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MEXICO: Primera Division goes to the Dogs

5/21/2011

Mexico's top soccer league has a new member: Club Tijuana.

The Xolos, through San Diego's Joe Corona, toppled Irapuato, 2-1, Saturday afternoon to claim promotion to the Primera Division in front of 33,000 fans at Estadio Caliente.

The crowd went wild as the club's dream of ascension from the second-tier Liga de Ascenso was realized.

Corona scored in the 29th minute and fed Mauro Gerk for an other goal in the 32nd as the Xoloitzcuintles -- Mexican short-haired dogs -- responded to referee Oscar Macias' failure to reward an obvious goal just a few minutes earlier.

Irapuato got its goal in the 38th, an own goal, with Tijuana defender Alejandro Molina knocking home an in-swinging free kick Margarito Gonzalez.

La Trinca (the Strawberry Lashers) were without Mexican legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who suffered a knee injury in Wednesday's first leg, a scoreless draw.

Tijuana, which won the fall Apertura title and went 24-6-15 in the combined Apertura/Clausura season, was the superior team over the two-game series, which followed another two-game series between the clubs in the spring Clausura final. Irapuato won that one, forcing the promotion final.

It's a massive boost to the region and to Tijuana's identity as a major Mexican city, and Southern California soccer fans stand to benefit. The country's big clubs -- America and Guadalajara, Cruz Azul and Pumas UNAM, Monterrey and Toluca, Morelia and Pachuca -- will play real, league matches just a short drive away, with the biggest foes, America and Chivas, possibly at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

Tijuana is home to about 1.3 million, and the San Diego/Tijuana metro area has about 5.1 million. There are about 23 million within a 150-mile radius. The club has a significant following in southern San Diego County, and many Mexican clubs have strong fan support throughout Southern California.

Tijuana, which is coached by former Mexican national team star Joaquin Del Olmo, should have been ahead in the 15th minute, when Javier Yacuzzi blasted a shot off the bottom of the crossbar. The ball landed well inside the goal and bounced out, and Macias refused the Xolos' appeals to count it.

Corona's goal also went in off the crossbar -- it was a header, from Gerk's one-bounce header after a chip into the Irapuato box. Gerk finished across the goalmouth and just inside the right corner after Corona, surrounded at the top of the box, provided a nifty feed.

Luis Enrique nearly had a third, blasting off the crossbar in the 62nd minute.

  • PRIMERA DIVISION

CLAUSURA FINAL, FIRST LEG

Thursday


Morelia 1 (Rojas 73), Pumas UNAM 1 (Palencia 68)

CLAUSURA FINAL, SECOND LEG

Sunday

Morelia at Pumas UNAM, 10 a.m.

  • LIGA DE ASCENSCO

PROMOTION FINAL, FIRST LEG

Wednesday


Irapuato 0, Club Tijuana 0

PROMOTION FINAL, SECOND LEG

Saturday

Club Tijuana 2 (Corona 29, Gerk 32), Irapuato 1 (og Molina 37)

+ Club Tijuana wins on aggregate, 2-1