Tuesday night's 7 PM friendly against Club Tijuana Xolos is a chance for Seattle Sounders FC to face a Liga MX side for the first time since a 1-1 draw against Santos Laguna in the 12/13 CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. It is a tiny opportunity to remind the organization what it means to face the region's best teams, a chance for Seattle's bench to get some playing time and a bit of outreach from Sounders FC to a passionate Puget Sound based Hispanic soccer community.
Xolos are off to a hot start in their Spring season, leading the league. Today, we ask Three Questions of Eugene Rupinski. Eugene runs The Brotherly Game, but his Twitter handle is a better demonstration of why we consulted him about Xolos - meet Golazo del Gringo.
SaH: Tijuana had a disappointing Apertura, but is hot in the Clausura. What changed?
Rupinski: The players seem hungrier now than they did in the Apertura. Perhaps with Cristian Pellerano and Dario "Pipo" Benedetto going to Club América, this has allowed for the emergence of guys like Dayro Moreno and Juan Arango - guys who just sort of worked in the shadows and didn't draw as much attention. I think also the addition of Gabriel Hauche from Argentina's Racing Club and the continued maturation of Greg Garza have helped immensely in turning Xolos from mediocre to one of the best in North America.
SaH: Xolos have their own hydra action with Arango, Hauche and Moreno all on five goals each just eleven games into the season. How do those three work together?
Rupinski: They've really come into their own, and each of them bring something different to the table. Moreno is the pure goalscorer - the guy with a nose for goal and a flair for the dramatic. Hauche always seems to get those workmanlike goals, following up on shots and making a pest of himself in the eighteen yard box. Arango is a free kick specialist who is just deadly on set pieces. They each can present teams with their own unique set of problems, which I think has also helped in Tijuana's success in the Clausura.
SaH: How does Tijuana approach non-LA Galaxy friendlies in terms of quality of players taking the field and competitive spirit by the team?
Rupinski: Liga MX has this weekend off for the international friendlies, so expect a bunch of the players to not be available. Not only will Tijuana be missing first-teamers such as Greg Garza (US) and Javier Güemez (Mexico), but also some of the U23's and U20's such as Paul Arriola and John Requejo as well. I would expect the remaining starters to get a good workout, however more than likely there will be a lot of names that most who don't follow the U20's and U18's won't know. I think the friendly will be well-played and competitive, however it won't be anything like what you'd see in a CONCACAF Champions League play.
Significant absences: Garza (US), Güemez(Mexico), José Ayoví (Ecuador), Juan Arango (Venezuela)
Xolos projected lineup: Cirilo Saucedo; Juan Carlos Núñez, Jesús Chávez, Javier Gandolfi, Richard Ruiz; Gabriel Hauche, Joe Corona, Alejandro Guido; Ricardo Jesús, Alfredo Moreno, Dayro Moreno
Sounders projected lineup: Frei; Gonzalez, Scott, Evans, Fisher; Kovar, Pineda, Azira, Barrett; Neagle, Martins
You should only expect to see that lineup for about 45 minutes or so. Marshall, Alonso and Mears (in that order of likelihood) could be back for the Saturday match against FC Dallas.
Reminder: Seattle's Academy takes on the Xolos Academy at 4:30 pm. Your match ticket, which was part of the season ticket package, enters you for both the youth friendly and the senior team friendly.