Los Angeles Soccer: Gandhi Vega
Club Tijuana's quest for the Primiera Division must wait another week.
The Xolos were beaten Saturday at Irapuato in the Clausura final's second leg, a 1-0 decision giving La Trinca -- or the Strawberry Lashers -- a 2-1 aggregate triumph to claim the second-tier Liga de Ascenso's spring-season championship.
That sets up two more games between the rivals in the promotion final, Thursday in Irapuato and next Sunday, the 22nd, at Estadio Caliente in Tijuana, with the victor claiming promotion to Mexico's top league.
Tijuana won the fall Apertura championship and would have gained promotion automatically by winning the Clausura, too.
Jose Cruz scored the goal for Irapuato in the 86th minute, diving in a crowded box to head home Gandhi Vega's cross from the right wing.
Tijuana had its chances, largely through San Diego's Joe Corona on the right flank, but Irapuato, led by Cuauhtemoc Blanco, had the better of the action.
The Primera Division's Clausura finalists will be determined Sunday, when Guadalajara visits Pumas UNAM and Cruz Azul plays at Morelia. Chivas-Pumas went 1-1 in the first leg, and Cruz Azul won, 2-0.
Atlas, the worst team in the fall, opened the second half of the Mexican Primera Division season with a stunning romp that underscores coach Benjamin Galindo's savvy eye for talent.
The Guadalajara-based club, which made several major additions to its roster during the winter break, opened the spring Clausura on Saturday with a 5-0 domination of visiting Morelia.
Gerardo Espinoza matched his Apertura goals total, scoring twice, to lead the Zorros. Former Chicago Fire defender Wilman Conde scored in his Mexican League debut, and 19-year-old Christian Diaz (in his first top-tier game in more than a year) and Daniel Osorno (with his first of the season) also tallied.
“I congratulated the guys in the locker room because [there was] not a single player who did not have a good performance. It speaks well of the commitment that exists with the team,” Galindo told reporters afterward.
“It's a good win which gives us confidence, but that's all. What we have to do is keep working with the same commitment that we had during the preseason.”
Atlas went through three coaches in a 3-10-4 fall campaign, but Galindo, a former Mexican national-teamer, went shopping in four countries to strengthen the club. Conde, Brazilian midfielder Lucio Flavio (from Botafogo) and midfielder Lucas Ayala (from UANL Tigres) contributed to the win Saturday.
BIG BOYS BEATEN: America got robbed. Monterrey got jobbed.
America, a sure title contender, saw two perfectly good goals erased on mistaken offside calls in a 2-0 home loss to Pachuca, which got goals midway through each half by Yulian Anchico and then Edgar Benitez.
Monterrey, which last month won the Apertura title, was outclassed at home by San Luis, also 2-0 -- with the Gladiadores' first goal, by Osmar Mares in the 71st minute, clearly offside. Juan Carlos Medina's sweet chip in stoppage, with the Rayados down a man, doubled the advantage.