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León vs. Tijuana: Fortunes reverse

Part three in a comprehensive look at the past, present, and future of the rivalry between Club León and Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles.

Flamengo v Leon - Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2014
Franco Arizala and León in the 2014 Copa Libertadores. The fortunes of the rivalry swung back into León’s favor after 2013.
Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Every rivalry has an origin, a point where both sides can look back and point to as the reason why they absolutely can not stand the other team. Sometimes it boils down to geography. Other times, this can revolve around a few moments in time that change the trajectory of the teams involved.

November 21, 2014

After beating out León for promotion in 2011 and beating them en route to winning Liga MX and going to the 2013 Copa Libertadores semifinals, the one-sided nature of the rivalry would shift dramatically the next year. Tijuana struggled to repeat their success in Liga MX while León, led by William Yarbrough, Carlos “Gullit” Peña, Mauro Boselli, and Rafa Márquez, would go on to become just the second club (with Pumas) to win consecutive championships in the short-season format.

En route to their first championship of the new millennium, León finished the 2013 Apertura in third place. They defeated Tijuana 5-0 at the Nou Camp, which is tied with Xolos worst loss in team history (they also lost 5-0 to Cruz Azul in the 2013 Clausura and 6-1 to Club América in the 2016 Clausura). Xolos would finish the season in 10th place.

In the 2014 Clausura, León was in 12th place going into Week 17. They had just come off of a win against Tigres - their first since Week 9. They went to Tijuana and thanks to goals from Sebastián Maz and Luis “Chapo” Montes, defeated Xolos 2-1 and eked into the Liguilla. They’d make an improbable run, defeating Pachuca 2-0 in extra time to win the bicampeonato 4-3 on aggregate. Xolos were eliminated in the first round by Toluca.

León was set to go for a third championship in the 2014 Apertura, but the club stumbled out of the gate. Going into Week 17 however León managed to get into seventh place and just needed a win against 13th place Xolos to punch their ticket to the Liguilla.

On November 21, 2014, Dayro Moreno would open up the scoring at the Estadio Caliente in the 15th minute. Javier Salas would double the lead in the 68th, but just three minutes later Jonny Magallón would draw one back for León. Dario Benedetto would put it away for Xolos in the 87th with a goal. Mauro Boselli would make it close in the 90th, but Tijuana would hang on to win. Thanks to the results of that weekend, Pachuca and Pumas would clinch the last two spots in the Liguilla while La Fiera finished in tenth.

These turning points have helped these two teams build a rivalry in a relatively short amount of time. “The history behind it has to do on why Tijuana and León are rivals, meaning there is a legit motive” says Kari Torres of FutMexNation. “It’s like a stone you stumble upon between these two teams, depending on what is at stake and who has more to lose? To mention one, Apertura 2014 the season after León became bicampeon, another match was set where León depended on it to reach La Liguilla, Tijuana defeated La Fiera, crushing their dreams on a road to a possible tricampeonato.”

Part three in a five part series.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five