Carlos Salcido joked that he had tasted his Olympic gold medal.
“I’ve already bitten the medal,” Salcido said. “I can tell you it’s real.”
Salcido didn’t have to pinch himself to make sure he was part of Mexican soccer history. He was part of the Under-23 Mexican team that beat a heavy favorite Brazil in the championship match of the London Games last week.
It was what will likely be regarded as the highest accomplishment in Mexican soccer history and perhaps also in Salcido’s career.
The 32-year-old defender is a veteran of Mexico’s senior national team with 103 caps and has played with El Tri in two World Cups. He was one of three overage players allotted on the roster.
Salcido is expected to join his club Tigres UANL in time for the team’s First Divison Week 5 Apertura 2012 match up against Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles at Estadio Caliente Friday night.
Chances are Salcido will not be included in coach Ricardo Ferretti’s starting lineup against the Xolos. Salcido has been away from his club since before the start of the Olympics in late June. But the Tigres might need Salcido’s help immediately.
The team is coming off a 2-2 draw at home against Queretaro, one of Mexico’s weakest teams. Queretaro is fighting to avoid relegation to the Second Division. Tigres is 2-0-1 with seven points in the standings. It is coming off a semifinal finish in the last tournament after winning the 2011 Apertura title.
Tigres has been one of Mexico’s top franchises in recent years. It finished the Clausura tournament on top of the standings only to lose in the playoffs.
The club has been without its national team players the last few weeks. Along with Salcido, teammate Israel Jimenez was in London with the gold medal winning Mexican national team.
If Salcido sees action against the Xolos, it will be his first in this tournament. Salcido joined Tigres in 2011 after a stint in Europe playing for Fulham of the English Premier league.
Salcido is listed as a defender but he is a versatile player out of the left back position. The Xolos could have their hands full against a speedy Salcido who is not afraid to use his accurate long range shooting ability.
The Xolos (2-1-1, seven points) are coming off a discouraging draw against Pachuca. Tijuana gave up a late goal by Pachuca’s Nery Castillo after taking a 2-1 lead.
Tijuana is unbeaten at home with wins against Puebla and Pumas UNAM. The Xolos play on artificial turf and that can sometimes be of disadvantage for visiting teams.
Ferretti, the Tigres coach, made sure his players spent part of the week training on an artificial field nea the club’s university fields in Monterrey.
Tijuana could also be without a couple of key players.
Xolos striker Duvier Riascos came off the field early against Pachuca last week with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. The Colombian-born forward dashed after a rolling pass near Pachuca’s penalty area when he suddenly held back, immediately reaching for the back of his leg. He was substituted by striker Fidel Martinez, who was sent off with a red card in the second half. Martinez will serve a red card suspension and will not play against Tigres.
The Tijuana-Tigres match could be an integral one this early in the season. Both teams are considered to be contending to for a post season slot. The winning team here could have an edge at the end of the season as points in the standings and head-to-head match ups come in to play as possible tiebreakers.
The Xolos and Tigres have met twice since Tijuana was promoted to the First Division in 2011. Tigres beat Tijuana 1-0 in the last tournament. Both teams played to a 1-1 draw in the 2011 Apertura.