GUADALAJARA, Mexico – With both Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo in the starting lineup, Club Tijuana defeated Toluca 2-1 in a packed Estadio Caliente on Thursday night in the first leg of the Liga MX finals.
Corona (above, center) is showing signs of having that big-game mentality and was one of the brightest players on the pitch, especially in the first half as the Xolos controlled the game and put Toluca on the back foot.
The 21-year-old American assisted the winning goal by flicking on a free kick whipped in by Fernando Arce to steer the ball into the path of goalscorer Pablo Aguilar.
In the 44th minute, Corona took the ball in his own half, shielded it from one oncoming Toluca player, juked past another and sent a 30-yard pass into the path of onrushing Duvier Riascos, a move summed up his confident display.
Castillo and Corona linked up on the left wing in the eighth minute to hand Fidel Martínez the game’s first chance, but his weak shot was easily saved by Alfredo Talavera.
In the 15th, the duo again combined, before Corona outwitted the defense on the left hand side of the box and whipped in a dangerous cross.
Castillo (above, far left) wasn’t his usual self at left back, failing to control the ball on a couple of occasions.
His most obvious error came in the 26th, when he failed to intercept Luis Tejada’s through ball to Lucas Silva, which led to Edgar Benítez scoring Toluca’s only goal.
The New Mexican had a penalty claim turned down in the 81st minute and replays showed that while there was contact, it probably wasn’t a penalty.
Following the deserved victory, Club Tijuana need only a draw on Sunday in Toluca to secure their first Liga MX title, with away goals not counting in the final.
Toluca are aiming to win their 11th title to equal Chivas Guadalajara for the most league trophies.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.