Caliente game pits storied Chivas vs. Xolos

Friday's game is most important for Tijuana

The line stretched thousands of people long. They had camped out for nearly two days to buy tickets for the most anticipated match of the Xolos season, maybe of all time.

Xolos vs. Chivas Rayadas de Guadalajara, a game Friday afternoon at Estadio Caliente.

A measure of the emotion this match-up has stirred was evident Tuesday, when the Xolos announced to the more than 1,000 people still waiting at the team's office at the Río zone that the tickets had run out.

Angry fans responded by throwing bottles and chairs toward the office entrance.

Such passions are not surprising.

There are the Xolos fans, whose faith in their team has grown as the team has developed. There are the always faithful Chivas fans, who make their club one of the most popular teams in the Mexican Primera División. And there are also those who have been Chivas fans for life and now began to root for the Xolos, the newest team to be promoted to the First Division.

Regardless, fans had to wait for this duel.

It was originally scheduled to be played Aug. 3 but it conflicted with a Chivas friendly match against Spanish giant Barcelona in Miami. The match was rescheduled for Friday with a 4 p.m. kickoff.

The game pairs a team that is trying to find an identity in a new division and a storied club that is trying to live up to expectations.

The Xolos (1-3-2, five points), coached by Joaquin del Olmo, are trying to make an impact in the league just as much as they are struggling avoid relegation to the Liga de Ascenso, the second division. Tijuana sits near the bottom of the Apertura tournament standings having earned five points in six matches.

Tijuana is hoping to find the net, keep the lead and scrape up as many points possible after being the dominant team in virtually all of its matches. The Xolos are coming off a 1-1 draw with Querétaro last week.

A match against Chivas might not be what the Xolos want at the moment.

Or is it?

"We are going to play with our essence," del Olmo said. "We will …be focused throughout the 90 minutes and vie for the three points. The team has to keep playing with the same intensity. It has to improve like it has for long parts of previous games where we have been the best team and couldn't translate it to the scoreboard."

This perhaps could be the match the Xolos need. A win against Chivas and Tijuana could make a mark in the league and might just save its season.

Could Chivas fall into a trap against a team the rest of the league is still learning about?

"We know it will be a tough game because of what the Xoloitzcuintles are trying to become," said Chivas forward Erick Torres on the team's official website. "It will be a tough game because of the start time, the (artificial) turf, the people...It's something we have to overcome and play our game in order to beat them."

Chivas (4-1-1, 13 points) is considered the favorite despite coming off a 2-0 loss to San Luis. It is trying to move up to the top of the standings. Guadalajara sits one point behind Cruz Azul, the overall points leader.

Both the Xolos and Chivas will most likely be without a handful of players as Friday is a FIFA date, meaning players can leave their clubs and play with their respective national teams if summoned.

Tijuana will be without midfielder Joe Corona. The Sweetwater High alumni and former San Diego State player is in San Luis Potosi, Mexico with El Tri's Under-22 national team. Mexico takes on Chile Friday.

Xolos striker Dayro Moreno, the Mexican league's leading scorer, is in New Jersey with the Colombian national team. Colombia faces Honduras in a friendly at the New York Red Bulls stadium.

Guadalajara might also have handful of players missing.

That includes San Ysidro High alumni and former Tijuana resident Miguel Angel Ponce. He and Jorge Enriquez, Antonio Gallardo, Jesús Torres, Julio Nava and Ulises Dávila are also with Mexico's U-22 team.

Either team could use player absences to their advantage.

But it might not matter.

It is still "Las Chivas" coming to town.



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