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.”