Major League Soccer may be in preseason but over the past two weeks, I've gotten to see some great soccer. I've witnessed matches played in front of huge, passionate flag-waving crowds and witnessed crowds so desolate it reminded me my trips to Arrowhead to watch the Wiz in 1999.
I'll admit I still have more questions than answers about Liga MX but strip away the surface, you have a league that's not at all unrecognizable to even the most casual soccer fan. Because it is the beautiful game, it doesn't matter what the language is; the ball is still round, the game is 90 minutes. As Tijuana assistant general manager Roberto Cornejo states it succinctly: "We are separated by the border, but soccer is an international game that transcends borders."
Moment's like Club America's Paul Aguilar's shorthanded goal in the 58th minute transcends culture, language and ethnicity. The goal was majestic, it's effect: devastating.
The aforementioned goal came at the expense of Club Tijuana this past Friday. America was reduced to nine men before halftime yet managed to go up two goals to nil in one of the most compelling games I had ever seen.
After sifting through various blogs and news articles and watching the games themselves, I have narrowed my field down to three teams who I will be "rooting for" until the end of the Torneo Clausura. Each team brings some unique characteristics and hopefully won't backslide into relegation (which I still don't fully understand).
Closer to Carson, CA than any other Liga MX squad, they are the hot team at the moment. Only seven years old, they won the Torneo Apertura but more importantly--and much more difficult--they have expanded US-Mexico soccer relations in ways that Chivas USA have never dreamed of. I recommend reading Jorge Arangure's excellent piece on Xolos as well as David Keyes' also-excellent essay on Tijuana in the Fall 2012 XI Quarterly. . XI Quarterly is a fantastic publication and has the best interns in the biz (Ed - Full disclosure, Alicia is an intern for XI, but she did not put Matt up to that endorsement).
Yes, I know they took on Rafa Marquez. Still, like the Xolos, they are new to the Liga MX. Unlike Tijuana, they have been in existence since 1927.
Hardly 15 minutes had passed after I posted my initial article when SBNation user CelticBrit commented:
A small team, but with big results. Winner of Championships before but with small 28,000 capacity stadium – The Red Devils. Sponsored by Corona. They are on TV very often and play a more attractive, quicker brand of soccer than the usual Mexican teams. They always seem to do well against Chivas, which might be a plus for you. No American players though. Anyway I have been to the stadium. Like the team, love the atmosphere.
CelticBrit must be in sales because I took the bait!
Onwards and upwards! What do you think of my top three?
David Keyes, (2012). A Curious Outpost: The Tijuana Xolos, uniting the borderlands. XI Quarterly. 1 (Fall 2012), pp.90