American Exports preview: Playoff hunt on in Latin America

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Four Americans could secure their places in the “Fiesta Grande” of Mexican soccer in the last round of matches in the Clausura 2012.

Jose “el Gringo” Torres’ Pachuca face a crucial match against struggling Chivas de Guadalajara on Saturday (8 pm ET, Univision Deportes). Los Tuzos can guarantee a playoff berth with a win, though a loss by either Jaguares or Cruz Azul would also see them through. Pachuca can also reach the playoffs with a tie, provided either Jaguares or Cruz Azul also draw.

Torres is struggling for fitness ahead of the vital game with an inflammation of the left thigh muscle.

“We will see how it develops,” the club’s doctor told the official website, indicating there is a possibility Torres will play some part.

The three other Americans looking to join Herculez Gomez and his Santos Laguna side in the playoffs are just south of the border in Tijuana.

Joe Corona, Edgar Castillo and Greg Garza could all start for Club Tijuana against Pumas UNAm on Sunday (3 pm ET, Fox Deportes, Azteca America), and los Xolos still need one point to guarantee a berth.

Tijuana can also go through if one of Pachuca, Cruz Azul or Jaguares doesn’t pick up a victory.

Gomez’s Santos are smarting after the CONCACAF Champions League defeat midweek, but are champing at the bit to get back on the field, according to Gomez.

Los Guerreros take on Atlas in the Estadio Jalisco on Saturday (9:30 pm ET, Galavision) and Gomez is set to make the trip. A win for Santos would guarantee they finish the Clausura 2012 first in the league table.

DaMarcus Beasley’s Puebla are down in 12th position and out the playoff race, but have been picking up points in the back half of the season with key contributions from the American. On Saturday, Puebla face Jonathan Bornstein’s Tigres UANL in Monterrey (8 pm ET, TeleFutura).

Michael Orozco Fiscal’s San Luis travel to Toluca on Sunday, with both teams already out of the playoff reckoning (1 pm ET, Univision).

In Guatemala, Jeff Cunningham is back for Comunicaciones against fourth-placed Heredia on Sunday (1 pm ET). Los Cremas have already qualified for the playoffs, but will finish the regular season in first place if they can get at least a tie.

In Bolivia, Alejandro Meleán and his Oriente Petrolero side take on Blooming on Sunday (6:30 pm ET).

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. Contact him at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.