Gringo Report: Mexican Apertura 2011 season preview
GUADALAJARA, Mexico — The Apertura 2011 in Mexico kicks off Friday and promises to be an intriguing five or so months for Americans plying their trade South of the Border.
There are numerous young Americans champing at the bit for a shot in first teams up and down Mexico. Then there are the more established faces — José Francisco Torres, Hérculez Gómez, Michael Orozco Fiscal and Edgar Castillo — who are hoping to impress early with one eye on the US national team's friendly against Mexico in Philadelphia on August 10.
Then there is DaMarcus Beasley, who is the latest American addition to the Mexican league after he joined Puebla in June.
With so many Americans likely to be involved, it's well worth keeping one eye down south.
Here's a rundown of what to expect:
DaMarcus Beasley, Puebla FC
When: Sat., July 23, at Atlas
Puebla FC are an unknown force in many ways after bringing in 18 new players for coach Sergio Bueno to mold into a title-challenging unit. However, with the vastly experienced Beasley and ex-Atlético Madrid and Liverpool midfielder Luis García onboard, the team could mount a serious challenge for the playoffs.
Beasley, who saw little playing time at former club Hannover 96, is the unknown of the American pack in Mexico. If he can recapture his PSV Eindhoven or Rangers form, there's no reason why the speedy 29-year-old can't take the league by storm. Beasley is likely to be a starter.
Joe Corona, Club Tijuana
When: Sat., July 23 vs. Morelia
Over the last 15 months, the 21-year-old Californian went from making his debut for the Xoloitzcuintles to becoming an integral part of the side's successful promotion push.
Although new signings have made the battle for places more difficult, Corona has started regularly in the preseason, including the final 2-0 victory over Jaguares, and seems very much to be in coach Joaquín del Olmo's plans.
With the atmosphere in the Estadio Caliente likely to be red hot for the opening game on Sunday, Corona will embark on a season that could bring international recognition. The US, Mexico and El Salvador (all for whom he can play) will all be watching intently.
Hérculez Gómez, Estudiantes Tecos
When: Friday, July 22, at Toluca
With his new team likely looking to avoid relegation, Gómez will be asked to put in a hard shift up front and score some vital goals.
The MLS journeyman has five goals in seven preseason outings and is back with his old Puebla boss José Luis Sánchez Solá, better known as "Chelís." Last time the two worked in tandem in the Bicentenario 2010, Gómez was the joint highest goal-scorer in the league.
Michael Orozco Fiscal, San Luis
When: Sun., July 24 at Pumas
Back at San Luis from the Philadelphia Union, the 24-year-old Orozco Fiscal, has been a permanent fixture in the club's defense this preseason. The team didn't lose in their last five preparation matches.
After falling just short of the playoffs in the Clausura 2011, the team is looking to get into the top eight of the general table this time around.
Edgar Castillo, Club América
When: Sun., July 24 vs. Querétaro
The New Mexico native has been ruffling feathers in the press recently but is obviously desperate for a place in the US national team. There is no better place for him to do it in Mexico than at Club América, where he has returned following last season's loan spell at Puebla.
Castillo's first objective is getting into Carlos Reinoso's team and staying there. The preseason gave some good indications: Castillo started against Morelia and Manchester City.
Competition for places at América is fierce and there is little room for error from the 24-year-old.
Isaac Acuña, Club América
When: Sun., July 24 vs. Querétaro
The 21-year-old from Imperial, Calif., will also be with the América squad for the upcoming season after returning from Querétaro. The immediate aim is to get minutes on the pitch and to use them to impress Reinoso.
The preseason went well with participation, goals and assists from the tall striker, but when the season starts up chances are likely to be limited. Established players like Christian Benítez, Vicente Sánchez and Matías Vuoso are likely to start.
Ambition is the name of the game at América and boss Reinoso has said he will resign unless the team reaches the final of the Apertura 2011.
José Francisco Torres, Pachuca
When: Sat., July 23, vs. Santos
A stalwart at Pachuca FC, Mexico's oldest club, Torres again looks set for a central role.
Coach Efraín Flores started the Texan in the club's last warm-up game against Cruz Azul as the diminutive midfielder, who arrived in Pachuca in 1996, seeks to re-catch the eye of US coach Bob Bradley. Still only 23, “el Gringo” is a popular player for the Tuzos, who have strengthened after a nightmare campaign last time out.
Miguel Ángel Ponce, CD Guadalajara
When: Sat., July 23 at Atlante
After a poor team display from Mexico at the Copa America 2011, it is back to Guadalajara Chivas for the Sacramento, Calif., native. The left back will be hoping to consolidate his place in the Chivas side.
For Chivas, as with América, ambitions must be set high. The club reached the semifinals of the Clausura 2011 and will be looking to better that in the Apertura 2011.
Jonathan Bornstein, Tigres UANL
When: Sat., July 23 vs. Cruz Azul
There are no two ways of looking at this season for the only Mexican-based player to feature for the US in the Gold Cup: A tricky season beckons.
Tigres have invested heavily over the last 12 months and competition for places will be fierce. Bornstein has only featured sporadically in Tigres' preseason games, although the 26-year-old did join up with the squad late on because of Gold Cup commitments.
In the Clausura 2011, Bornstein struggled to get into the Tigres team.
Sonny Guadarrama, Atlante
When: Sat., July 23 vs. Chivas
The Atlante winger is another who has work to do to get minutes on the field this Apertura 2011. The former US Under-20 international has not played much in the preseason.
Adrian Ruelas, Jaguares
When: Sun., July 24 vs. Monterrey
On loan at Jaguares from Santos, the 20-year-old striker will be looking to impress coach José Guadalupe Cruz. One of the youngsters to look out for if he does get a sniff at the first team.
Moises Orozco, Tigres UANL
Although he is part of Tigres youth system, MLSsoccer.com has learned that the 19-year-old Oxnard, Calif., native Orozco has been training with the first team on the eve of the Apertura 2011. A Primera División debut for the striker, at one of the most fancied teams, seems to be on the cards over the coming months.
Daniel Antúnez, Estudiantes Tecos
The unfortunate 25-year-old University of Hartford alum is continuing his rehab at Estudiantes Tecos and is likely to be out of action for the first three months of the season, a Tecos press officer informed MLSsoccer.com.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @mexicoworldcup