GUADALAJARA, Mexico – An already murky situation surrounding the future replacement of US goalkeeper Tim Howard has a new wrinkle thanks to news that broke this week in, of all places, Mexico.
Cirilo Saucedo, the 30-year old goalkeeper for Club Tijuana whose mother is a United States citizen, says he has been contacted by US Soccer about a possible call up to join the ever-changing pool of goalkeepers chasing Howard as the top choice for the US national team.
“There is the possibility of being called up for Mexico or the United States,” Saucedo (above) told the sports newspaper Récord. “My mother is American but first I want to focus on Xolos and afterwards we'll see what happens.”
He added: “I'm not closing or opening any door. I want to be in the playoffs with Xolos.”
Born in Mexico City, Saucedo was part of Mexico’s Under-23 setup but has never been called into the full national team, despite suggestions from parts of the local media that it would be deserved.
Earlier this week, Saucedo was named one of four candidates for the Balón de Oro Best Goalkeeper of the Clausura 2012, and he’s been a key part of Tijuana's success since the team was promoted from the second division in May 2011.
The Tijuana 'keeper first became a regular in the 2008-09 season with Indios de Ciudad Juárez before moving to Tigres UANL for a two-year stint, where he was the regular starter. He signed for Tijuana in the summer of 2011.
While Howard is the undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper for the US national team, Saucedo would likely be in the pool of goalkeepers on his tail that has changed dramatically since the 2010 World Cup. Expected incumbent Brad Guzan has lost his grip as the de facto No. 2, and MLS youngsters Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson and veteran Nick Rimando have all battled for the same spot in the past year.
For Mexico's national team, coach José Manuel de la Torre has alternated between Jesús Corona, Guillermo Ochoa and Alfredo Talavera, without giving others much of a look, something that Saucedo mentioned had frustrated him.
There are five other players on Tijuana's first-team squad with US ties, including two who were part of the squad that stunned Mexico at Estadio Azteca last week in Edgar Castillo and Corona. Greg Garza, Alejandro Guido and Stevie Rodriguez are all also on the roster for Tijuana.
TORREÓN, Mexico – Toronto FC's hotel on the eve of the Canadian club's CONCACAF semifinal second leg against Santos Laguna was a scene of tranquility.
Only one state police car waited outside, watching on.
The legions of fans that Aron Winter was expecting to be chanting, banging drums and keeping the players awake throughout the night did not turn up and the Reds arrival was decidedly low key.
Not that it should lull the Canadian club into a false sense of security, as could be witnessed when I reported the above via Twitter last night.
“The hell will be tomorrow … we don't need to disturb them today,” responded Santos fan Braulio Rodríguez.
Fellow Guerrero Nick Simonis summed up the mood: “Don't you know … it's the calm before the storm.”
A sellout is likely at the Estadio Corona, with 25,000 tickets sold by yesterday afternoon, the Santos Laguna press office confirmed to MLSsoccer.com.
On-form US striker Herculez Gomez – fast becoming a legend in Torreón, according to locals – did his bit to promote the game yesterday, teaming up with Santos Laguna teammate Marc Crosas to buy and then give out 100 tickets to local fans.
Around town this morning, there are plenty of green-and-white Santos Laguna shirts and a sense of excitement is building, with los Guerreros and their fans determined to reach the Club World Cup.
Toronto FC, on the other hand, have already achieved more than most expected by reaching this stage of the competition.
Is a surprise in store? We'll find out a little later, but at least the Toronto boys go into the game after a good night's sleep.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.