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Club Tijuana players offer preview of CCL matchup against LA Galaxy at StubHub Center

Herculez Gomez with Tijuana

Photo Credit: 
MexSport

CARSON, Calif. – Club Tijuana enjoyed their latest trek to Los Angeles, rallying from three goals down for a 3-3 draw with Club América in Saturday's friendly at StubHub Center.

Now, Xolos can hardly wait for their next trip north.

It'll occur the second week of March, when Mexico's northernmost club takes on the LA Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, a series that could cement a burgeoning rival between the California powerhouses.

“It's going to be fun,” said Tijuana forward Herculez Gomez (above), a US national-teamer who made his first real impression with a spectacular campaign for the Galaxy when they won the MLS Cup title in 2005. “They're a good team. Last few years: two MLS championships, great players, everybody wants to come play in LA.

"They're kind of the team to hate if you're an MLS fan and you're not a Galaxy fan. So I'm excited.”

So are the Xolos' other Yanks – defenders Edgar Castillo and Greg Garza, and midfielders Joe Corona, Paul Arriola, Stevie Rodriguez, Fernando Arce and Alejandro Guido – who expect to see plenty of their fans at StubHub for the opening leg and a few supporting the Galaxy for the return match a week later at Estadio Caliente just south of the border.

“I think we've probably got more Xolos fans up here [in LA] than they've got Galaxy fans [in San Diego and Tijuana],” said Gomez, who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Las Vegas. “It does draw an interesting kind of agenda. These are two very good teams, and they want that region, you know. We're excited, they're excited. I know there will be a lot of banter, the front offices will enjoy kind of sparking a little controversy and whatnot.”

The clubs have sparred over top Southern California talent – Arriola, from Chula Vista near the border, was with the Galaxy Academy and training with LA's first team before signing last spring with Tijuana – and have met twice in friendlies, with the Xolos prevailing on penalty kicks following a 2-2 draw at the University of San Diego in March 2011 and the Galaxy romping, 6-2, against a Tijuana side missing most of its first-teamers last February.

“I would say it's a good rivalry,” said Corona, who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in San Diego County. “There's always a rivalry between San Diego and Los Angeles, and us Xolos, we feel like it's a San Diego team. All the people in San Diego think the same.”

Corona, who like Gomez is a hopeful for the World Cup this summer, has family in LA and says his cousins “root for the LA Galaxy. I mean, they root for me because I'm family, but they grew up rooting for the LA Galaxy. They're excited about the game, too.”

Castillo says he's most pumped to “play against Donovan and Omar Gonzalez,” his US teammates.

“And I know they want to beat us, too,” Castillo said.

This will be a special game for the former Galaxy players, Gomez says.

“I know guys like Paul and I are excited for this game – we've got ties to the Galaxy. I still have friends there,” he said. “I love the time that I spent in LA, and I don't have an ax to grind, but I'm not part of LA now, I'm part of Xolos.

"And any chance I can, I will hurt LA. I will try to do everything I can do bury this team.”