This is the year of the Hex, which means it's not enough just to track players on Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN. Jon Arnold has got you covered, with his weekly CONCACAF Watch report.
February 24, 2013
SHARE THIS STORY
Club Tijuana is only five years old and hasn’t faced much adversity in its brief history. Many observers, myself included, were expecting some hiccups during the Apertura after several key veterans departed the club. Los Xolos made us look foolish by losing only one match during the regular season and winning the title. The team started the Clausura well, but February looked like the month in which the club would face some real challenges. Xolos drew with Tigres, the league’s top team, lost to Club América, which finished the match with nine players, at home and followed that up with a defeat at Jaguares, which hasn’t started well at all. Here come the tough times, many thought.
Then Tuesday happened.
Tijuana headed down to Colombia to face Fredy Montero and Millonarios in the Xolos' Copa Libertadores debut. Richard Ruiz scored a great goal after American Edgar Castillo’s cross fell to him. The Tijuana defense stood strong, thanks to typically strong keeper play from Cirilo Saucedo and Xolos start off its tough group with a road win.
This past weekend brought a home match against Atlante—Tijuana won convincingly, 2-0—before its home Libertadores opener against the Bolivian side San Jose. (San Jose earned a draw against Corinthians making the group even tighter than expected.)
Tijuana’s reserves played a friendly with the Los Angeles Galaxy this week, with the Galaxy winning 6-2. Here are the highlights.
Greg Garza and Alejandro Guido played the first half for los Xolos, while Stevie Rodriguez came on in the 68th minute.
I caught up with Garza last week and he told me he had just started touching the ball again since taking an ankle injury before the championship series with Toluca last season. He said his recovery is progressing well and he hopes to be back to add depth to the squad soon.
In league, Tijuana got back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory against Atlante. It was a largely reserve lineup with another Libertadores coming, but Joe Corona saw spot duty, playing the final five minutes.
Mixed start for Toluca in Libertadores
Toluca, the only other CONCACAF team in Libertadores after León’s exit in the qualifying round, got off to a terrific start—much like Tijuana.
Boca went up on a penalty, but Toluca hung around and won the battle in the midfield. Sinha, the long-time Toluca man, scored a remarkable winner to lift the club to a 2-1 win.
The club came back to Mexico and drew with Club América before returning home for the second group match of the Libertadores. Vicente Sanchez scored a brace for Nacional and the Uruguayan club added one more to get the victory and move atop Group 1.
Americans in Liga MX update
Herculez Gomez has had a disappointing few weeks, failing to score as Santos’ "top striker" with Oribe Peralta on the bench after getting injured in Mexico’s World Cup qualifier. Peralta rejoined the team Friday night against Club América, and while Gomez kept his spot in the starting lineup as the No. 2 scoring option, he had a slow night and was subbed off just after the one-hour mark.
Jose Torres and Tigres continue their league-topping form. Torres went 73 minutes against Gomez and Santos last weekend, building on his previous outings of exactly 70 minutes. He went only 63 minutes this weekend against Cruz Azul, however. Does he have 90 minutes in him?
Two weeks ago DaMarcus Beasleyscored a brace for Puebla and last week he started and played two-thirds of Puebla’s draw with Chivas. Michael Orozco Fiscal appears to have found a home as the club’s right back, where he has played the last three matches. But he had a disastrous game Saturday against Monterrey, conceding a handball in the penalty area and earning a straight red. Monterrey converted the ensuing PK and won, 3-0.
American Soccer Now’s Josh Deaver is keeping you updated on the U.S. team, but what’s going on in the other groups?
It’s tough to take too much from the opening matches, but the Group D decider between Mexico and El Salvador, both of which easily dispensed of Curaçao, could tell us who the biggest challenger to the U.S. will be. Cuba is a surprise as well, beating both Canada and Nicaragua to get through its group unscathed. Panama and Jamaica are through, but it’s tough to discern how much of that is due to Puerto Rico being poor and how much is because those teams are talented. The knockout stage will bring answers.
Rafa Marquez Watch
Rafa Marquez started for León but was substituted in the 61st minute in the club’s 2-0 victory against San Luis last weekend. This one, he didn't play against Chivas.
Check out this goal
Ariel Rodriguez, who started for Costa Rica in its first Hex match against Panama, scored this goal for his domestic club, Pérez Zeledón, a few weeks ago. This video features an interpreter, so enjoy her description of a goal that needs none.
Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is a writer based in Arizona and is ASN's CONCACAF correspondent.