Photo: Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images
By Kyle McCarthy
1. The fairytale continues: Tijuana played its first match less than a decade ago. It reached the Mexican first division in 2011. It won its first title in 2012. And now it has advanced to the quarterfinals of the Copa Bridgestone Libertadores by registering the fourth Mexican victory on Brazilian soil.
In stark contrast to the two other Mexican clubs – Club América and C.D. Guadalajara – to win an away match in Brazil, Tijuana operates on a relatively modest budget and relies on a small squad of players to achieve laudable results. This triumph isn’t a fluke: it is the product of a cohesive unit of dedicated and savvy operators capable of winning against any opponent in North or South America on the right day. Antonio Mohamed has worked wonders to lift this club into a quarterfinal tie against Atlético Minero.
2. Credit Tijuana’s victory to a stout defensive shape: Tijuana prefers to play a counterattacking style well suited for continental play and Mohamed astutely adhered to it for this match. The game plan – retain the necessary structure and then wait for the opportune moment to break forward with pace – made perfect sense for this tie against a Palmeiras side that had scored just five goals in seven Libertadores matches coming into this match. Mohamed and his players dared Palmeiras to carve them open and win the tie. The Brazilians tried their best to do so (particularly in the second half), but they failed to come to terms with Tijuana’s resolute line (offside time and time again), lacked the quality to score from the run of play and suffered the consequences of their defensive lapses.