Pro soccer teams face off at USD

The game featured a lively crowd on both sides, including these Club Tijuana fans.

Toronto FC takes down Club Tijuana with a final score of 3-2

Eric Boose | Contributor | The USD Vista

Torero Stadium became the focal point of soccer in San Diego last week, as Mexican professional soccer team Club Tijuana faced MLS Champions Toronto FC. The match, a 3-2 victory for Toronto FC, suggested a bright future for soccer in America’s Finest City. 

The atmosphere inside Torero Stadium was something unfamiliar to the venue. Club Tijuana fans behind the east goal chanted for the entire 90-minute match, creating an authentic soccer atmosphere for USD students in attendance. First-year student Jack Martin said he enjoyed the festive atmosphere.

“Once that hype section started going, that constant background cheering really got me more excited,” Martin said. “Having them cheering the different chants gave the game a brighter atmosphere. It made it a lot more fun to be there.”

Despite USD hosting the match, the Torero presence appeared minimal. Multiple students cited a lack of advertisement of the match by the university, as well as misunderstandings about the prices of tickets. General admission seating, priced at $20 a ticket, sold out before the semester began and forced students who had not pre-ordered tickets to pay upward of $40 for a seat. Even the $20 tickets were unusual for students who are accustomed to free admission to USD games at Torero Stadium and the Jenny Craig Pavilion. George Skalecki, a first-year who paid $45 for a ticket to the game, stated that  the match could’ve been advertised better. 

“(The game) was not advertised enough by the University for me to know that I needed to pay for general admission seating,” Skalecki said. “I got my money’s worth though.” 

Along with the crowds of fans were all three major organizations tied to professional soccer in San Diego, with Club Tijuana, 1904 FC, and Soccer City SD all having a presence. The Xoloitzcuintles, or Xolos for short, of Club Tijuana used to be the only professional soccer team in the region after their creation in 2011. At halftime, the club recognized the achievements of multiple Tijuana youth teams competing in both Tijuana and San Diego. 

However, the hosts from south of the border and the visitors from Canada were not the only professional teams at Torero Stadium. 1904 FC, a newly founded professional team competing in the third-division North American Soccer League (NASL), had a booth set up just outside the stadium with merchandise and games. 

Last Wednesday was 1904 FC’s second appearance at Torero Stadium, after majority owner Demba Ba helped recognize USD Men’s Soccer head coach Seamus McFadden in the fall. The match served as a tryout for Torero Stadium, as 1904 FC are set to play their home matches at Torero Stadium when the NASL begins competition in August. 

Finally, Soccer City SD, an organization pushing for San Diego to receive a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team, had a booth advertising itself. This game was the first time that all three organizations were in the same place.

With soccer’s spotlight pointed directly at Torero Stadium, the two teams treated fans to an entertaining match. Toronto FC, the defending MLS champions, began their preseason with the match, but still fielded a lineup of MLS mainstays to kickoff the game. Tijuana, in the middle of their winter “Clausura” season, fielded a team of players who normally play in the club’s youth academy team, not the professional team. The Xolos complemented their academy players with players who normally ride the bench on the professional team, including San Diegan Alejandro Guido. Guido, born in Chula Vista, had the distinct honor of wearing the captain’s armband for the Xolos in his return to San Diego. 

Miller Bolanos provided both Club Tijuana goals, the first which came two minutes into the match and the second which came moments before halftime. The hosts were able to hang with Toronto despite Toronto’s U.S. National Team regulars Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, as well as former MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco. Giovinco dazzled the crowd with a perfect free-kick goal in the 19th minute, and added Toronto’s third goal just a minute into the second half. Tijuana had a chance to tie the game late, as Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono was sent off for handling the ball outside the penalty area. However, Toronto defender Nick Hagglund stepped into the goalkeeper role and saved the resulting free kick, sealing the win for Toronto. 

Though they lost the match, Tijuana’s young players put on an impressive showing against the defending MLS champions, a performance paralleling the bright future for soccer in San Diego. For USD, the match provided a memorable experience for students as well as a showcase of Torero Stadium’s ability to host professional soccer. Martin and Skalecki both agree that if Club Tijuana hosted another match in Torero Stadium, they would attend. 

With this match at Torero Stadium, America’s Finest City  seems to be well on its way to becoming a soccer city.

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