad last Saturday, the overall feeling in Rayados’ camp is a generally positive one through the first third of this Grita México (Apertura) 2021 campaign. In fact, the result wasn’t all that bad considering two things; first, we knew Vucetich had his job on the line and they were going to leave their life on the field to avoid that happening; second, César Montes’ foolish red card with over half an hour left to play in the match.
If we go back one more game, their last-minute goal to save a draw against the current champs on the road. Not to mention, the way in which they dominated those final 15 minutes of the match. And previously from there, they’ve been methodical, winning both games at home and drawing both on the road. This resulting in a 2W, 4D mark thus far. Not a bad record, but definitely could be better, considering five of their six rivals are 11th overall and below. With that said, however, not only do they have the third-best defense in the league (4 goals conceded), but the team looks to have that umph they’ve clearly been missing over the past years. They’re playing with more intensity and appear to be in better shape overall.
And the favorable matches don’t stop coming for ‘El Vasco’ and company, as they head to Tijuana tomorrow night to face a winless and dead-last Xolos, who own the second-worst defense in the league (10 goals conceded). Now, to be fair, they haven’t had it easy. They’ve squared off against Tigres, León, Toluca, and América within these first six games, affecting their current predicament. However, on paper, this is more than a winnable game for Monterrey.
With all of that being said, this could be the match where Tijuana snap out of it. Out of the last five league matches between these two played in Tijuana, Xolos have won three to Rayados’ two victories. And Tijuana really haven’t had what you would call contending teams over the past five years. In other words, Monterrey have struggled in Estadio Caliente, and just when it seems they should go in there and grab a win, the end result could end up surprising everyone.
To add to this, Rayados will be making the trip without key starters. Héctor Moreno and Erick Aguirre are out for at least one or two more weeks, and of course Janssen at least for another month. Furthermore, the doubtful status of Duván Vergara and Joel Campbell who haven’t been 100%, nursing their own pains and discomforts, now increases by one with Rogelio Funes Mori, who came away with a minor ankle issue in yesterday’s MLS vs. Liga MX all-star game. As Aguirre put it in today’s press conference, he’ll meet up with the team directly in Tijuana, be evaluated, and they’ll go from there. His presence could be a game-time decision. And not to mention, César Montes who will be fulfilling his suspension.
In conclusion, it’s a game Rayados have to win, as they’re going up against the league’s worst team until now. At the same time, however, they’re either missing or aren’t at full health with a few key pieces to their starting lineup, meaning they’ll have to patch up a bunch of spots. Hence, the six Liga de Expansión players travelling with the team for this one. In the end, this could ultimately lead to Rayados first loss of the season tomorrow night. A true test it will be for Aguirre’s squad.