GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t been as eager to call upon Mexico-based American players as when he first took charge of the US national team, but, just past the halfway point of Mexico’s Clausura 2012, there are plenty of positives for many of the “Gringos” playing on the other side of the Rio Grande.
We take a look at how each player’s season has gone and what they are looking to achieve in the second half of the season, in order of minutes played:
Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana) – 775 minutes
The loan move from Club América last winter was seen as last chance saloon for “El Homie” to prove himself down south after going through five other Mexican clubs, but Club Tijuana look like a keeper.
After nine out of nine starts, Castillo’s move to the Xolos couldn’t have gone much better, with the left-sided player (pictured right) wreaking havoc on opposition defenses up and down Mexico and the Las Cruces, N.M., native becoming an important figure in Tijuana’s push for the playoffs.
The one thing missing?
“I’ve told you before, I want to get back on the national team,” he stressed to MLSsoccer.com, not for the first time this year, just last week.
José Torres (Pachuca) – 720 minutes
“El Gringo” has had an excellent first half to the season, completing the first eight games and showing the kind of form that has the 24-year-old midfielder earmarked as a firm favorite of Klinsmann as the German legend begins shaping the national team into a more possession-driven unit.
A groin injury meant he missed the US trip to Italy, but the good news is that the diminutive midfielder should be back soon to help Pachuca in their fight for the playoffs. As long as he stay fit, he should be in line to reclaim his national spot after an injury-hampered past six months.
Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis) – 512 minutes
After a promising two victories in the first two games of the season, the wheels have fallen off the San Luis wagon and Orozco Fiscal (pictured right) has become a victim in recent weeks.
The center back has been dropped to the bench and not seen action in the last three games.
His first mission is to win over recently installed coach Sergio Bueno. That’s a must if he is to get that US call up that the 26-year-old defender has stressed is so important to him.
DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla) – 487 minutes
On the field, the former Glasgow Rangers winger has enjoyed a good season without reaching the heights of last year’s superb debut campaign in Mexico.
Off it though, there have been problems at Puebla with late paychecks and the club’s ongoing spat with Mexican tax authorities, an issue coupled with Beasley’s friend Eddie Johnson joining the club and then leaving under acrimonious circumstances.
Internationally, after featuring in three consecutive games for the US at the back end of last year, Beasley was left out of the squad to face Italy last week.
The omission comes as a timely reminder of how vital these next two months are for Beasley at Puebla, especially considering World Cup qualifiers are on the horizon and the former Chicago Fire winger has 100 national team caps within his sights.
Joe Corona (Club Tijuana) – 447 minutes
There was a slightly worrying dip for 21-year-old Corona (pictured right) on either side of the New Year, when he was finding playing time with the Xolos hard to come by, but the San Diego native has come through it with flying colors.
Corona took full advantage of an injury to Leandro Augusto early in the season and it will be extremely difficult for coach Antonio Mohamed to justify dropping Corona when Leandro does return.
North of the border, Corona has flourished after choosing to play for the United States Olympic team over Mexico and El Salvador, and is set to become a vital cog of Caleb Porter’s team in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament and, hopefully, London.
Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna) – 181 minutes
There’s only been one start for Gomez, but two goals in his last two games (three in three if you include his goal for Santos against Seattle) mean he goes into the second half of the season with the wind behind him and his goals-to-minutes-played ratio reinforced.
It should be an exciting second half of the season for Gomez, with Santos gunning for glory in both the league and the CONCACAF Champions League.
A national team call-up under Klinsmann has not yet come, but if he can become a regular starter and goalscorer for Santos, he may be difficult to ignore for much longer.
Greg Garza (Club Tijuana) – 25 minutes
After joining the Xolos over the winter, Garza debuted in the first game of the season and had US fans licking their lips as it seemed three Americans would feature regularly for Tijuana.
Only one other first team opportunity has come so far since, perhaps in part due to Castillo’s form on the left, but coach Mohamed seems to prefer that the 20-year-old Garza plays full games with the U-20s (for who he has played three full matches) rather than having him an unused sub on the bench.
Garza’s immediate goal is more minutes and making sure his name is on the list of those going to London 2012 – qualifying competition permitting, of course.
Sonny Guadarrama (Atlante) – 4 minutes
The 24-year-old Texan featured in Atlante’s last two games of the Apertura 2011 and increased playing time in the Clausura 2012 looked likely, especially with playmaker Christian Bermúdez moving to Club América.
However, Guadarrama has struggled for minutes, although the attacking midfielder has been keeping himself in rhythm with three appearances for the U-20s.
Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres UANL)
A rash, ill-timed tackle by one of Jonny B’s teammates in the return leg of the Copa Libertadores reduced Tigres to 10 men and was a large factor in ending the club’s campaign at the qualifying stage.
Advancing to the group stage would’ve likely meant six more starts for Bornstein (pictured right), who played well in central midfield in both legs of the game against Unión Española.
Unfortunately, the good performances haven’t meant more playing time on the field in the league with the reigning Mexican champions.
A regular on the bench, Bornstein hasn’t been helped by Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti’s irregular tactic of using minimal substitutions during games and keeping a largely set lineup. In the club’s last three games, Ferretti has made only three substitutions.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. He can be reached via email@example.com.