Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente hit their home pitch Tuesday to prepare for their upcoming game against Toluca FC. The Aztec dogs have reached the finals of the Apertura 2012 of La Liga MX in their third season in first division.
Coach Antonio Mohamed led practice at the Caliente stadium having the players perform close quarter passing drills and scrimmage games in reduced spaces. The Aztec dogs are preparing to host Toluca on Thursday in the first leg of the home and away series to decide the Apertura 2012 champion.
The red devils are seeking to even their titles with Chivas de Guadalajara at 11 championships. Club Tijuana is getting their first shot at a national championship in the first five years since the team’s founding in 2007. Xolos defender Joshua Abrego addressed the media after the practice stating both teams arrive pretty even on paper.
“The positioning was not decided by points, but by the number of goals scored,” Abrego told the press. Xolos and Toluca ended the season with 34 points. Toluca came out on top due to the +11 goals versus the +8 goals Xolos had all season.
Now the No. 1 team, Toluca, and No. 2, Xolos face-off in the league finals. Xolos have not received much faith from people outside of their native Tijuana during the playoffs. Against Monterrey they were written-off as an inexperienced team facing a seasoned playoff veteran. In the series against Club Leon the firepower presented by La Fiera had some experts stating that this was the end of the road for Xolos. Yet, the Aztec dogs keep barking with an opportunity to make history for the storied border town.
“We’re pretty positive. We’ve worked hard to reach this point and we want to win the final,” Abrego, who has the most games played with the team since arriving in 2008, continued. “It’s 11 on 11. We have our fans supporting us on our home turf. We’re going to try to get the biggest advantage possible.”
Ecuadorian Fidel Martinez joined the team this season and is one of several players with a few games defending the rojinegros jersey. Martinez is often referred to as Tijuana’s “Neymar” for sporting a similar haircut to the very popular Brazilian international. The speedy striker scored in Sunday’s game against Leon. He reaches his first final with Xolos.
“One always dreams about having the opportunity to win a championship outside of his home land,” Martinez said. “I arrived with a humble attitude. I earned my way on to the roster, now I’m on the team and I have to take advantage of the opportunities I get.”
Martinez marked the first goal of a 3-0 romp Xolos gave Leon on Sunday to close the semifinals. Despite the thrashing they gave the league’s top scoring team, Martinez and the rest of the squad know that this week’s games are a completely different series.
“We have to concentrate for 90-minutes,” Martinez concluded. “We have to take advantage of the opportunities we get to score the goals we need.”