Liga MX

Toluca bids to match Chivas record

DAVID AND GOLIATH
Toluca head coach Enrique Meza and his Tijuana counterpart Antonio Mohamed.
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MEXICO CITY (AP)

Mexico's league title is on the line this week when highly-decorated club Toluca goes up against upstart Tijuana, which was promoted to the first division last year.

The two-leg series opens Thursday in the border city of Tijuana, with the deciding second game on Sunday in Toluca.

Toluca will match Guadalajara Chivas with 11 league titles if it can beat Tijuana over two legs. Toluca has dominated lately, with seven league titles since 1998.

''Every final is different,'' said midfielder Naelson Sinha, who has won five championships with Toluca. ''You always have to write something new because what is old stays in the museum.''

Toluca probably goes in as a slight favorite and is led by experienced coach Enrique Meza. The Red Devils also wound up as the leaders in the regular-season standings.

''We have no other choice but to dream of the title, because from the first day of the season we have been thinking of this,'' Meza said.

This is the ninth final showdown for Meza, who is looking for this fourth title in the Mexican first division.

Like many leagues in Latin America, the Mexican season is divided into two halves - the Apertura season - that's the one now under way - and the Clausura season. Each crowns its own champion.

Tijuana will be the sentimental favorite. The football team on the Mexico-United States border is bringing together a city that has been frequently known for all the wrong reason.

Founded just a few years ago, the club goes by the nickname ''Los Xolos'' (pronounced HO-lows), which is short for Xoloitzcuintle, a type of Aztec dog. The popularity of the team has helped the city improve its self-image, which has been battered for years by drug-related violence.

''This is a new story and we are here to make history,'' said coach Antonio Mohamed, an Argentine who came to Tijuana from Argentine club Independiente.

A former striker, Mohamed played for years in Mexico and went on to coach several Mexican clubs, but has found his place with this one.

''We have confidence in ourselves,'' Mohamed said. ''We try to talk little and do our talking on the pitch.''

Added goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo: ''You can say lots of things about us. All I can say is that we are a dedicated team that is dreaming of big things. We're in the final and we want to take advantage.''

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