Premier soccer is back in Tijuana.
Sure, it is preseason futbol, but Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles fans might not care. Their beloved Xolos return to Estadio Caliente Friday night. The Xolos face Dorados de Sinaloa, a team from Mexico's second division or Liga de Ascenso.
The game is the final exhibition affair for the Xolos before the 2012 Apertura tournament season opener at home July 20 against Puebla.
Tijuana's match against the Dorados is the third friendly for coach Antonio Mohamed's squad. It is the first at Estadio Caliente this preseason. The Xolos have played in exhibition matches in Sinaloa, against Dorados, and at Qualcomm Stadium against Club America. Tijuana also scheduled a couple of scrimmages against San Diego Boca FC and the San Diego Flash at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista earlier this month.
Fans in Tijuana will have a chance to see the team's offseason acquisitions in a game at Estadio Caliente for the first time. There is newcomer Fidel Martinez, a forward from Ecuador. Then there is Pablo Aguilar of Paraguay, Argentine-born and naturalized Mexican forward Alfredo "El Chango" Moreno and Argentine midfielder Cristian Pellerano.
Pellerano was signed earlier this week.
The rest of the Xolos' lineup is expected to be available to play, including the projected starters, if Mohamed chooses to use them.
Mohamed won't have veteran defenders Joshua Abrego and Miguel Almazan. Both are nursing injuries but are expected to return in time for the start of the season. Both were also an integral part of the Xolos' stingy defense in the previous tournament, the 2011 Clausura.
Tijuana relied on its backline on its way to its first playoff appearance in the Primera Division. The Xolos reached the post season in only its second tournament as a First Division team.
Ábrego said the team is looking to repeat the task and that the defense will again be an important piece as returning players try to mesh with the offseason signings.
"Teammates are getting to know each other," Ábrego said in Spanish. "We are looking to have the best team we can have. We'll have to see how those things go. But we want to start off fast and with a win as a team."
Ábrego said a full team effort will be needed to repeat as a playoff-caliber team.
"There's talk about the defense but it's all about the team," Ábrego said. "From the striker who tries to pressure the defense, to the backline where we try everything possible to sep out goals. This is a strong team and we are going to work to be one of the best defenses in the upcoming tournament."