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.
When D.C. United comes to town on Saturday, Real Salt Lake fans will still have a bitter taste in their mouths from the last time the two sides met almost a year ago in the U.S. Open Cup Final on Oct. 1, 2013 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Everything seemed set in place for the Claret-and-Cobalt to win its first piece of hardware of the year and a ticket back into CONCACAF Champions League – home field advantage, a match against the worst team in the league. But things did not go as planned with D.C. midfielder Lewis Neal scoring the game’s only goal in the 45th minute. RSL controlled the run of play, but couldn’t turn its possession into a goal, hitting the woodwork twice to drop the club’s first Open Cup Final.
Saturday’s matchup will feature a very different D.C. United, as the club has rebounded from last year’s record low finish of 3-24-7. The revitalized club features new additions, including USMNT forward Eddie Johnson and former RSL striker Fabian Espindola, that have helped the club exceed expectations this year. D.C. United currently sits second in the Eastern Conference with an 11-6-4 record and total of 37 points.
The memory of watching D.C. lift the trophy at Rio Tinto Stadium will be a hard one to forget. Let’s hope the Claret-and-Cobalt can make it a bit easier with a resounding win on Saturday.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando made history last Saturday, earning his 112th career clean sheet in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 1-0 win at Colorado Rapids. Rimando is now tied for the MLS all-time shutout record with retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. Check out MLSsoccer.com’s highlight video showcasing some of the top moments from Rimando’s 14 years in MLS.
Rimando will have the opportunity to break the shutout record this weekend, when RSL hosts D.C. United at 8:00 p.m. MT at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar had a pretty emotional, and yet refined, celebration after forward Joao Plata scored the go-ahead goal in RSL’s 1-1 draw with New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. MLS kindly put it into GIF format and put it up on their site and it has since been making the internet rounds. Check out the awesome moment below.
Let’s hope there will be more of those on Saturday when RSL heads to Colorado to take on the Rapids at 7:00 p.m. MT on ABC 4.
Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids will continue their quest for the 2014 Rocky Mountain Cup on Saturday, with the Claret-and-Cobalt heading to Colorado to face the Rapids at 7:00 p.m. MT at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of the match:
RSL looks to recapture Rocky Mountain Cup on Saturday
Real Salt Lake can recapture the Rocky Mountain Cup with a victory on Saturday after the Claret-and-Cobalt defeated Colorado in their first meeting this year, topping the Rapids 2-1 on May 17 at Rio Tinto Stadium. A win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park will secure the trophy for the seventh time in Real Salt Lake history. RSL lost the RMC last year for the first time since 2006, going 0-1-2 against the Rapids in 2013.
First Colorado meeting of 2014 for Beckerman and Rimando
Saturday’s match will be RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando’s first encounter with Colorado this year. The U.S. internationals missed the clubs’ first clash after departing for pre-World Cup training camp in May. Saturday’s match in Colorado will be the U.S. duo’s sixth-straight match back with the Claret-and-Cobalt after returning from the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
This weekend’s match will also be the first time Beckerman will face former teammate Pablo Mastroeni as Colorado’s head coach. Beckerman and Mastoeini were teammates at Colorado, where the RSL Captain spent five and a half years from 2002-07 before joining the Claret-and-Cobalt. Mastroeni was given the top job at Colorado in March of 2014.
Saturday will also (again) provide RSL’s longest-tenured player, Rimando with the opportunity to tie the all-time MLS shutout record. The 35-year-old goalkeeper has 111 shutouts, one clean sheet shy of retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman who holds the record at 112.
RSL looking for first win in Colorado since 2007
Real Salt Lake will be looking to earn its first win in Colorado since 2007 on Saturday night. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s last victory in the Centennial State came on Oct. 20, 2007, when forward Robbie Findley scored a late game-winner to give RSL its first Rocky Mountain Cup and keep the Rapids out of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Since then RSL has gone 0-4-4 in Colorado during the regular season.
Real Salt Lake’s performance this week will determine the possibility of roster movements
Real Salt Lake will close out its three-game homestand on Wednesday v. NY and then travel to Colorado to take on the Rapids on Saturday, in what will be one of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s most critical weeks this year. RSL GM Garth Lagerwey has said that RSL’s performances against NY and Colorado will determine if the club will look to make any roster moves before the transfer window closes on Aug. 6. With RSL’s all-time leading scorer forward Alvaro Saborio out with a broken foot, and international absences throughout the month on June, the Claret-and-Cobalt has struggled in front of net. RSL has gone 2-4-3 in its last nine matches, four of which RSL has been shutout.
