Let’s just say for a minute that Crazy Horse let Lieutenant Colonel Custer and his men sniff around the banks of the Little Big Horn River for a few hours in the spring of 1876. You know, just so they could get a feel for it.
Would their showdown a few months later have ended differently?
OK, that’s a little dramatic. But that’s the first thing I thought of when I remembered that Club Tijuana are taking on Club América on Saturday night in a preseason friendly at StubHub Center.
On its own, this isn’t a big deal. Mexican clubs do battle on US soil all the time. It helps engender them to the Mexican-American fan base and provides a good change of pace for the clubs as they prepare for the Liga MX season.
But this particular one is just wrong, wrong, wrong.
This is advance scouting for Tijuana as they get set to face the LA Galaxy in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League in March. This one little game allows Xolos – and their horde of American players – to get nice and cozy in the home of their adversaries before returning north in a game that counts.
Those nice, wide field dimensions? Tijuana will commit them to memory. That nicely groomed grass pitch? Xolos can figure out what works on the natural surface away from the artificial turf at their own home and have a game plan down pat.
The opponent will be much different on Saturday, of course – América are one of the heavyweights Tijuana will chase this upcoming Liga MX season. And figuring out how to contain Luis Gabriel Rey and El Tri hero Raúl Jiménez will be a lot different than advance scouting Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan.
And to be fair to the Galaxy, this is a preseason friendly that has nothing to do with them or their season-ticket holders, and at the root of it helps raise the profile of soccer in Southern California. (It should also be noted that Tijuana faced the Galaxy at StubHub Center in a preseason friendly this past February – and LA spanked Xolos’ B team, 6-2.)
But make no mistake, Tijuana will be very comfortable in Carson on their return trip in three short months. Giving them the chance to play in this game in the Galaxy’s home is a misstep that should’ve been prevented.
The Galaxy had nothing to do with booking this date. It was set in stone by the building – StubHub Center management – on Oct. 22. That was literally two days before LA imploded on the final day of CCL group-phase play, losing 4-0 to Isidro Metapán in El Salvador and plummeting from a higher-seeded team (and a likely date with Panama’s Árabe Unido) to a lower seed matched up against a Mexican heavyweight.
The timing was unfortunate. But the possibility loomed then that they could be on a collision course with their border rivals, who have been licking their chops at eventually getting a showdown in a game that matters against the team they figure is their main competition for fans and youth talent in Southern California.
So the date is set, the teams are locked in and there’s no getting around it. But if Bruce Arena & Co. wanted to make sure their future foes got zero advantage heading into March, the club should’ve done everything in its power to get the game moved somewhere, anywhere else.
The Rose Bowl. The LA Memorial Coliseum. Hell, even Dodger Stadium or Angel Stadium. Anywhere but in their own home.
As it is, Herculez Gomez, Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona, their "Venezuelan José Mourinho" manager and the rest of the hairless dogs will get a chance to dance around and get nice and comfy in the friendly confines.
That doesn’t exactly help prevent what could be LA’s Last Stand come springtime.
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.