Postcard from Mexico: Mexican midseason report card
GUADALAJARA, Mexico — It has been a mixed bag for Americans south of the border just past the halfway point in the regular season of the Mexican Apertura 2011.
On the positive side, four Mexico-based players have been called into Jurgen Klinsmann’s US national team squads since he took charge.
On a less rosy note, a number of Yanks haven’t been getting regular playing time at their clubs. Then there was the bombshell on Wednesday: José Francisco Torres will be out for at least a couple of months with a broken bone in his foot.
Here’s a snapshot of how the 10 American players in the Mexican top flight have done so far in this Apertura 2011, in order of minutes played:
DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla)
One of the shock transfers of the summer in Mexico, “Run DMB” has started all nine games for Puebla (currently eighth in league) after a barren 12 months for Hannover, where he appeared in just four games.
Beasley has occupied the left midfield berth, using his on-field intelligence and experience playing in various European leagues to adapt smoothly to the Mexican game and even earning a surprise call-up to Klinsmann’s first US squad against Mexico in August.
Last week’s second-half performance against Guadalajara was his best yet. The 29-year-old struck panic into the defense when he was on the ball. It was a timely reminder that the former Chicago Fire star still has the magic, especially with USMNT friendlies against Honduras and Ecuador coming up in early October.
Beasley’s Twitter account is also worth mentioning for the hilarious tales of living and playing in Mexico from an American perspective.
José Francisco Torres (Pachuca)
“El Gringo” looks like being a vital cog in Klinsmann’s plans for the US, making the news of his injury on Wednesday a hefty blow for the Texan.
In Pachuca, the central midfielder remains the chronometer at the heart of the team, conducting the tempo and flow of play when on top of his game.
The next step for Torres is the arduous struggle to get fit and recover his form, but the latest news is that he could be back for the playoffs in the second week of November, should Pachuca make them. The inconsistent Tuzos are currently in ninth place.
Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis)
The Orange, Calif., native has started six of San Luis’ games this season and been a steady performer for the 14th-place team.
Known more as a center back during his loan spell last season with the Philadelphia Union, Orozco Fiscal has played the last three games at right back, something with which he told MLSsoccer.com recently that he has no problem doing.
However, having caught Klinsmann’s eye and started two of the three recent friendlies for the US at center back, Orozco Fiscal’s position with his club potentially could be a problem for his national-team ambitions.
Miguel Ángel Ponce (Guadalajara)
The Sacramento-born left back has cemented his place at Chivas during the first half of the Apertura 2011, at just 22 years old.
Ponce also played for Mexico in the Copa América and was part of the Under-22 squad for its recent friendlies, getting knocked out cold in one of them. He has been out since then but is due back this weekend.
Chivas are third in the Primera División and one of the favorites for the title.
Joe Benny Corona (Club Tijuana)
Jubilation on scoring Tijuana’s first goal in the Mexican top flight and his excellent form was tempered by a difficult decision regarding national teams.
The Los Angeles-born Corona insisted it would be a difficult decision and he would go with whoever picked him first. The Mexico U-22s did just that and Corona got his first international minutes in a recent friendly in Chile.
For Club Tijuana, things haven’t gone to plan. The club ditched coach Joaquín del Olmo this past weekend and installed Antonio Mohamed. With just six points from nine games, the relegation fight is on for Corona & Co.
Edgar Castillo (Club América)
An uncertain summer for 24-year-old Castillo was ended by the news coach Carlos Reinoso wanted the left back as part of the Águilas squad.
Post-Gold Cup, Castillo came out publically to state he felt he could do a better job at left back for the USMNT than Jonathan Bornstein and, thanks to regular playing time under Reinoso, the Las Cruces, N.M., native was able to play his way into both Klinsmann squads so far, though to mixed results.
The immediate challenges for Castillo in the second half of the season are to get over a nagging injury he is carrying, impress new América coach Alfredo Tena and help the team move up from 16th place. Oh yeah, and make a better case for that left back position on the national team.
Herculez Gomez (Estudiantes Tecos)
The surprise 2010 World Cup call-up came into the Apertura 2011 off the back of a free-scoring preseason for Pachuca, and started four of the first five games for Estudiantes after his move, scoring once for the Guadalajara-base side.
Since José Luis “Chelis” Sánchez was fired, however, Gomez has been used as a substitute, with new boss preferring to start 33-year-old former Chivas USA striker Eduardo Lillingston.
In his last four appearances, Gomez has netted twice after coming off the bench, one a vital winner against Pachuca.
The Las Vegas-raised striker would love another chance with the USMNT but his immediate goal is to wrestle back a starting spot for Tecos.
Isaac Acuña (Club América)
The Imperial, Calif., native has appeared off the bench for Club América three times this season. The 22-year-old striker was also suspended by the club for a week for indiscipline.
Sonny Guadarrama (Atlante)
While keeping match fit by appearing in Atlante’s Under-20 team, the 24-year-old Guadarrama has five goals in three games.
That will be no consolation for the Austin, Texas, native, who wants to be playing first-team soccer and recently told MLSSoccer.com that he would love to one day play in MLS.
Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres UANL)
After joining up with the Tigres squad late following the Gold Cup, the former USMNT stalwart has been limited to three games in the Monterrey-based club’s Under-20s team and one appearance on the first team’s substitute bench.
A move looks like a necessity for the 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow @mexicoworldcup