U.S. trio part of Mexican club's Cinderella run; Americans Abroad
A Cinderella story for soccer carries into April.
Club Tijuana and its trio of first-team Americans Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Greg Garza cemented a place in the Copa Libertadores knockout stage with a group game to spare following its 1-1 draw with Bolivian side San Jose this past week, continuing its improbable ascent in Latin American.
Despite the fact that a five-game winless stretch in league play has put Tijuana in a dogfight to reach the Liga MX Clausura playoffs and defend its Apertura title, Tijuana navigated through a brutal group featuring defending Copa Libertadores and FIFA Club World Cup champion Corinthians and Colombian champion Millonarios.
Los Xolos are still fighting for seeding in the knockout bracket, where they will compete with some of this hemisphere's finest teams, a selection that already includes Corinthians, Argentine powers Boca Juniors and Velez Sarsfield, six-time finalist and Uruguayan power Nacional and Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro. For a team that earned promotion to Mexico's top flight not even two years ago, the meteoric rise and unexpected tournament run is enough for the Florida Gulf Coasts and Wichita States of the world to appreciate.
On the individual front, Terrence Boyd scored the lone American goal of the week, helping his side to a 1-1 draw and keeping it on pace for a Europa League berth with eight games remaining. Boyd, 22, is tied for the third-most goals in the Austrian Bundesliga with 12, and he has 16 in all competitions in his first season as a first-team professional.
Elsewhere, U.S. national team veteran Steve Cherundolo made his return from knee surgery, his first appearance in almost four months for Hannover 96, going the distance in his club's scoreless draw with Stuttgart. Michael Bradley's week involved an understated but effective 90-minute showing in Roma's rivalry draw with Lazio on Monday following the drop of his comical Italian Volkswagen commercial. Those were the highlights as the American contingent abroad braces for the final stretch of the 2012-13 campaign (season statistics encompass all competitions):