America, Atlas tangle at HDC

The Mexican Primera Division's Apertura campaign is right on top of us, just a week and a half away, and friendlies will bring both of the country's giants to Southern California for preparatory friendlies.

Guadalajara's showdown next weekend in San Diego against Real Madrid has the higher profile, but America's match Wednesday night at Home Depot Center against league rival Atlas might be the more telling.

El Reto Aguila II, the second in what's expected to be annual or semiannual appearances by America in Carson, kicks off at 7:30 p.m., and the Mexico City giant already is facing heavy pressure. The Aguilas (Eagles) haven't won the league title since the 2005 Clausura and have claimed just two league championships since 1989, and they're coming off disappointing showings in last year's tournaments.

They've added for this season Ecuadoran forward Christian Benitez, who scored 21 goals last season for Santos Laguna, and Mexican national-teamer Paul Aguilar, who transferred from Pachuca. Both are away at Copa America, South America's club championship.

Atlas, based in Guadalajara, took a step forward in the spring Clausura, going 6-6-5 after losing 10 games -- seven of its first eight -- during the Apertura. The Zorros' roster has been upended, with a dozen players departing -- including top scorer Alfredo Moreno and Honduran star Carlo Costly. Newcomers include Uruguayan forward Gaston Puerari, who started the Major League Soccer season with the Chicago Fire.

Angel Reyna scored for America in a 1-0 victory Thursday at the Portland Timbers. The Aguilas play three games in the World Football Challenge series of exhibitions, taking on Manchester City on Saturday in San Francisco, Juventus on July 26 in New York and Barcelona on Aug. 6 in Arlington, Texas.

America opens the Apertura at home at Estadio Azteca on July 24 against Gallos Blancos de Queretaro. Atlas is home at Estadio Jalisco the day before against Puebla.