Can Xolos challenge the Galaxy for a Southern California fanbase? (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
Tijuana-based side Xoloscuintles De Caliente, better known by its short name, Xolos, achieved a historic victory on Saturday, earning promotion from the Liga de Ascenso and becoming the first ever side from Tijuana to play in the Mexican top flight. Thanks in large part to a contribution from 20-year-old American-born midfielder Joe Corona, Xolos were able to post a 2-1 win over a resilient Irapuato side. Corona put a looping header over veteran goalkeeper Adrián Martínez before providing a fine through ball on Mauro Gerk's goal that would stand up as the winner.
Xolos endured a difficult journey to promotion, winning the 2010 Apertura and nearly winning the 2011 Clausura, which would have ensured them automatic promotion to the first division. However, after narrowly losing the Apertura final 1-0 on aggregate to a Cuauhtemoc Blanco-inspired Irapuato, Xolos would have to face one more playoff against the side known as los freseros in order to clinch their historic promotion. After a tight 0-0 draw in the first leg, it looked like the beginning of a long afternoon after Xolos had a legitimate goal disallowed. A shot from distance bounced in off the crossbar, and the sideline referee ruled that it had not entered the goal, despite video replays showing the ball landed about a foot over the goal line.
Nonetheless, an inspired performance from Corona and the rest of the Xolos team saw them take a two goal lead. A chaotic moment in the box and a miscommunication between Xolos midfielder Alejandro Molina and goalkeeper Leonin Pineda lead to a somewhat comical own goal from Molina that gave Irapuato a way back into the tie. Despite their second half pressure and some occasionally iffy Xolos defending, the Tijuana side were able to ride a strong performance from Pineda to a historic promotion and some wild celebrations just over the U.S. border with Mexico.
While Tijuana will certainly be among the relegation contenders in next year's Primera División, for now, the club and city will be content to celebrate an achievement that has brought some much needed joy to a city that has struggled greatly in recent years with poverty and crime. Congratulations, Xolos, and congratulations to the city of Tijuana!