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Club Tijuana’s Libertadores upset bid falls short, losing on away goals to Atletico Mineiro

TijuanaMineiroRonaldinho1 (AFP)


In a span of four minutes, Club Tijuana fans and players felt a full roller coaster of emotions, beginning with agony, peaking with the thrill of victory, and plummeting down to crushing resignation.

Earning a penalty kick in the 91st minute with the score tied 1-1, Xolos had a chance to defeat Brazilian powerhouse Atletico Mineiro in Belo Horizonte and continue their amazing debut Copa Libertadores run.

Instead, Mineiro goalkeeper Victor made an acrobatic kick save on Duvier Riascos stoppage-time penalty, holding on to draw on the night and aggregate, 3-3, earning a place in the Copa Libertadores semifinals on away goals. The result ends Xolos campaign in heartbreaking fashion, coming so close to extending their season.

Following last Thursday’s 2-2 result in Tijuana, Xolos made the more than 6,000 mile trip to the Estadio Indepencia to try their luck against Ronaldinho in his home country and stadium. Attacking from the start, Xolos captain Javier Gandolfi headed a ball past Victor in the 15th minute but it was brought back by the assistant referee for being offside.

Riascos put the Mexican debutantes on top in the 25th minute, sending in a great one-time finish to the far post after a clever pass from Richard Ruiz. In the 42nd minute Ronaldinho showed that even at 33 years of age, he can still affect the game, sending a curled free kick to the back post where his teammate Rever finished from close range to tie the score.

The two sides continued the attacking gameplan in the second half, with Mineiro’s Diego Tardelli and Xolos substitute Fidel Martinez providing real sparks in the final third. As the minutes passed it looked like Xolos’ time had finally come to an end, before the referee pointed to the spot and gave the visitors a chance to record a very rare win in Belo Horizonte.

What did you think of the match? Impressed with Club Tijuana’s run in Copa Libertadores? Disappointed to see their coach leave? Hoping Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo take on bigger roles with the U.S. Men’s National Team this summer?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Now the Xolos can concentrate on next season. Add some much needed depth, and see if they can keep their basic core together. Ignacio Palou, the GM, has his work cut out for him hiring a good coach (not Hugo Sanchez please) and finding some offensive help.

    • Agree spice it up. Zusi is mediocre, not saying corona is great but he’s 5 years younger and was a starter for a team that win liga mx last year. Spice it up

  2. I worry about the futures of the Yanks at Club TJ. Their manager, Antonio Mohamed, announced last week that he was stepping down after this match to return to his native Argentina in order to spend more time with his family. Mohamed will be viewed as the legend in this young club’s history, rightfully so. He gave many youngsters and castoffs, like Castillo, an opportunity. I just hope whoever they hire has a similar philosophy as Mohamed and looks favorably at our Yanks at Club TJ.

  3. I wouldn’t say they “crashed” out of the tournament. They didn’t even lose. It’s a pity.

    Castillo is looking in fine form. Please please let’s see him at LB and Johnson left wing. The Germany game will be too soon to see anything but a substitute appearance by Castillo. But hopefully during a qualifier.

    Not much to say about Corona. He has seemingly lost his place but he has been relied on for big games. So I think it’s just a slump. Hope to see him at some point as he does offer something new for the US.

    • Corona has never really been an out and out starter since Tijuana managed to establish themselves as a top team in Mexico over the past year. He rarely plays a full game when he starts and is often deployed in a holding mid role.

      Richard Ruiz is the go to guy for Mohamed when the games matter.

  4. Castillo played as a Wing back in the first half and as a regular LB in the second half. Had some very good moments again. He is looking really good going into WC qualifying.

    Bruno Piceno who recently revealed that he is a US citizen this week was subbed on at striker in the second half, and almost produced the game winning goal in the 69th minute. He is a player to keep an eye on. My guess that little reveal was to get Klinsmanns attention for a possible Gold Cup look. He can play all of the FWD positions. He is 21 years old.

    Joe Corona continues to lose minutes, and continues to not be a player that is relied on in big games. From what I hear he has not progressed at all this season. Not coming into WC qualifying in very good form.

    • Informative report. nice to know that Castillo played both positions. thanks. I just checked on Bruno Piceno and he is listed at Wiki at 5“4“. is that right?

    • The games I have been able to watch, I have not been impressed with Corona’s technical skills nor his overall play. I hope he can step up the learning curve or he may see his chances decrease.


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