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Big Trouble in Little TJ; When it Rains, it Pours

Joe Corona and the Xolos suffer a tough defeat that leaves them on the outside of the playoffs looking in; torrential rain hits Costa Rica; the CONCACAF U-17 tournament continues sans U.S.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
April 17, 2013
11:37 AM
Costa Rica hoping to move qualifier
Tensions were high after the United States beat Costa Rica 1-0 in snowy conditions in Denver last month, and you couldn’t escape thinking the visitors would make things somewhat inhospitable when the Americans make the return trip for a September 6 match. We’re now headed down that path. Eduardo Li, President of the Costa Rican Football Federation, said in a radio interview that the match will be played in Estadio Saprissa, provided the stadium gets FIFA approval.

That’s not a certainty. The artificial pitch has some severe drainage issues, which marred the Costa Rican Clásico on Sunday (more on that in our video of the week). The club will attempt to fix those problems this summer. That would be helpful, since the probability for rain in San Jose in September is above 80 percent. But make no mistake: The pitch will still be terrible, the lighting will still be poor, and the crowd will be right on top of the teams. That’s a contrast to the new national stadium, where Costa Rica has played its other home matches this cycle after the venue opened in 2011. The stadium is beautiful but surrounded by a track and lacking in some of the soul that creates such a tough atmosphere in Central America.

Mexico friendly
The Mexican national team is making like LL Cool J and going back to Cali for a friendly against Peru on Wednesday. Some members of the Mexican press are noticing that there are a lot of friendlies but they’re against pretty average opposition. Since the 2010 World Cup, El Tri has played seven friendlies on home soil, a dozen in the United States, and two elsewhere. In addition to Wednesday’s match, the squad also takes on Nigeria on May 31 in Houston.

The team is about what you’d expect with only domestic players involved. The one interesting spot is up top where Omar Bravo, Rafa Márquez Lugo, and Raúl Jiménez could feature in the absence of Aldo de Negris and Oribe Peralta. Meanwhile, Ricardo La Volpe, Mexico’s manager between 2002 and 2006, is smugly sitting back and telling Chepo “I told you so,” about the job’s difficulty. The current manager is focused on the goalkeeper position, which he sees as his toughest decision.

On April 11, the day after Tijuana played a mostly reserve team and still got a win to close out the Copa Libertadores group stage, Noah Davis wrote these words on this site: “TJ’s back to its winning ways and all’s right in the world.”

So blame him for what happened Saturday. Xolos went to the capital with a chance to jump up to fifth in the Clausura and get a leg up on qualifying for the playoffs. Instead, Cruz Azul handed Tijuana the worst defeat in club history: a 5-0 loss that saw Americans Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona both play all 90 minutes. In truth, the scoreline is a bit inflated. Cruz Azul was certainly in control of the match but the floodgates truly opened when Cristian Pellerano was sent off in the 69th. La Maqunia took advantage and added three.

Instead of vaulting up to a top-eight slot, Xolos fell to 12th in the table, four spots back but only two points away from playoff qualification. The team hosts Morelia this weekend, travels to San Luis next, and closes at home against Chivas.

Medio Tiempo asked Corona if missing the playoffs would be a failure: “Yes, because being the champions, we have to defend our title,” he said. “The group is aware that we have to make a good impression in this tournament, aware that we have to give everything in these last three matches. Everybody in the team has the hunger to qualify for the Liguilla and to advance in Libertadores.”

Other Americans in Liga MX
DaMarcus Beasley scored in a losing effort, rocketing a half-volley past the Jaguares keeper for the equalizer in a 2-1 Puebla defeat. Michael Orozco Fiscal went the full 90 at right back and was booked just before the halftime whistle.

After scoring—yet again—in CONCACAF Champions League play during the week, Herculez Gomez was a substitute for Santos. He came on in the 62nd minute Friday when Santos beat Toluca. The forward joined Steve Davis, Marc Stein, and Landry Locker in the last block of the Soccer Today show. The whole interview is solid, but perhaps the most interesting part is Gomez saying he might return to MLS sooner than most people would think.

Jose Torres went the full 90 for Tigres, which fell to Pumas, 2-1.

CONCACAF Champions League
If you hadn’t heard, it’s a rematch from last year’s championship with Monterrey taking care of LA Galaxy 1-0 in its home leg to advance to its third-straight final, 3-1 on aggregate.
Confederation Congress
Everyone clean up; somebody important is coming to town! Oh, it’s just Sepp Blatter, who is touring the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba ahead of the CONCACAF Congress in Panama on Friday.

The main vote, as we’ve discussed, is for FIFA Executive Committee member. The USSF president, Sunil Gulati, and Mexican federation president, Justino Compeán are the two candidates. Other than that, most races are unopposed. In related news, a bunch of people were appointed to committees.

U-17 Championship
Thanks to Josh Deaver, you know what to take away from the U.S. U-17s missing out on the World Cup. Around the federation, Costa Rica was also shocked by its side’s poor performance.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s squad has huge expectations, and so far it's living up to them. It has allowed one goal in three matches and takes on Honduras in the marquee match of the semifinals Wednesday. It’s a rematch of the last Group D match, a 2-0 Mexico victory. In the other semi, unbeatens Canada and Panama hope to make Friday’s final. If the home side’s roster is any indication, expect recently promoted Río Abajo to stick around Panama’s top division for a while. Four of its players line up for Jorge Dely Valdés’ team. Dely Valdés is the twin brother of current senior team manger, Julio.

Video of the Week
I mentioned the Costa Rican clásico earlier, which pits Saprissa against Alajuelense. Everything started off normally with the home squad opening the scoring through Deyver Vega in the 37th minute. Then it started raining. Estadio Saprissa here we come!

Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is a writer based in Arizona and is ASN's CONCACAF correspondent.

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