GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The past year was a mixed bag for Americans down in Mexico.
DaMarcus Beasley was inspired following his move to Puebla, resurrecting his career and playing his way into Jurgen Klinsmann's US national team squad. On the other hand, Jonathan Bornstein had a year to forget on the field, as a severe lack of playing time put a damper on his much-hyped move to Tigres UANL.
Then there was the continued flow of goals from Herculez Gomez with Estudiantes Tecos and Pachuca, and Joe Corona introduced himself to the Mexican first division with Club Tijuana. Michael Orozco Fiscal and José Francisco Torres also proved that being based in Mexico is no restriction to getting called up to the national team.
But what about the coming year? We look into our crystal ball and come up with the main goals for Yanks in Mexico's Primera División in 2012.
The star pupil last season, the 29-year-old Beasley proved a huge success for Puebla, having been plucked out of his German doldrums by los Cameteros. Many doubted Beasley’s ability to adapt to the Mexican game, but he proved his quality.
If Beasley continues his fine form, other Mexican clubs (and perhaps MLS clubs) are sure to try to coax the winger into their arms this summer. And 2012 should be the year the former Chicago Fire star cements his status as a USMNT legend and earns his 100th cap.
José Francisco Torres
Sidelined in September with a foot injury that crudely ended his 2011 from a playing point of view, 2012 is a pivotal year for the 24-year-old known in Mexico simply as “el Gringo.” Torres should be back in the Pachuca starting lineup from the start of the season, but the challenge is for him to stamp his authority on games for los Tuzos from Game 1.
Statements by Klinsmann have made it quite clear that Torres, known for his passing and technical ability on the ball, has qualities that are cherished by the US team. If everything goes to plan, 2012 could be the break out year for the World Cup veteran.
Another offseason, another move for Gomez (right), who joined Santos Laguna before Christmas after Estudiantes Tecos sold him to raise funds for a wave of signings. The move to Santos puts the Los Angeles-born striker at a club that has reached three of the last four finals, and says a lot about the reputation Gomez has garnered south of the border.
His first objective is getting in the team, and the best way to do that is to score goals, something he has done with remarkable consistency so far in Mexico. This Santos team tends to produce a lot of chances, which should make for a productive year of hitting the back of the onion bag for Gomez.
Can a US call-up finally be in the cards?
The new year brings a fresh start for the left back, who has joined Club Tijuana on loan from Club América.
“He has the ability to achieve great things, without a doubt,” Xolos sporting director Ignacio Palou told MLSsoccer.com back in November, which pretty much sums up the challenge for Castillo in 2012: Get back to the form he showed in his breakout season at Santos.
If he can get there, don't be surprised to see the New Mexico native in the shirt of his national team once again in 2012.
Michael Orozco Fiscal
The 25-year-old defender has to cement his place in the San Luis defense and continue the consistency he showed in the Apertura 2011. Ideally, for national team purposes, he would hold down the center back spot for los Gladiadores, but his versatility has seen him shunted out to full back on occasions.
With the toing and froing between national teams now seemingly out the way, Corona (right) will hope for a 2012 that brings similar memorable moments to 2011, in which he scored his team's first-ever top-flight goal, got national team call ups and was a big part of Tijuana's promotion to the first division.
The San Diego native lost his starting spot at the back end of last season, meaning his immediate goal for 2012 is simple: Get back in the team. That will be made slightly more difficult for Corona, still only 21, with the fact he will be with the US U-23 squad this month in Southern California and Costa Rica and will miss three games. The clear upside is that he looks set for the Olympics in July and August with the US team.
The irony for the 20-year-old Texan is that he is likely to be battling with fellow American Castillo for the left wingback spot at Club Tijuana. He still has to get used to life in Mexico, but he’s definitely one to watch. He should also play a part in Olympics qualifying with the US squad.
The 27-year-old has taken more flak in 2011 than most players take in an entire career, and the former Chivas USA captain will be hoping 2012 brings an end to that.
Bornstein needs playing time, but the problem is that Tigres are one of the best teams around, are the reigning Mexican champions and have a coach in Ricardo Ferretti that has stuck rigidly to a set starting team. On the positive side, they have a Copa Libertadores qualification game against Chilean outfit Unión Española later this month. Ferretti has already hinted that the Libertadores will be a chance for other members of the squad.
The 24-year-old attacking midfielder saw few first-team minutes for Atlante last season, but may have a clearer path to the first team this time around after Christian “Hobbit” Bermúdez left for Club América in the offseason. When he played last year, Guadarrama scored goals and looked sharp, so catching the eye of new Atlante coach Mario García early in the season could be key.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.