TIJUANA -- With Club Tijuana fielding excessively attacking teams in the last two games, steady American fullback Greg Garza has found himself the odd man out of the starting lineup.
The 21-year-old scored the winning goal in the first leg against Monterrey and seemed to have a consistent role as the Xolos rolled through the Liga MX Apertura playoffs. However, chasing a two-goal deficit after the first leg in the semifinal against Club Leon, coach Antonio Mohamed dropped Garza for the second leg.
It worked. Tijuana won by three goals to advance to the team's first-ever final. There, Mohamed continued with his progressive lineup, using the more forward-minded Edgar Castillo at left back.
"Coach's decision," Garza said after a 2-1 first-leg win over Toluca. "[I'll ] deal with it and keep working with the team."
Garza hasn't even made the bench in either of the last two matches despite being fit. But that isn't tinting his view of a season which saw him break through to the first team and help lift the Xolos into the final only a year and a half after joining the first division.
"Wonderful. I have no words to explain the feeling, everything that's happened to us as a team and personally for this entire season," Garza said. "I think it's a wonderful, wonderful feeling for all of us. We've made history and [that's] something always to remember."
Nor does Garza hold his recent exclusions against Mohamed, nicknamed El Turco.
"Turco has carried us on his back this whole entire season," Garza said. "We're very lucky to be in this position [and we want to] make the most of it."
Particularly, the Texas native pinpointed the chemistry Mohamed has cultivated in the border town as the key ingredient to the Xolos' success.
"We're all good friends off the field and on the field. It helps a lot," Garza said. "I think that's what really helps us be such a tactically organized team."
That organization and chemistry will be tested in Toluca for the second leg of the final on Sunday.
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