Everything you need to know about Club Tijuana ahead of tonight's friendly. Special thanks to Kim Tate for putting this together.
About the Club:
Full Name: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente
Nicknames: Xolos, Xolos de Tijuana, Los Perros Aztecas (Aztec Dogs), Club Tijuana
Founded: January 10, 2007
Stadium: Estadio Caliente (33,333 capacity) - Tijuana, Baja California, MX
Owner: Grupo Caliente
Manager: Cesar Farias (Venezuela)
League: Liga MX
Plays two tournaments per year: Apertura (Summer-Fall) and Clausura (Winter-Spring)
Located about 10 minutes south of the USA-Mexico border, Club Tijuana is a young Liga MX club on the rise having survived three years in top flight since their promotion in 2011. Proximity to the world's busiest border gives them an edge, allowing them to market their club easily to United States soccer fans and grants more convenient access to a wide market of youth soccer talent in southern California. The Xolos currently field the most Mexican-American talent within all of Liga MX, with eight U.S. National Team players across their first team and U-20 squads -- Joe Corona, Greg Garza, Paul Arriola, Alejandro Guido, John Requejo Jr., Amando Moreno, Fernando Arce Jr., and Anthony Rodriguez.
The game against Real Salt Lake could see a mix of regular starters and younger players, as Xolos are preparing for their week five game of the Apertura against Chiapas on Friday at Estadio Caliente.
Head coach Cesar Farias has been with the club since early 2014, formerly managing both the first team and U-20 national team squads in Venezuela. He is the first and only manager to have led Venezuela's national team to the semifinals of Copa America in 2011, after qualifying the U-20's for the first time in history to the U-20 World Cup in 2009. He managed the national team from 2007-2013, and joined Club Tijuana this year for his first-ever managerial job in Mexico.
The most familiar to RSL fans is Corona, who has played with Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman on the U.S. Men’s National Team. Corona scored Tijuana's important first goal in top flight and has continued to be an integral part of the Xolos midfield since before the team was promoted.
Tijuana's number one in goal is Cirilo Saucedo, who has been with the team since 2011 and has one cap for Mexico. His mother is a United States citizen and at one point the U.S. had been in touch with his agent about playing for the Americans. When Saucedo isn't starting, Xolos use their backup, Gibran Lajud, and also recently acquired Dilan Nicoletti, who won the U-17 World Cup with Mexico in 2011.
Tijuana's back line typically plays with a flat back four, and consists of Garza on the left, Argentine center backs Hernan Pellerano and Javier Gandolfi beside each other, and Isreal Jimenez on the right. Gandolfi wears the captain's armband for Xolos and Jimenez won an Olympic Gold medal with Mexico in the 2012 Olympics. Alternately, Farias could use a combination of players including Elio Castro, Alejando Molina, Juan Carlos Nunez, and Oliver Ortiz. Also, Requejo Jr. could come off the bench as an attacking sub if he travels with the team. The 18-year-old from California committed to UCLA before signing with Xolos in May, and is a very attack-minded left back player, similar to U.S. and former Xolos player Edgar Castillo.
Xolos have a lot of depth in midfield with Corona, having been around the longest, and he varies in starting and coming off the bench. Cristian Pellerano (older brother to Hernan) was the team's leading goal scorer in the 2014 Clausura with seven goals, and plays centrally -- usually between Richard Ruiz and Juan Arango. Ruiz is fast and technical and 34-year-old Arango played under Farias with Venezuela. Others who could likely see time at Rio Tinto Stadium are youngsters Edgar Villegas, Javier Salas, Arce Jr., and Guido. Javier Guemez is an undisputed starter for the first team in league play as a defensive midfielder, but it's uncertain whether Farias will rest him, among others, ahead of their game on Friday.
Up top, Xolos rely on Argentine-Italian Dario Benedetto, who was second in goal scoring last tournament with six goals. With the game coming up on Friday, however, Farias could elect to start Arriola in an attacking role with either Daryo or Alfredo Moreno - two players who made their returns to the club after stints elsewhere. Dayro is Colombian and Alfredo, a Mexican citizen, goes by the nickname "Chango." Another option up top as a starter is newcomer Henry Martin, who has two first team starts for the club already and scored a goal in Cup play for Xolos in Copa MX.
In what looks to be a decent MLS-Liga MX matchup, U.S. teammates will face each other and even Carlos Salcedo will go up against some familiar players from his days with Mexico's U-21's. The real battle could be in midfield, with Beckerman and Pellerano up against each other assuming Pellerano sees time. Corona, Ruiz, Villeagas, and Arango can cover a lot of space so either combination of players will contribute to the fast-paced aspect of this game. And in goal, Rimando and Saucedo are both excellent 'keepers -- it would be interesting to see how many saves each is forced to make with both sides possessing equal levels of talent in their attack.