Apertura 2013: 'Xolos' are on a roll on the border

Posted by Ciro Procuna

Antonio Mohamed wrote a chapter filled with successes in the history of Tijuana. Not only did he save them from relegation, he also led them to their first season league championship and nearly made the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores. It was a 20-month span that will not be forgotten on the border.

The penalty kick that was missed by Duvier Riascos in the 91st minute in the return game against Atletico Mineiro in Brazil is still remembered. The Colombian surely did not know it, but that would be his last moment with the Xolos, because five days later he would be sold for millions to the Tuzos of Pachuca.

The gaps they leave, Riascos as well as Mohamed, are large. The Argentine Jorge Francisco Almiron takes over the coaching duties without experience in the First Division. He coached Dorados, Veracruz and Correcaminos in the Ascenso Division. Almiron played out his soccer career in Mexico. He knows the league and is recommended by Mohamed.

Riasco’s position will be occupied by Herculez Gomez, who scores goals for nearly every team he joins. At Santos he scored 13 goals in 45 games, without counting the nine he scored in CONCACAF. He is reliable and will be accompanied by Fidel Martínez, Fernando Arce, Christian Pellerano and Joe Corona -- in other words, a well-known midfield.

Jaime Ayovi was part of the Riascos trade but was sent on loan to the Deportiva Universitaria Liga de Quito. Arriving is the Argentine forward Dario Benedetto, 23, from Arsenal de Sarandí, where he scored five goals in nine games as a starter. Emanuel Cerda, forward and ex-Tigres player, will be an additional option.

The defense remains solid with the presence of captain Javier Gandolfi and Pablo Cesar Aguilar. Edgar Castillo has his place reserved at left back, while veteran Cirilo Saucedo remains as goalkeeper. The problem with Saucedo, now that he has been called up to the national team, is that injuries have dogged him.

The major challenge is to replace Mohamed -- who, by the way, did not handle his exit altogether well when he said that if Xolos reached the semifinals of the Libertadores tournament, he would no longer be in charge. In any case, his final numbers are excellent, with 33 wins and 16 defeats, including the Libertadores.

Soccer came to stay in Tijuana. Clausura 2013 was not a good tournament for the Xolos in the national league, but they took their first steps internationally. Now they will have another chance, but in the CONCACAF Champions League.

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