Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles is counting down the days before the start of the regular season.
The 2012 Apertura tournament is less than a month away and Xolos coach Antonio Mohamed has that amount of time to set on a starting lineup.
Mohamed has played with variations of what could be his first eleven. He perhaps already knows who is in that group and probably has used the in recent exhibition games. But it might be interesting to see who he chooses to replace striker Jose Sand and midfielder Egidio Arevalo.
Will it be newcomers Fidel Martinez and Alfredo Moreno? Both signed with the Xolos this offseason.
Or will it be the team’s newest acquisition.
The Xolos signed Argentine midfielder Cristian Pellerano earlier this week. The club announced the signing Tuesday.
Pellerano is a journeyman who played with several clubs in Argentina. He last played for Independiente.
The 30-year old veteran brings a handful of experience to a Xolos squad that can use all it can on offense. He’s another weapon picked out by Mohamed out of his pool of Argentine players he keeps tabs on. And Pellerano is a candidate to start as an attacking midfielder.
Moreno said Pellerano should contribute immidiately.
“Cristian is a very good player,” Moreno said. “We know that he has been with several teams in Argentina. He is a plauer who likes to work and he will find a good group to work with here.”
Tijuana will most likely have to rely on all of it additions to try and replicate a similar attack generated with Arevalo and Sand in the lineup.
Sand, the team’s leading scorer the past two tournaments with 12 goals, is gone. He signed a deal to play with Argentine side Racing FC. Sand’s departure was no surprise. The same could be said about Arevalo.
But is he really gone?
Several reports out of Mexico have stated that Arevalo, an Uruguayan national team member, is headed to Italy to play for Palermo in the Serie A. The Xolos and Palermo have not officially announced the move.
Arevalo has not been with the Xolos since the Clausura tournament in which he was arguably Tijuana’s best player.
Most of Tijuana’s attack began through Arevalo, a ball winning defensive midfielder. He helped solidify what was one of the top defenses in the league.
Jorge Hernandez was signed by the Xolos this offseason to play defensive mid. But is he Arevalo’s replacement? And what added pressure does that bring him with his new team.
“The pressure is always there much like anything else we do,” Hernandez said in Spanish. “If Mohamed gives me the chance to start, then I will take advantage of it.”
Hernandez is a defensive midfielder who played for Mexican side Atlante last tournament.
Martinez, nicknamed the “Ecuadorian Naymar” for sharing a hairstyle similar to the Brazilian star,
Moreno, who came to the Xolos from San Luis, simply hopes to mesh with his teammates and see what that brings on the field.
“We are beginning to get to know each other,” Moreno said in Spanish. “You being to notice certain characteristics in your teammates. “This is a good team. It is a team that plays hard.”
Moreno, is trying to make a mark of his own after scoring a comnined 12 goals in the previous two tournaments. He is also expected to be a forward with the Xolos. It is a spot where Mohamed is beginning to have options.
There is Moreno, Martinez, Colombian forward Duvier Riascos, and veteran Raul Enriquez.
Riascos has probably cemented his spot in the first eleven come opening day. He said the transition has not been so difficult.
“We know that these things happen,” Riascos said in Spanish. “There is no added pressure. We have a great attack and we are used to these things.”
You might get used to seeing Moreno next to Riascos at top. Chances are Moreno gets the call to be the second forward in Mohamed’s 5-3-2 formation.
After all, Moreno has seen plenty of playing time during recent exhibition matches. Moreno said he’s up for the challenge to try and spark an offense that could struggle without Arevalo and Sand.
“I came here with the same mentality, leave everything on the field,” Moreno said.
“If I can leave some goals on the field, then great. That’s the idea. I’m supposed to score goals.”