New Season, Old Feel

A confident Club Tijuana battled with the 2013 Clausura title winners in their first home game of the season, two weeks after coming from behind 3-0 to tie them in a friendly match in Los Angeles.


This is a more self-assured side under new head coach Cesar Farias, and it shows. Fidel Martinez’s form appeared more on point and he used his skill creatively, more so  in these last two matches  than toward the end of the Apertura under Jorge Almiron. And while it’s still new and developing, Martinez’ partnership with Herculez Gomez is starting to take shape.


Martinez spoke highly of Gomez in a post game interview, giving praise to his partner’s character and work ethic. “He covers a lot of space and I’m looking forward to us doing some really great things together up top,” he said.


US International Joe Corona, despite an injury and failed goal scoring attempts, came out of the locker room smiling. “I feel really good, I feel confident,” he said. He noted the confidence he’s gained in new coach Farias, citing his freedom to be creative and make his own decisions in midfield. This showed in his play Friday night which as a whole was more solidified and connected with cohesive passing.  


Edgar Castillo had some promising moments as well, almost scoring in the 70th minute. While he’s usually under fire for his sometimes underwhelming role at left back, he has moments like ones on Friday that prove he can be a force to be reckoned with when he’s on a breakaway or going one on one. His size and speed are the reason he can play down the flank or on the wing.


Fernando Arce has proven his strength within the squad many times over; his veteran leadership without sporting any kind of armband is apparent on the pitch. While Javier Gandolfi has the captain role down, Arce’s movement on the ball and experience will continue to unite the team on the pitch and in the locker room.


All in all, Tijuana settled into the game after a solid twenty minutes of pressure from America, and they did well to counter and pressure with creativity and confidence. While there are still some rocky areas in defense, fans will hope for more well-rounded performances building off this one moving forward.


My players to watch this season on Tijuana aside from the aforementioned:


Cristian Pellerano:  Pellerano made a name for himself in a few plays last Apertura, where he inserted himself in difficult situations and created chances. The 31 year old Argentine is a fiery and critical part of the Xolos squad because of his versatility. He also scored the lone goal on Friday against America.


Hernan Pellerano: The brother of Cristian, he’s a solid new addition at centerback to hold the Xolos’ defense down. He’s a rock, and will help sort out any issues that come up (as they have and will) at left and right back. Example: filling Castillo’s void at left back when needed.


Jaime Ayovi: The Ecuadorian International was announced only a few short weeks before the Clausura and is the cousin of Walter Ayovi. It will be interesting to see how he works to serve Martinez, another Ecuador teammate, and Gomez if Farias uses him in midfield. He came on as a sub for Gomez in the last game, but he could certainly find a comfortable role in midfield and be the serving force behind those two up top.


Dario Benedetto: He began his time with Xolos in memorable fashion with three goals in the opening match with Atlas last season. This will be a good tournament for him. He’s another versatile goal scorer – great from distance but also skilled at getting into difficult spaces closer to goal.  He was issued a three-match ban by the federation for a red card in their last game against Leon, but it was later reduced to a two-game ban. He’ll be back in the swing of things by the time Xolos travel to face Pachuca on the 18th.


Greg Garza: He usually fills in at left back for Castillo and started in his place for the America friendly, but Farias left him on the bench as a sub last Friday. Whatever those reasons were, Garza is strong and explosive and does a good job in defense. The 22 year old Texas native has been able to create an identity for himself on the pitch, which will be crucial for him as he advances with the squad and gets more playing time.

Paul Arriola: Arriola spent a lot of time with the Sub-20's last Apertura, but this season has deservedly worked his way onto the first team. He netted a goal in his first ever showing with the club - a friendly in July against America - and continued to make an impact with either an assist or a goal throughout the first part of last tournament within minutes of being subbed in. He turned down a scholarship opportunity with UCLA and a contract with the LA Galaxy, where he spent time with the Academy program, to play in Mexico where his size and skillset would play to his advantage and the team's. He's another one who can fit into almost any role, and at 18 years old, he's only going to get better. 


Elio Castro: The 25 year old defender out of Tuxtepec, Oaxaca signed with Xolos from their second division club, Dorados de Sinaloa, after coming up from the ranks of the Santos Laguna youth academy. He came on for an injured Hernan Pellerano and had a good debut for Xolos.


** photo comes courtesy of Francisco Vega

 

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