RSL’s offense gained some life last week against Montreal, with substitute forward Olmes Garcia notching a brace for his first goals of 2014 and his first in over a year. Garcia was the first forward other than Saborio and Joao Plata to find the back of the net this year.
If the Claret-and-Cobalt can continue to tally the goals and get positive results this week, then the roster will most likely remain untouched. Lagerwey emphasized that the priority is to keep the well-cultivated Real Salt Lake locker room unchanged, but how RSL plays this week might affect how the club plans to head into the final stretch of the 2014 season.
Former RSL defender Jamison Olave returns to Rio Tinto Stadium for the first time
Former Real Salt Lake defender Jamison Olave will make his return to Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night for the first time since being traded to the New York Red Bulls at the end of 2012. The Colombian was traded along with fellow fan favorites midfielder Will Johnson and forward Fabian Espindola in a move triggered by salary cap restraints. Olave spent five years with the Claret-and-Cobalt, including winning MLS Cup in 2009, and became one of the principal figures of the club.
One of the best defenders in the league, Olave met his former club last year for the first time since being traded at Red Bull Arena on July 27, 2013 – a heartbreaking 4-3 loss for the Claret-and-Cobalt. RSL will be looking to enact revenge on Wednesday night, but the club and fans will surely have a warm welcome for the former RSL-man.
RSL looks to stay undefeated against New York Red Bulls at home
Real Salt Lake has been quite successful against New York when playing at home in Utah, going undefeated against the Red Bulls in the Beehive state with a 4-0-4 record. RSL is also currently riding a four-game win streak against NY at home, all of which have been shutouts at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Claret-and-Cobalt recorded a 2-0 victory on Oct. 14, 2009, a 1-0 win on Sept. 4, 2010, a 3-0 victory on Aug. 6, 2011 and a 2-0 win in the clubs’ last meeting at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 17, 2012.
Nick Rimando in pursuit of the all-time MLS shutout record
Real Salt Lake veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando is one clean sheet away from tying retired goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for the all-time MLS shutout record with 112. If the 35-year-old ties the record this weekend, Rimando will have as many cleans sheets as Hartman in 57-less games. Hartman achieved 112 shutouts through 416 games played; Rimando has currently played 358 MLS regular season games. The California native will likely surpass the record this year, with 14 MLS matches left to play in the 2014 regular season.
Will Wednesday’s game be Thierry Henry’s last match in Utah?
Wednesday’s matchup at Rio Tinto Stadium might be New York Red Bulls star and former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry’s last trip to Utah. The former French international is out of contract with New York at the end of the year and his uncertain future is the current talk of the town. Red Bulls head of global soccer, Gerard Houllier, remarked earlier this week that he thinks the 37-year-old will retire at the end of the season. No one knows for sure what lies ahead for Henry, but the high-profile striker’s influence on the league has been paramount – both on the field and off.
Henry has always held RSL with high regard, praising the Claret-and-Cobalt’s style of play on multiple occasions. If it is in fact his last match at Rio Tinto Stadium, let’s hope it’s a good one – with Real Salt Lake validating his admiration of course.
It won’t be hard for RSL fans to remember the last time the Claret-and-Cobalt and New York Red Bulls last met – almost a year ago to the day – in one of the most thrilling and heartbreaking matches of 2013. The two sides met at Red Bull Arena on July 27, 2013 with the home side getting off to a perfect start, taking the lead through Australian international MF Tim Cahill in the 11th minute and then doubling its lead after former Red Bulls and RSL FW Fabian Espindola converted from the spot 12 minutes later. Despite being down 2-0 on the road, the Claret-and-Cobalt went on to stage an amazing comeback led by RSL’s all-time leading scorer, FW Alvaro Saborio. The Costa Rican international went on to put in one of his best performances scoring three unanswered goals (45’, 80’, 82’) to give RSL the improbable lead. But RSL was unable to finish out the match, conceding two goals in the 89th and 94th minutes to fall 3-4 on the road.
Unfortunately, RSL will be without Saborio on Wednesday’s rematch due to injury, but last year’s match was a showcase of RSL’s grit, determination and team-wide talent. Let’s hope the Claret-and-Cobalt can put on another show and enact some revenge at home on Wednesday night in a nationally televised match on ESPN 2.
MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle and Nick Firchau preview tomorrow's Pioneer Day tilt between Real Salt Lake and Montreal Impact. Give the preview a watch above.