Viva la Revolución Americana en Tijuana!
This weekend was the ‘apertura’ of the Mexican Clausura. As if that were not exciting enough, the first game of the season saw no less than three US internationals grace the pitch at the same time for Club Tijuana. The wee Edgar Castillo started the match for the Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente of Tijuana while Joe Benny Corona and Greg Garza came on as second-half substitutes. The “Lean like a Xolos” visited the more established Morelia and earned a 1-1 draw. The home side dominated the run of play but only mustered three more shots than the Xolos. There were many more interesting story lines in this game other than a recently promoted club earning an away point at a perennial contender.First, Club Tijuana is one of the most ambitious clubs in Mexico despite being the newest member of the top division. Given the lack of first tier soccer in neighboring San Diego, Club Tijuana is aiming to grab the San Diego area soccer market. One means to this end has been signing up American talent, especially at the youth level. The club also has ambitions to establish itself as a powerhouse and has shown that they have financial backing by splashing cash on Colombian Dayro Moreno and Argentian José Sand. (For further idiosyncrasies about Tijuana and its ownership, I recommend reading Tequila, Sex and Top Class Football by Alistair Cubbon on IBWM.)
Second, two of the three Americans in Friday’s squad are naturally left-footed left backs (cue music from the heavens). I say this, but both 25 year old Castillo and 20 year old Garza played as left wingers, though Castillo did play left back in the second half. So let’s just say that these two are left wingbacks. In spite of most USMNT fans’ lumping of Edgar Castillo in the same category as Michael Orozco Fiscal, I rate Castillo enough to want to see if and how he plays for his club to gauge whether he deserves another Klinsy call. Similar to what we saw from Castillo in the fall with the USMNT, Castillo offered little in attack from either position he played, but he was solid enough in defense and positionally aware. I was surprised to see Garza subbed on in the 74th minute as a winger, but it may have just been a defensive tactic to ensure that the away point was not lost. After being unimpressed with the squat youngster at the 2011 Under-20 Qualifiers, I was delighted to see that Garza was both agile and quick with a comfortable first touch. He eluded defenders with small touches in tight spaces to deliver quick and accurate passes. He even played a couple of successful one-twos. Joe “Benny” Corona, a recent call-up to Caleb Porter’s U23 squad, came on at halftime and…mumble mumble mumble…my feed was bad…mumble mumble mumble…it was hard for me to locate him…
The last noteworthy storyline from this game from south of the border was the referee, Miguel Chacón. I heard plenty of bitching and moaning in 2011 from MLS and EPL fans alike about inconsistent refereeing, especially with regards to fouls and diving in the penalty area (Charlie Davies). I imagine that these people have never seen anything like what transpired in first half stoppage time. “Lean like a Xolos” Colombian striker Duvier Riascos rounded Morelia’s Argentine ‘keeper Federico Vilar. Riascos was then clipped from behind by Morelia defender Adrian Alderete as he attempted a lunging shot from where the six yard box meets the end line. Referee Chacon immediately gave a yellow card for diving to a prostrate Riascos. Chacon then consulted his assistant, and in his infinite wisdom, proceeded to rescind the yellow card and award a penalty kick for Tijuana. After three minutes of remonstrations from both sides, Chacon then brandished a ‘roja directa’ to Tijuana’s coach Antonio Mohamed for arguing that Alderete should have been sent off for denying a goal scoring opportunity. The penalty was then converted Jose Sand, thus cancelling Morelia’s swift attack that beat the offside trap in the 22nd minute.
All in all, this was a decent game to open the season with as many misplaced passes and loose touches as moments of quality or absurd refereeing.
In unrelated news:
I cried a single tear of joy at work today watching Thierry Henry score within 10 minutes of coming on as a substitute in his re-debut for my beloved Arsenal in a classic “One nil to the Arsenal“ against Leeds in the FA Cup.
In other unrelated news: Borussia Monchengladbach’s German international Marco Reus is a man after my own heart for this gem of a quote after announcing that he had agreed to return to my equally beloved Borussia Dortmund in the summer for 17.5 million euros: “I chose Dortmund over Bayern Munich because I feel there is more potential for playing in Europe and measuring myself against the best. In my eyes, Dortmund is the better club.”
—Grayson Smith puts the ‘free’ in ‘free-lancer’. You can follow his inspired soccer musings on Twitter @Graysonson