Toluca faces Tijuana for Mexican league title

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

underway – 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” (pronounded 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.”