SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 2: Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy is challenged for the ball by Javier Yacuzzi #3 of Club Tijuana during the second half at the exhibition game at Torero Stadium on March 2, 2011 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
With the Mexican Primera Division season just 12 days away, FMF State Of Mind is going to go team by team, previewing all 18 sides before the opening match of the season on Friday, July 23rd between Toluca and Estudiantes Tecos. We've enjoyed doing national team coverage throughout the summer and we'll cover the U-20 World Cup as well, but the real reason we started this site is because we're fans of the Mexican Primera. First up in our series are the new boys of the division, the Club Tijuana Xolos.
To avoid any appearance of bias, we're starting with the teams at the bottom of the relegation coefficient and working our way up to the top. Club Tijuana are in their first season in the Primera, so obviously, they start at zero.
Just because Tijuana are a new club, coming up from the second division doesn't mean that they're lacking at all in intrigue or talent coming into this season. Chairman Jorge Alberto Hank and his associates took over the team with the ambitious goal of making it into the Primera, and their summer signings imply that they have ambitions to do much more than simply stay up in their first year in the league.
Though the Xolos made a number of new signings, some of their returning players should be important pieces for them, mainly across the back. Captain Javier Gandolfi should be a key player, while Miguel Almazan and Javier Yacuzzi should also continue to get playing time. 21-year-old Mexican-American winger Joey Corona is also a major fixture in the team.
The highest profile new signing is Dayro Moreno, a player who signifies Hank's ambitions for the club. Moreno is now a regular starter with the Colombian national team, who he is playing for at the 2011 Copa America, and he had a terrific season last year for Once Caldas in Colombia, both domestically and in the Copa Libertadores. He was rumored to have a move to Portugal lined up, but when that fell through Tijuana swooped in, buying the star striker for $3.5 million.
He'll be partnered up top by Argentinian striker Jose Sand, another ambitious signing. After two years of tearing up South America for Lanus, Sand made an unorthodox move to the Middle East, signing for Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. He continued to score for fun there, putting in a goal at a rate of 1.2 goals per game. Based on Sand and Moreno's goal scoring records abroad, the Xolos could have one of the two or three most formidable pairs of strikers in the entire league.
To strengthen their midfield, Tijuana added three accomplished veteran players in Leandro Augusto, Fernando Arce, and Egidio Arevalo. Arevalo, formerly a Monterrey and San Luis player, has spent his last two seasons in Uruguay and Brazil. Arce and Augusto are both long-time Primera stars, and they've been top notch midfielders over the last few years, though old age is about to catch up with both of them.
The Xolos are solid in goal as well, with Tigres keeper Cirilo Saucedo joining the team. His backup will be Adrian Zermeño, who has been a very good keeper for them in the second division. The defense in front of them will mostly be made up of existing players, but Noe Maya and Juan Pablo Santiago could prove to be great additions to the team.
For Club Tijuana, avoiding the drop is simply their bare minimum goal. Their real goal will be nicking a Liguilla place, and there's no reason to believe that they won't be able to do it. They absolutely have the talent to finish in the top eight places in the Apertura, making it a completely realistic goal.
Dayro Moreno - Moreno will score goals, but just as importantly, he will have to serve as a creator. Moreno will likely do a lot of dropping deep, linking the play between the midfield and Jose Sand. If Tijuana have Liguilla ambitions, they will need Moreno to live up to expectations.
Potential Breakout Player
Joey Corona - The 21-year-old winger might be a bit of an under the radar player for now, but I'm predicting that his under the radar status will last 2-3 weeks into the season. Inevitably, he'll score a wonder goal or set up a game-winner. Immediately afterwards, American soccer fans will take to social media and proclaim that if Corona chooses to play for El Salvador or Mexico over the United States, Sunil Gulati should be fired.
Mid-table, and possibly Liguilla - I would be stunned to see the Xolos in relegation danger, but I'm not sure they have the depth to challenge the truly elite teams. Look for them to end somewhere near the middle of the pack, in contention for a Liguilla place.