CARSON, Calif. – Club Tijuana sees the new Leagues Cup tournament involving MLS and Liga MX teams as an opportunity to raise their international profile, so don't be surprised if the Xolos field a first-choice lineup – or something close to it – in Tuesday's (11 pm ET | ESPN, TUDN in US; TSN 1/4 in Canada) tournament opener against the LA Galaxy.
Xolos head coach Oscar Pareja was more guarded about who will take the field in the quarterfinal showdown at Dignity Health Sports Park than Guillermo Barros Schelotto, his Galaxy counterpart. But the former FC Dallas manager made it clear that Tijuana is taking the eight-team tournament seriously.
“We came from Puebla getting a good result and a good start (in our league opener on Friday), and the team is going to try to continue with it,” Pareja said. “At this point, we're just one game at a time. We have a good roster to play in three competitions, and for now we will (determine who plays) on a day-by-day basis.
“But the full team is ready to compete against the Galaxy. Everybody is available for the match.”
That portends a stiff challenge for the Galaxy, who will likely field an XI heavy on reserves and, perhaps, players from the USL Championship-based second team. Tijuana is strong all over the field and quite dynamic in the attack, even after difference-making striker Gustavo Bou left nearly two weeks ago to join the New England Revolution.
“About Tijuana, we don't know too much, because I don't know what they are doing tomorrow with the (selection of) players,” Schelotto said. “I don't know what Pareja will (do), but we need to be ready to play.”
Bou's departure could greatly impact Xolos, but former Vancouver Whitecaps FC standout Camilo Sanvezzo slotted in nicely next to Argentine forward Ariel Nahuelpan in a 4-4-2 formation at Puebla. Former Chivas USA playmaker Miller Bolaños set up the first two goals in a 3-1 victory in last Friday’s Apertura opener.
“We know Bou's a pretty special player up top,” said midfielder Joe Corona, who transferred from the Xolos to the Galaxy in March. “He has scored a lot of goals for Tijuana, and now that he's not there, I think they might bring somebody else in.”
Schelotto watched Tijuana's victory over Boca Juniors, his longtime club, in a friendly nearly two weeks ago, but isn’t sure that'll impact Tuesday’s proceedings.
“I don't know if they use the same names,” he said. “Maybe they will use the same system (and) tactics. So I can know how they are going to play ... They try to keep the ball, try to play good soccer and are a typical team from Mexico. They are very technical, maybe more technical than physical. But we need to know about the names, because at the end of the day you can play in the system, but the players is more important.”
Tijuana has big hopes for the new tournament.
“We're here to compete and we're here to make Tijuana known and that the name of Xolos is highlighted internationally," goalkeeper Gibran Lajud said. “Each tournament we compete in, we give it our all."