Sports

Xolos looking to return to win column

Tijuana takes on Puebla on the road Sunday

Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles players walked off their home turf last week, some staring into the artificial grass, others looking into the sunny clear sky.

They felt something they had not experienced in a while. Santos Laguna had reminded the Xolos what it was like to lose.

Tijuana, which had not lost in 11 previous matches, got a reality check by the first place team in the Mexican Clausura tournament.

It was a reminder of what it was like to give up soft goals, not convert scoring opportunities and rely on goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo to keep the game relatively close.

It took the Xolos away from what was a fast start to the tournament after going unbeaten in the first three matches, good for seven points.

Tijuana will try to bounce back Sunday when the team visits Puebla in a Week 5 match-up.

This is a chance for the Xolos to get back to winning and try to continue the surprising start to the season.

Surprising to at least the rest of the league but not to the Xolos, its players and its fans.

"The mentality, it's a little different than before," said Sweetwater High alum Joe Corona, who spent the last few weeks with the U.S. Under-23 national team. "Our luck is starting to turn. We know as individuals, as players, that we have a lot to play for. We just kept working and never put our heads down."

The Xolos (2-1-1) know that they are playing for their survival in the Primera División and the only certain way to prevent demotion to the minor league is to win and remain near the top of the standings and maybe even reach the post season.

As Corona said, the mentality of the team perhaps changed when Antonio Mohamed took over as coach 12 matches ago.

He found a starting line-up that can give the team its best chance at winning.

And Sunday that line-up will not include veteran midfielder Leandro Augusto, who suffered an injury early against Santos last week. Corona, the league's Rookie of the Year last tournament, will most likely start in Augusto's place. It would be his first start in this tournament.

"We always work to be at the coach's orders and to be physically and mentally prepared to try and do the right things," Corona said. "I am motivated to see if I could remain a starter and try to help get a win, which is the most important thing."

A win against Puebla, known as "La Franja," and the Xolos could stick around the top of the standings after falling to fourth place last week.

Puebla (1-1-2, 4 points) is coming off a win at Jaguares de Chiapas and is considered to be a middle-of-the-pack team that Tijuana should beat. At least that's the consensus on paper.

But don't tell Tijuana that. The team doesn't want to overlook Puebla and risk getting another lesson on what it is like to lose.

ivan.orozco@sandiegored.com

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