Cowell to Chivas, Vazquez to Monterrey: What the Liga MX transfers mean


Within five days, two US men’s national team forwards have gone from MLS clubs to Liga MX giants.

The headline-grabbing transfers as the 2023-24 Clausura begins:

  • Cade Cowell: San Jose Earthquakes to Chivas for a reported $4 million fee, plus add-ons & a sell-on percentage (club-record outgoing deal)
  • Brandon Vazquez: FC Cincinnati to CF Monterrey for a reported $7.5 million fee, plus $1 million in add-ons & a sell-on clause

There’s analysis to be had about Mexican clubs scouting American players, as well as why Cowell and Vazquez are landing in Liga MX rather than Europe. The transfers also introduce new storylines to Leagues Cup and potential Concacaf Champions Cup battles.

For now, let’s dive into what each player brings, their challenge ahead and how their ex-MLS club might replace them.

Cowell & Vazquez’s strengths

Ever since Cowell’s debut in 2020, the words “raw” and “potential” have surrounded him. That’s because the Earthquakes' homegrown product could dominate games with speed/power, but his end product around goal was sometimes lacking.

Yet in those moments when Cowell shined, you saw glimpses of a special talent. Just look at this pass:

Or even this golazo from the U-20 World Cup (yes, it was against a relative minnow in Fiji):

For the stats breakdown, Cowell departs San Jose with 10 goals with 15 assists in 104 MLS appearances. He’s already earned eight USMNT caps as well, scoring once. European clubs like Bologna (Italy) and Reims (France) reportedly showed interest in recent transfer windows, too.

If Cowell delivers more consistently in the final third, then he turns from a 20-year-old with serious upside into a winger Concacaf teams – both at club and international levels – fear when he’s dribbling at them.

Vazquez? The 25-year-old is more of a finished product, a traditional striker whose combination of goalscoring instincts, link-up play, defensive work rate and aerial prowess is hard to match.

He can produce a golazo like this:

Or make an instinctive run to get on the end of service:

There are plenty more highlight clips we could have pulled. Vazquez produced 26g/12a in 62 regular-season matches for Cincy over the past two years, helping them win the 2023 MLS Supporters' Shield while also earning MLS Best XI honors in 2022. With the USMNT, he’s scored four goals in eight caps.

A traditional No. 9, Vazquez brings numerous qualities that are required in the modern game. It’s no wonder clubs like Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany) and Brentford (England) reportedly showed interest.

What awaits Cowell & Vazquez?

Pressure. Intensity. Expectation.

Whatever descriptor you prefer, these MLS exports are entering a serious challenge at Liga MX clubs that demand trophies every year. And they won’t waltz into the starting lineup, getting pushed outside their comfort zone in a new environment.

It’s certainly not a make-or-break situation for Cowell (he’s still young), but playing for a “Big Four” team like Chivas will push him to grow on and off the field. He’ll need to fight for every opportunity under manager Fernando Gago and every play will be scrutinized. This is all a good thing for Cowell if he’s to fulfill his lofty potential.

Vazquez awaits a similar dynamic at Monterrey, who are trying to replace club legend Rogelio Funes Mori after he departed for Tigres UANL. And manager Fernando Ortiz already has Germán Berterame (one of Concacaf’s elite strikers) and Rodrigo Aguirre as options, two proven veterans.

Phrased another way, Vazquez will have to earn everything at Rayados. He’s stepping into an absolute pressure cooker where goals (or a lack thereof) are under the microscope. You either deliver or you don’t, and the standard is crystal clear.

Now, this isn’t to suggest anything like Cowell was coasting by at San Jose or Vazquez reached his ceiling at Cincy. Not even remotely. Rather, a change in scenery could do them a world of good – and they’ve stepped into huge clubs in the Western Hemisphere. Chivas and Monterrey are both Concacaf Champions Cup regulars who settle for nothing less than trophies and have demanding fan bases. 

For one, I’m hoping Cowell and Vazquez (who both have Mexican roots) meet the moment.

How are Cowell & Vazquez replaced?

Not easily, but it’s not impossible either.

For starters, San Jose have an open Designated Player spot to potentially utilize – likely either in the No. 10 spot or at winger. Their attack remains led by Jeremy Ebobisse and Cristian Espinoza, too. 

The Earthquakes are probably two high-end attackers away from being a legit contender in the Western Conference, but there’s flexibility to improve the roster. Don’t forget their cadre of young homegrowns coming through, either, including US youth international standout Cruz Medina.

Meanwhile, Cincy have no open DP spots but signed a new running mate for Aaron Boupendza in Corey Baird (free agent). They also have Luciano Acosta, the reigning MVP, pulling the strings – and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cincy added another striker to help them 1) weather their busy calendar and 2) compete for numerous trophies in 2024. 

The bigger question for Cincy is likely if the transfer rumors around left wingback Álvaro Barreal turn into an actual European move. The Argentine was an elite chance-creator last season, and replacing both he and Vazquez in one window is a tall task.

One date to watch for

Cowell and Vazquez are scheduled to meet on March 30 at Estadio BBVA, as part of Matchday 13 in the Liga MX Clausura season. 

(We see you writing that down, MLS fans).