There is Argentine flavor surrounding the border city of Tijuana as the Xolos gear up for the Apertura 2017 tournament.
The new manager for Club Tijuana, Eduardo Coudet, hails from the South American country, as do 10 players on the active roster.
Coudet has brought in four Argentine players this off-season, including two of the team’s top signings in Gustavo Bou and Damian Musto.
After this season, heroes can be born at the Estadio Caliente and chances are they will be from Argentina.
The Xolos have had a great tradition of talented players from the South American country, and here are the top five Argentine players to play in a Xolos’ jersey.
5. Alfredo Moreno
“El Chango” had two separate stints in the border city from the Apertura 2012 to the Clausura 2013 and from the Apertura 2014 to the Apertura 2015. The striker came to Tijuana at another stage of his career, as he had already been a very successful striker in the Liga MX with Necaxa and San Luis, scoring 130 goals with Liga MX teams before his first stint with the Aztec Canines.
Moreno, 32 years old at the time, showed that he still had his goal-scoring prowess, scoring five goals in 17 games as a consistent starter in the Apertura 2012 and scoring three goals in just 497 minutes of play in the Clausura 2013 at the age of 33. In his second stint with Club Tijuana, “El Chango” was brought in as more of a role player, but still managed to score another eight goals between the Apertura 2014 and the Clausura 2015 tournaments.
Moreno finished his career with the Tijuana Xolos, scoring 16 goals in 57 Liga MX appearances and had a very solid stay at the club that many fans will remember. The 37-year-old is still going strong in the second tier of Mexican soccer, the Ascenso MX with Celaya and will be trying to help his team achieve promotion to the Liga MX in this upcoming season.
4. Guido Rodriguez
It is hard to believe that someone who is only 23 years old managed to get on this list, but that is just how spectacular Guido Rodriguez was with the Xolos. The defensive midfielder came over from Argentine Giants River Plate in the Apertura 2016 and has been dominant in the Liga MX since then. In 33 games with Club Tijuana, the defensive midfielder scored four goals and was crucial on the defensive and offensive sides of the pitch.
The Argentine has an incredible long shot ability, spectacular interceptions, physical presence and outstanding passing ability. Guido Rodriguez followed the man who brought him to Mexico, Miguel Herrera, and is now with Club America. The Xolos will miss him dearly as it is an extremely challenging task to find a player with similar capabilities as Rodriguez.
3. Dario Benedetto
Benedetto is easily one of the most talented and explosive strikers to wear a Xolos jersey. The current Boca Juniors player arrived in Tijuana in the Apertura 2013 tournament and instantly found success, scoring a hat-trick in his first Liga MX game with the Xolos. Benedetto stayed in the border city until the Apertura 2014 and scored 20 league goals with the club.
After his stint with Club Tijuana, the Argentine departed Tijuana to make a move to Club America and is now with one of the best teams in Argentina, the current-champions, Boca Juniors. Benedetto’s best tournament with the Xolos came in the Apertura 2014, where he was the fourth-best goal scorer in the Liga MX with nine goals. Few players throughout Club Tijuana’s history have been able to be as impactful offensively as Dario Benedetto, and maybe the 27-year-old will play with the Aztec Canines again at some point in his career.
2. Mauro Gerk
Strikers have been a trend on this list and perhaps the most impactful one in Xolos’ history has been Mauro Gerk. Only the hardcore Xolos’ fans will remember the bulky striker as he was a huge part of the team when Club Tijuana first came into the Liga MX in 2011. Gerk came to the border city in the Bicentenario 2010 tournament and was very impactful in three tournaments in the second division, scoring 15 goals in regular season play.
The veteran striker left his mark in Tijuana with an outstanding performance in the Liga de Ascenso final in 2011. The game was between the Xolos and Irapuato and decided which team would make the jump from the second tier of Mexican soccer to the coveted Liga MX. In front of a sold-out home crowd at the Estadio Caliente, Gerk almost single-handedly promoted the Xolos to the Liga MX. Club Tijuana defeated Irapuato 2-1, with the Argentine contributing to the final score with an assist and a goal of his own. Gerk did not remain a staple at the club when the Prehistoric Dogs reached the Liga MX, but did manage to score a goal in the Apertura 2011 tournament. The Argentine’s physical presence is unlike any other striker in Tijuana’s history and his clinical finishing ability is among the most impressive the border city has seen.
1. Javier Gandolfi
There is only one player that could have been the number one player on this list. The eternal captain of the Xoloitzcuintles, Javier Gandolfi has been one of the most impactful players the team has ever seen. The defender arrived at the border city in the Apertura 2010 when Club Tijuana was still in the second tier of Mexican soccer.
Gandolfi was part of all three of the Xolos’ major championships, winning the Apertura 2010 Ascenso MX title, the 2010-2011 Liga de Ascenso title that secured promotion to the Liga MX and the Xolos’ lone Liga MX title in the Apertura 2012. The Argentine centre-back played with the Aztec Canines from 2010-2016, making 243 appearances with the team and scoring 11 goals. Gandolfi’s leadership, presence on the pitch, and presence at every important event in club history has made him one of the most vital players in Club Tijuana history and put him atop this list.
Francisco, 26, Chula Vista/Tijuana. I have been a Padres fan all my life, did most of the series previews and recaps in the Padres’ 2016 season for EVT. Now I focus more on the local soccer scene. Tijuana Xolos, San Diego Loyal, San Diego Wave.