Tijuana opens play in Mexico's Liguilla -- the Liga MX postseason for the Torneo Clausura -- on Thursday night when it hosts Toluca in a rematch of the
2012 Torneo Apertura final Xolos won. They had not made the playoffs until they squeaked into the Torneo Clausura playoffs as the seventh-place team, and the same two American starters, Joe Corona
and Edgar Castillo
, from the the 2012 championship, are expected to start from a contingent of eight Americans on
the first team.
Teenager Paul Arriola
was a late sub for Tijuana in its 2-1 loss at home to Leon that almost cost it a berth in the playoffs. Greg Garza
was on the bench, but Herculez Gomez
, along with youngsters Alejandro
, Fernando Arce Jr.
, and Stevie Rodriguez
, did not dress.
Tijuana is almost unbeatable at its
Estadio Caliente, where it beat Toluca 3-1, in April. Its troubles on the road would indicate that it will need to win on Thursday to have any chance in the return leg Sunday at altitude in the
Diablos Rojos' home stadium, the Bombonera.
Toluca finished second in the Torneo Clausura behind Cruz Azul, which it also lost to in the Concacaf Champions League final. Cruz Azul knocked
out Xolos in the semifinals.
Tijuana has changed coaches twice since winning under Argentine Antonio Mohamed
. Venezuelan Cesar Farias
has done an excellent job with Xolos in the Torneo Clausura. One of the players who's benefited greatly is Corona, who regained his spot in the starting lineup.
America came back from 3-1 down after 58 minutes to beat Santos, 5-3, with three of the final four goals coming from Raul Jimenez
. In Wednesday's other match, eighth seed Leon, the
Torneo Apertura champion, tied top seed Cruz Azul, 1-1, at home.