GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Last year was a bumper year for Americans south of the border, with four picking up Liga MX winners medals over the two seasons. But what will next season hold for Yanks in Mexico? Let’s take a look.
At Santos Laguna, the offseason wasn’t as kind as it could’ve been to US international Herculez Gomez. Out went coach Benjamín Galindo and in came the relatively untried Portuguese Pedro Caixinha, while El Tri striker Oribe Peralta remained at the club despite reported interest from Europe.
Forwards Christian Suárez and Daniel Ludueña both left for pastures new, but Néstor Calderón, Mauro Cejas and young Colombian Andrés Rentería all came in, increasing competition for places in the final third at the Torreón-based club.
Gomez has a challenge ahead of him, but this isn't the first time that's been the case – Herc seems to feast on those types of situations. And don't forget that date with Houston in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
US Under-20 regulars Benji Joya and Daniel Cuevas both have signed new contracts with Santos, but getting playing time in the first team will be a tough ask considering the incoming players.
Just north in Monterrey, Jose Torres (at right) has been settling in nicely at Tigres UANL after his move from Pachuca, playing alongside Carlos Salcido in the center of midfield in preseason scrimmages.
The sometimes frustrating, but undoubtedly gifted Texan faces an important season for his national team career.
“He needs to have more influence on the game,” US boss Jurgen Klinsmann said of Torres back in August.
And that, in a nutshell, is what Torres will need to show for Tigres this season to get a look in for those upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
The situation of new teammate Jonathan Bornstein, meanwhile, has not changed. Playing time is again unlikely under coach Ricardo Ferretti, although there is the possibility of him moving outside of Mexico this month. Back to MLS, perhaps?
Over at reigning champions Club Tijuana, the apparently unflappable San Diegan Joe Corona is set to play a bigger role for Xolos this season and gain some vital experience in the Copa Libertadores. If he keeps up his form, he is a strong contender to make the transition from US national team fringe player to getting regular minutes.
Corona’s versatility has been a major plus in his career so far (shifting from either wing, to behind the striker to central midfield), but he’ll be looking to carve out his own definitive role in the starting team this season.
Edgar Castillo has his own individual challenge. The New Mexico native (right) and left back has to avoid the pitfalls that befell him after the last time he won the championship with Santos Laguna back in 2008.
Now 26 years old, “el Homie” will hope to maintain the consistent form he showed in 2012 that gave some credence to the view he should be the starting national team left back.
Fellow left back Greg Garza made giant steps last season, but faces the dilemma of having Castillo playing in the same position. Nevertheless, the sheer amount of games Tijuana has means he will likely get minutes and the chance to stake his claim for a regular starting spot.
On the fringe, Alejandro Guido and Stevie Rodriguez will hope the domestic and continental demands will open the door to Liga MX debuts.
It seems there’s always Gringo interest in Puebla, and this offseason, it doubled with Michael Orozco Fiscal making the loan move from San Luis to the Poblanos to join DaMarcus Beasley.
A new administration led by Jesús López Chargoy has brought no less than nine new faces into the club, as well as the vastly experienced former national team coach Manuel Lapuente.
The changes should lead to an improved performance this Clausura and Beasley and Orozco Fiscal will begin as starters, if preseason is anything to go by.
Both of Puebla’s Americans remain on the outside of Klinsmann’s plans, but a spur in form from either or both and Kilnsmann will likely call them in. Beasley still teeters on 97 caps for the United States and will be looking for a strong start to 2013 to get that long awaited 100th national team appearance as soon as possible.
Elsewhere, Isaac Acuña moved from Club América to Atlante, with a clear goal of breaking into the first team after a couple of stop-start seasons. Meanwhile, Bernie Magaña may feature in goal for Pumas UNAM in the Copa MX.
In Mexico’s second division, Jesus Padilla is back at La Piedad from Chivas, Sonny Guadarrama remains at Mérida, Adrian Ruelas will wear the shirt of Veracruz and Marco Vidal is set for the Lobos BUAP midfield.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.