GUADALAJARA, Mexico – At least 30 Americans are set for a new season in Mexico, with the Apertura 2014 starting this weekend in Liga MX, Ascenso MX and the U-20 level.
In the first division, it's a new start for Edgar Castillo at Atlas, a club that has been injected with cash following last December’s buyout by TV Azteca and should be fighting at the top of the table. The Zorros open their season at home against Tigres UANL on Saturday (10 pm ET, Univision Deportes).
The 27-year-old’s departure from Club Tijuana means Greg Garza is the likely starter as the Xolos’ left back. The border side hosts Puebla on Friday (10:30 pm ET, Azteca America).
Midfielders Joe Corona and Paul Arriola will also be looking for minutes for César Farías’ team, which sold Herculez Gomez to Tigres in the offseason.
Gomez did not hit it off in Tijuana and will be hoping for minutes and goals at his new club, with the pressure on Tigres and manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti following a lackluster past couple of seasons. Alongside him at the Monterrey side is his former Pachuca teammate Jose Torres (pictured at right), who is once again battling for a starting spot in central midfield.
Further south, Gabriel Farfan is fresh from signing a permanent deal with Chiapas and will look to get back on track from an injury suffered toward the end of the Clausura 2014. Farfan & co. kick off the Apertura with a visit to Guadalajara (Sunday, 6 pm ET, Univision Deportes).
Michael Orozco was unlucky not to be at the World Cup, hurt both by a hamstring injury and by Puebla's decision to pull him out of the US squad to face Mexico in April. But the versatile 28-year-old defender will likely once again start regularly under Rubén Omar Romano this season.
Starting games is something Jonathan Bornstein has lacked since moving to Mexico from Chivas USA, although he has been getting playing time for Querétaro in the preseason. They welcome Pumas UNAM to Estadio Corregidora on Friday (8:30 pm ET, Azteca America).
At Monterrey, 20-year-old forward Alonso Hernandez is hoping to make the jump into the first team this season, as is fellow Texan Justin Perez, who plays in goal. The Rayados host Leones Negros in their season opener (Saturday, 8 pm ET, UniMas).
Another player that could make a big step up this Apertura is center back Ventura Alvarado at Club América. The Phoenix native was impressive on loan last season at Ascenso MX club Necaxa and has played in the friendlies building up to the Apertura. For América, the season begins with Saturday's trip to Clausura champions León (9 pm ET, Telemundo).
At América's Mexico City rivals Cruz Azul, there is not-so-bright news for Michael Farfan and Jose Villarreal. Farfan has been training with the Philadelphia Union and appears to be on the outside for La Máquina, while Villarreal has not featured or been mentioned in preseason and is not named in the club’s squad list on the Liga MX website. Cruz Azul also no longer own a second-division side, where Villarreal went for parts of last season.
In the Ascenso MX, midfielder Stevie Rodriguez has been loaned from Tijuana to Dorados de Sinaloa and will be aiming to get some valuable first-team minutes under his belt when they open their campaign at home to Atlante (Saturday, 9 pm ET). Also at the club will be forward Bruno Piceno.
Marco Vidal moved from Lobos BUAP to new team Mineros de Zacatecas, who visit Correcaminos on Friday (9 pm ET). But Daniel Cuevas remains on loan from Santos Laguna to Lobos, who are home to San Luis on Friday (6 pm ET).
Texan Sonny Guadarrama (pictured at right) will once again be attempting to help Necaxa win promotion when the Rojiblancos host Celaya (Saturday, 5 pm ET). Meanwhile Juan Pablo Ocegueda has been loaned from Tigres to Alebrijes de Oaxaca, who open against Irapuato on Saturday (8 pm ET).
There are also plenty of Americans in the U-20 league looking to develop, impress and earn first-team minutes in either the Liga MX or Copa MX this Apertura.
Brownsville, Texas-raised striker Alan Cortinas is in Tigres’ U-20 team this season, along with defender Jesus Vazquez, who is currently with Tab Ramos’ US U-20 squad.
Herbert Robinson, another previous US U-20 call-up, is still at Santos Laguna, while Dennis Flores is at Club León. Over at Pumas, Bernabe Magaña is the likely starter in goal for the U-20s. But it is Club Tijuana where most Americans are set to play.
Alejandro Guido, Raul Rodriguez, Fernando Arce Jr., Amando Moreno and John Requejo Jr. are all in the U-20 squad and also have legitimate hopes of regularly seeing playing time in the Copa MX and possibly even the Liga MX.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.