GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Vital World Cup qualifiers against Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala are just around the corner for the United States national team, as Jurgen Klinsmann’s men look to take a giant step towards the Hexagonal phase of CONCACAF competition next year.
US squads under the German legend have been notable for the amount of Mexico-based players that have been called up. With that in mind, it’s a timely opportunity to take a look at how the USMNT pool players have fared so far in the Apertura 2012 of the Liga MX.
Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana)
Without any shadow of doubt, Castillo is the star of the Gringo show down south at present. “El Homie” was unlucky to be injured for the last US qualifiers and is now hitting the kind of form that had both the US and Mexico making eyes at him when he was at Santos Laguna five years ago.
The Tijuana man has played every game he has been fit for since joining the club back last winter, and has regularly featured in the “team of the week” of various Mexican sports publications in recent weeks.
Minutes played: 872
Games started: 10
Required: Keep up form, challenge Fabian Johnson for left back spot for the US.
DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla)
Not much more could be asked of Beasley at present. He has seemingly put his serious injuries behind him and become a stalwart for La Franja, as well as the source of a significant amount of the attacking threat the team produces.
A tireless worker and a popular member of the dressing room for both club and country, it would be no surprise if Klinsmannn calls on the 30-year-old at some stage during this qualifying campaign. After all, with a fully fit Beasley there are no ifs or buts – you know exactly what you are going to get.
The negative for Beasley at the moment is the sorry state of the Puebla team, which doesn’t look capable of providing a postseason opportunity for the American any time soon, although there has been a notable improvement since Daniel Guzmán became coach in mid-August.
Minutes played: 809
Games started: 10
Required: Stay fit and inspire Puebla to push as close to the playoffs as possible.
Joe Corona (Club Tijuana)
The San Diegan has started nine of Tijuana’s 11 games this season. He’s shown consistency and continues to improve in one of the Liga MX’s most surprisingly successful teams.
There is an ever-strengthening case that Corona should be now given some competitive minutes at international level, perhaps in that fringe role the inconsistent Jose Torres has been fulfilling since Klinsmann took charge. Corona is certainly much more versatile than Torres and can play as a No. 10 or on either wing. Nothing has fazed him so far in his career, and the added bonus lies in the fact that he would then be definitively cap-tied to the United States.
Minutes played: 647
Games started: 9
Required: More goals would be nice, but consolidating that starting place as the playoffs approach is key.
Jose Torres (Pachuca)
Klinsmann hit the nail on the head when talking about Torres before the Jamaica qualifiers, saying that the diminutive playmaker “needs to have more influence on the game.”
At club level, Torres has had another solid season so far with Hugo Sánchez’s struggling Pachuca. Yet the perception with Torres is that, perhaps due to that undoubted talent, you always think he is capable of that little bit extra.
Torres has clearly impressed Sánchez, though, and the fact he is playing regularly in spite of a major influx of players to Los Tuzos does bode well.
One of the problems in the US setup has been his position, with him usually supporting a main striker or playing on the left-hand side. But at Pachuca he has been consistently used so far this season as a central midfielder.
Minutes played: 615
Games started: 8
Required: Take games by the scruff of the neck and become the fulcrum of one of Mexico’s most high-profile teams.
Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis)
Orozco Fiscal recently expressed an openness to moving back to MLS in an interview with Fox Sports.The scorer of that famous goal in the Estadio Azteca (pictured at top) has not started a league game since Alex Aguinaga took over as coach at San Luis in late August. While he’s a player Klinsmann favors – likely for his ability on the ball and the fact he can play both at center back and right back – the lack of playing time will test the US coach’s patience in the short term, and may lead to a move in the medium term.
Minutes played: 554
Games started: 6
Required: Win over club manager Aguinaga as soon as possible.
Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna)
Gomez has two goals in his 350 minutes of league play so far. But seeing only four minutes of playing time in the last three games, with youngsters coming off the bench before him, must be increasingly worrying for the 30-year-old, especially as coach Benjamín Galindo knows exactly what he is capable of.
It will also worry Klinsmann, who has played Gomez as his starting striker in the last seven national team games. Indeed, Gomez has clocked up more minutes with the Stars and Stripes in the last few months than he has for his club team.
Games started: 5
Required: Playing time, and goals, to keep that starting spot for the national team secure.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.