Xolos get shot at redemption against Monterrey

Tijuana team opens season at home on Saturday

The choice appeared to be made.

The fourth official held up an electronic scoreboard signaling there would be four minutes of injury time added to last week's match between the Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles and Morelia, which at that point was tied 1-1.

The Xolos sat back and defended as time expired with no clear sign they would try to attack and push for a late goal. They settled for the tie and left Morelia with one point in the standings.

It wasn't the worst way to start the club's second tournament in the Mexican First Division but it wasn't the best either.

The Xolos are playing for their life in Mexico's top soccer circuit, trying to avoid relegation to the Second Division, or minor league. And collecting single points via ties will probably send the Xolos back to the Liga de Ascenso.

If coach Antonio Mohamed's team wants to remain in the league, it must win and win now.

The Xolos have what can be a good chance at redemption and a shot at gaining some much needed momentum as they take on Monterrey, one of Mexico's most recognized and successful clubs.

"Los Rayados," as they are known, visit Tijuana on Saturday in a Week 2 match-up in the Xolos' home opener at en expected sold-out Estadio Caliente. A win there and Tijuana could be on the track the team wants.

Ties can only take a team so far. The Xolos raked in nine ties in 17 matches in the 2011 Apertura tournament. The draws counted for nine of the Xolos' 18 points during the season. The team finished third to last in the 18-team standings.

The post-season was out of reach. And that's what the Xolos don't want this time around in the Clausura tournament. A win against Monterrey on Saturday could be the start of a run into the post season and most importantly, the club's lifeline to remain in the First Division.

Ties can keep Estudiantes Tecos close to the Xolos at the bottom of the relegation standings. Tecos are in last place and would be first to be demoted.

Tijuana has proven it can play against top teams. It did so against Monterrey last tournament, taking a 2-0 lead only to give up four unanswered goals in a 4-2 loss.

But that was a fresh team with a new line-up. The roster remained mostly the same during this past off season with only a few additions, including forward Duvier Riascos.

He is seen as the Xolos' spark on offense this season. He almost won the game against Morelia last week on a break-away late in the match with only Morelia goalkeeper Federico Vilar to beat. Vilar slid and defended the play ending the threat, keeping the tie.

A tie that most Xolos players accepted.

"We are doing well," said Xolos defender and team captain Javier Gandolfi after match. "We had a good result in Morelia in our first match in what is an important tournament. We are prepared and we know we need to do whatever we can to win at home and that's what we intend to do against Monterrey."

And that's probably how it should be for a team fighting to stay relevant. It shouldn't settle for ties.



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