GUADALAJARA, Mexico – There were two Yanks in action in big debuts south of the border on Wednesday evening, but one fared far better than the other.
The ink on Jeff Cunningham’s Comunicaciones contract is barely dry, but MLS’ all-time leading scorer wasted no time making an impact for his new Guatemalan club against their bitter rivals Municipal in his new country’s most important game.
Wearing the No. 9 shirt, Cunningham came off the bench to make his debut in the 71st minute with Comunicaciones up 1-0. Two minutes into stoppage time, the 35-year-old did what he does best with a blast from outside the penalty area, giving Los Cremas an insurance goal.
The Guatemala City archrivals will lock horns again on Saturday in an exhibition match at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and Cunningham likely will make his return to an MLS pitch faster than most expected.
The evening didn’t go quite so well, however, for Jonathan Bornstein. The US international got his first start for Tigres UANL since last February and went 90 minutes in his team’s Copa Libertadores preliminary-round first-leg matchup with Chile’s Unión Española.
Unfortunately, the Mexican side fell 1-0. Bornstein was quiet, but solid, playing as a defensive midfielder.
Monterrey-based Tigres sent a squad made of fringe first-teamers and youth players to compete in the Libertadores preliminary round.
Both teams had enough chances to win the game, but Unión Española had better possession of the ball.
US Under-20 left back Juan Pablo Ocegueda was an unused substitute for Tigres, while Texan Victor Garza was included in the 25-man squad which traveled south, but didn´t make the bench.
Bornstein and Tigres will seek to overturn the deficit on Thursday, Feb. 2, in Monterrey.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. He can be reached via email@example.com.