Atlanta United’s Hector Villalba is playing in Tijuana this fall on loan as he prepares for training camp in January. The club he is playing for is officially called Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente. They are most commonly known as Xolos.
What are Xolos?
The Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolos for short, are a hairless breed of dog that come in a variety of sizes. They are not the mythical Chupacabras, we promise. They have recently been added to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where a dog named Manny Machado (after the Baltimore Orioles’ star) won Best of Breed in February of this year.
What is the history of the club?
Xolos are a young club, founded in January 2007 and earning promotion to Liga MX in 2011. They defeated Irapuato in the promotion playoff to be promoted to Mexico’s top flight.
American Joe Corona scored their first goal in the top division in a 2-1 loss to Morelia. With San Diego just over the border, Xolos has been the Mexican club with the heaviest American influence. U.S. national team hopefuls Greg Garza, Michael Orozco, and Paul Arriola are all part of the current squad. Large numbers of fans from San Diego follow the club and make up the crowd at the Estadio Caliente.
Tijuana are one of two teams, Santos Laguna being the other, to make a large effort to market their club in English. You can follow them in English on Twitter at @xolos_en. they have made great efforts to the Liga MX team of choice in the United States, from signing U.S. national team players to establishing youth academies around Southern California.
They won their first championship in 2012’s Apertura, becoming the club to win the title in the shortest period of time after promotion. They won a trophy in their third season (Mexico plays two seasons per year). They went on to make a run to the quarterfinals of the next Copa Libertadores, they have also reached the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
How is the team doing this season?
Tijuana is coming off a 4-0 home win over Chivas to improve their record to 2-0-1 in the Apertura (Fall Season). Villalba is not walking into a situation where he will be guaranteed playing time. Former Mexican national team manager Miguel Herrera has a strong squad at his disposal, and pressure to turn the team around. They only won three games out of seventeen in the spring’s Clausura season.
In a media Q&A, Herrera said that he expects Villalba to provide an option on the right side. That will mean different things depending on how the team lines up, Herrera has shown a great deal of tactical flexibility throughout his career. He is not afraid of mixing and matching his lineup to give his squad the best opportunity to defeat the opposition. Herrera is best known for a 5-3-2 setup, but has also used a 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 so far this season.
Villalba’s integration into the team will be made easier due to the strong Argentinian influence in the squad. Four Argentines were signed in the offseason, Villalaba will be the eighth in the overall first team squad.
21-year-old American Paul Arriola is the only true right winger in the squad, and he has not seen much time this season yet. Last night, 30-year-old Colombian Dayro Moreno played on the right side often and had two goals. The tactical flexibility, along with Copa MX games to play as well, will mean that Villalba will get opportunities to play. He will have to make the most of them to earn more, as Herrera will not invest too heavily in his development since he will be off to Atlanta after the Apertura.