CARSON, Calif. - Over the last few years, Tigres UANL have built up quite the attacking reputation. With standout midfielder Walter Gaitan leading the way, Tigres are becoming synonymous with goals.
InterLiga 2006 has been no exception. Tigres had no problems filling the nets in the three group-stage games and put an exclamation on the match with a 4-0 rout of Cruz Azul on Tuesday.
The club now moves on to Sunday's finals on the strength of a tournament-high 10 goals.
"This team has been an offensive force in Mexico recently," said midfielder Antonio Sancho. "Attacking is one of our better characteristics over the last few years. (Sebastian Gonzalez) will help but we're still a dangerous team regardless."
Gonzalez joined Tigres from Atlante, where he was an offensive force in the Mexican First Division. Gonzalez has four double-digit goal totals in his seven seasons in Mexico, including an astounding 16 goals in the Clausura 2003 season. Gonzalez now joins forces with Gaitan, who has been a goal machine since busting out with eight in the same season with Tigres.
Gaitan, however, said he did not feel the burden of scoring goals in order for Tigres to succeed.
"I don't consider myself a goal scorer," Gaitan said. "As long as I do my job, we'll be fine."
Tigres now face a repeat of last year when the club reached the InterLiga final after winning a group that included Chivas. Tigres downed Toluca in the final to reach Copa Libertadores for the first time. The victory also ensured Tigres' passage to Sunday regardless of the final score between Chivas and Necaxa.
"I'm happy because we needed the win so we didn't have to wait for the outcome of the other game," Sancho said.
Cruz Azul, meanwhile, disappointed. The club with the fourth-best record in the Mexican Apertura 2005 season went out with a whimper. Tigres' offense was never in question but its defense had surrendered seven goals in two games. Cruz Azul, however, could not take advantage as they were shut out for the second time in three group games. In fact, Cruz Azul's offense has been non-existent for months. Before the two goals against Chivas on Saturday, the cementeros had not scored a goal in their previous four games, dating back to the second-to-last week of the Apertura campaign.
Cesar Delgado went down early with an injury and was forced out of the match. Last season, Delgado led Cruz Azul in goals with nine. Players, however, did not point to his absence as an excuse.
"He's an important player for our team but a team does not rely on any one player," midfielder Gerardo Torrado said. "His absence was difficult but we should have overcome it."
Instead, Cruz Azul could not put together many dangerous possessions.
"We did not attack and it cost us," Torrado said. "That's soccer and we'll use this as a learning experience."
Instead of South America, Cruz Azul will now turn their attention to Mexico.
"We're sad because we lost. It was not our day," forward Francisco "Kikin" Fonseca said. "It's early in the year still. We did not reach our objective here but now we'll focus on the league."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to InterLiga.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the league or its clubs.