We all find our sports teams in different ways. Many sports fandoms are passed down as legacies. Your father was fan of the Cleveland Browns, so unfortunately, you carry on that burden. You may latch on to the local team to feel the camaraderie and possibly attend home games. The ever popular bandwagon also draws many fans, especially from the younger generations. Also, my personal favorite, would be fandoms formed by spite. Growing up being surrounded by obnoxious Yankees fans, my Red Sox fandom was the logical and spiteful choice.
Few sports fandoms come from what the non-sports fan would likely peg as the most logical approach. Not often do we simply watch matches and decide what team to throw support behind based on what we see on the field. If I were to decide to start following Formula 1, I would feel inclined to watch some races first. I'd look to see which driver/team struck me as interesting, entertaining, or somehow worthy of my support.
My Mexican Primera team was not chosen this way. I went with the home team approach, which has served me well (most of the time). However, if I was just now coming in fresh and looking for a team to throw my support behind, the search would be short and easy. Tijuana would be the obvious choice.
The Xoloitzcuintles, or Xolos if you hope to pronounce it correctly, were founded in 2007. Tijuana, not previously known as a soccer hotbed, has embraced this team. This past Fall, the Xolos were promoted to the Primera division for the first time. By the level of their play, it does not seem like they will be going back down to the Liga de Ascenso anytime soon.
Why Tijuana? Well if you are from the US, they are a simple choice. Being so close to the border, they are not only Tijuana's squad, but the de facto San Diego squad as well. This team is also loaded with USMNT talent. With the newly acquired Greg Garza, Tijuana has three prominent US players on their roster. Joe Corona, who recently declared his intentions to play for the US internationally, is an up and coming star who has featured in the U-23 team for the US. Edgar Castillo, known well for losing passports, is also eligible to play for the States; this eligibility should be used by Jurgen Klinsmann every opportunity he gets.
But the US connections aside, this team should be your new favorite team because they are just ridiculously fun to watch. They are the kind of team that you can't help pulling for once you watch them. They play with relentless energy and verve. They also have some interesting personalities in the roster. The veteran Argentinean forward, Jose Sand, has played a key role in Tijuana's success. He's netted six goals through ten matches. Uruguayan midfielder, Egidio Arevalo is a little bulldog on the pitch. He is constantly on the move and unafraid to unleash ill-advised shot after ill-advised shot. Kind of seems like he might be letting himself go a little bit (he's not here yet, though), which is always fun to watch. Also, there's head coach, Antonio Mohamed. He is both well-scarved and well-respected around the Mexican leagues. He has instilled a solid defensive scheme while at the same time freeing up his creative players up front. For me, though, if one player is responsible for the success of this squad and makes this team a must-watch, it would have to be Edgar Castillo.
Castillo is probably playing as well as he ever has. The former Club America player is not a Mexican fan favorite after his much publicized switch to play internationally for the US. However, Tijuana fans have to be loving what he is doing for this team. He is using his great speed and deft ball skills to create opportunities for his teammates. Knowing nothing about him or his team, it would not take much time to spot Castillo on the field. His play puts him in another class than most, if not all, players on the pitch.
Last weekend Club America paid their first visit to Tijuana to play at Estadio Caliente. This match perfectly highlighted the lovability of the Xolos. Despite, a cheap seventh minute red card given to Jose Sand, Tijuana were the better team for the entirety of the match. If you had not been watching, or lacked the ability to count, there was no way of knowing which team was playing down a man. Tijuana were reduced to nine men when the bulldog, Arevalo, committed a late challenge and received another straight red. Despite these disadvantages, Tijuana managed a 1-1 draw. Generally, I try to stay away from conspiracy theories. Referees are not slanted towards a team as much as they are just generally inept. I will say definitively that the referees for this match were not being paid off by the ownership of Tijuana. The red cards came out fast last Friday, but the Xolos responded in amazing fashion.
Chances are if you are reading this blog you have some affiliation to a Mexican squad. If so, I would never advocate abandoning your loyalties. Just be sure to enjoy when Tijuana matches up against your team; it will be entertaining. If not, you'd look good in red.