Members of Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles are spending a lot of time on a sandy beach under clear, sunny skies these days.
Warm days cooled by the Gulf of California breeze at the beachfront tourist city of Mazatlan, Mexico are also part of their summer agenda. But don't think the Xolos are there on vacation. Far from it. Club Tijuana is deep into its off season program. It is prepping for the upcoming Mexican First Division Aperturra 2012 tournament set to begin late July.
Intense two-a-day sessions that include practice and conditioning drills have been part of the Xolos preparations. And with a little more than a month away until its first match July 20 against Puebla at Estadio Caliente, Tijuana is finishing final details before the start of its preseason matches.
The Xolos travel to face Dorados de Sinaloa, a second division club, Tuesday before heading North and crossing the border to face Mexico City's Club America June 30 at Qualcomm Stadium.
The exhibition match against Club America will be the Xolos third appearance in what has been deemed the “San Diego Clasico.” Tijuana has played in the two previous Clasicos played in the winter. The Xolos beat Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA, both at the 5,000 seat USD's Torero Stadium.
This will be the first “summer” Clasico at a much larger venue against what is being considered a more respected rival. After all, Club America is one of Mexico's most popular teams and one of the wealthiest in North America. Las Aguilas are coming off one of their best seasons in recent history with a deep run into the 2012 Clausura playoffs. America lost to runner up Monterrey in the semifinals of the Liguilla.
It was Monterrey who also knocked the Xolos out of the playoffs. It was Tijuana's first ever post season appearance as members of the First Division.
Tijuana wants a repeat of the last tournament and reach the playoffs. The Xolos went from being the newly ascended club trying to avoid relegation to becoming a contender.
Coach Antonio Mohamed's team returns most of its starters. It has added a handful of international players to add depth to its roster.
Tijuana added Ecuadorian national Fidel Martinez, Alfredo Moreno of Argentina and brought back Deigo Olsina for another stint with the club. Olsina played with the Xolos when the club was in the second division.
All three additions are expected to see some playing time against Club America at Qualcomm.
The last time the Xolos played in San Diego they beat Chivas USA with a roster mostly made up of backups and reserves. Tijuana was in the middle of its regular season tournament in February.
This time, most of the starters are expected to see some playing time as both Tijuana and Club America are in their preseason.
This could also be the last opportunity to see Club America in the region this year. The Xolos are scheduled to face las Aguilas on the road this season. Club America comes to Tijuana for the 2013 Apertura tournament. The last time the Xolos hosted Club America was in March. The teams played to a 1-1 draw.
Club America has played in two previous San Diego Clasicos, its first against cross-town rival Cruz Azul and English Premier League club Portsmouth.
The Xolos finish the preseason with three more friendlies: a July 7 match in the United States against a team to be determined, a home against Dorados (July 13) and against Cruz Azul (July 15) in San Francisco.