GUADALAJARA, Mexico – This wasn’t exactly what Jonathan Bornstein envisioned when he left Chivas USA nearly a year ago.
Since joining Tigres UANL of the Mexican Primera División last December, the 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year has seen only 273 minutes with the first team, endured a torrent of criticism following his performance in this past summer’s Gold Cup and seen his Monterrey-based team bring in a legendary Mexican national-teamer to play his position.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Bornstein admitted to MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday. “I keep plugging away in training and doing the work and, hopefully when the time comes, I’ll get the opportunity.”
With third-place Tigres roaring 11 games into the Apertura 2011 season, Bornstein’s opportunity may not come this season.
As he himself admits, “I haven’t been making the bench even recently.”
Playing time for the 26-year-old has so far this season been restricted to three appearances for the Tigres Under-20s.
Naturally, discussions with his representatives have tentatively begun about the World Cup veteran’s options should Tigres coach Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti continue to overlook him. The fact that two-time World Cup veteran Carlos Salcido was brought in to shore up the left-back spot hasn't exactly helped Bornstein's chances.
“Obviously I want to play, so whatever it takes to get me to play, I need to consider,” he said. “If that means going on loan somewhere, I think I’d be open to it if it meant that I was going to get on the field.”
Despite the difficulties he has endured, the Torrance, Calif., native isn’t ready to call time on his career in Mexico – his mother’s birthplace – and is determined to make his mark on the Mexican league. He still has two years on his contract with Tigres.
“If I were to go out on loan somewhere, another team in Mexico would be a good option,” said Bornstein. “I was hoping to break into the league a little bit more. I think it’s a good goal to stay here and prove myself, not just to the team but also for myself to kind of come out in the league and build a name for myself down here.”
The upbeat Bornstein believes his time on the sidelines, while frustrating, has also been a big motivator in terms of striving extra hard in training to win a place. Coupled with the technical ability and technical awareness of his teammates and coaches, Bornstein says he is a better player than when he left MLS 10 months ago.
“It’s helped my game quite a bit,” he said of his time south of the border. “I just need to showcase that on the big stage in games.”
Fans of the US national team and followers of Bornstein’s career in MLS may be in for a surprise if he does make an appearance for Tigres’ first team.
“They got me playing contención [defensive midfield], which is not what I would say is my natural position,” explained Bornstein. “I’ve been working at it and training at it and I think it’s developed into something different for me.”
Bornstein also backed US manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments this week about how DaMarcus Beasley’s move to Mexico and out of his “comfort zone” has provided a fresh challenge and perspective on his game, and he advises other American soccer players, despite his personal trials and tribulations, that Mexico is a great place to play.
The UCLA alum didn’t know Spanish before his move here but has enjoyed the challenge of learning the language and can now converse and carry out interviews with a high degree of fluency. He also enjoys life in Monterrey and has not experienced any threat of violence, despite the wave of negative press the city has endured recently.
But if there is one issue that will drive Bornstein’s future decisions in his Mexican adventure: putting himself in a position where he can add to his 38 caps in a US shirt.
“My top goal is to get playing time with the national team,” he said, “and the road to that is by getting minutes at the club, then playing well and earning a call-up from Klinsmann.”
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @mexicoworldcup