The history of Mexican players starring in MLS is long and lustrous, and what better way to celebrate that nation’s Independence Day than by considering which ones might be the next high-profile arrivals in MLS? It never hurts to be on the lookout for fresh and capable recruits from south of the border.
Some of the top El Tri names from the last 25 years have plied their considerable trades stateside, including Jorge Campos, Hugo Sanchez, Luis Hernandez, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Claudio Suarez and Rafa Marquez. These days, LAFC headliner Carlos Vela is busy trying to lap the field in both the Golden Boot and MVP races. Across town, Jonathan dos Santos and Uriel Antuna are playing parts in the LA Galaxy's bounce-back season. Over in Philly, Marco Fabian is just getting warmed up for the impressive Union.
All the dealing is done for this season, but naturally teams are already hard at work planning for 2020's two transfer windows. I tried to keep this early wishlist on the reasonable side. Sure, we'd all love to see Rodolfo Pizarro running the FC Dallas attack next season (except, to be fair, probably Houston Dynamo fans), but the reality of the situation dictates that's not going to happen. Monterrey has him signed for four years and he's expensive enough that a monster club like AC Milan will likely be his next place of business.
As is customary, we have a couple of honorable mentions to shine a quick light on before we get into the shortlist: Jairo Torres and Alexis Vega.
The Pachuca man is the most intriguing player listed here, for several reasons. Right off the top, he's already racked up 152 first-team appearances at the tender age of 22. Aguirre has also been a constant in the Mexico setup at every age level, participating in both an Under-17 World Cup and the U-20 version, as well as the 2016 Olympics. What really makes him peculiar, though, is the fact that he can play three very different positions at a high level.
By trade and when with El Tri, Aguirre operates in holding midfield, where his vision and elusiveness in a crowd sets him apart. However, Pachuca already have a star man playing that role in skipper Burrito Hernandez. Because of that, the youngster usually works from left wing for Los Tuzos; it's definitely not a bad station, as his separation speed and pinpoint passing routinely shreds defenses. If that wasn't enough, the kid can even play as a very solid Anton Tinnerholm-esque right back and delivers tempting corner kicks.
The handyman is signed with Pachuca until the summer of 2021, so he would cost a few million bucks for the transfer fee and then probably a mid-range TAM salary. Considering his impact skill and resale value, it says here that such a move would be well worth it.
The best MLS fit: Given his versatility, there's no shortage of clubs north of the border that should be casting an eye toward Aguirre, but I'm going to go with Houston. They need some positive-thinking connectivity in midfield, and may well also require a new difference-maker on the flank depending on what happens during the offseason transfer market.
It won't take long to explain the soccer virtues of the Necaxa youngster, who is spending the current season on loan to Toluca. Hernandez has come up primarily as a central defender, but I actually much prefer him as a right back.
The 21-year-old defends well enough, but he's short by MLS center-back standards. When played out wide, Hernandez motors up the flank with ease and boasts mean service to the area. He doesn't just ship crosses (both high and low) to the right spot, he gets the ball to the head or foot of the right man. There's no hit-and-hope with this kid, who notched impressive assists in each of goal-shy Toluca's last two league matches.
Second game in a row that Luis Hernández (21) gets an assist that ties the game for Toluca. pic.twitter.com/xpXNXATTht— Mex Nex Gen 🇲🇽 (@MexNexGen) September 1, 2019
He's also easily the cheapest option mentioned here. For starters, Hernandez has only just received his first international call-up, as he spent this month’s international window with Mexico's Olympic group. Secondly, he's on very low wages and parent club Necaxa already have one of the stingiest backlines in Liga MX. A nominal transfer fee and salary offer well below the TAM floor could get it done.
The best MLS fit: If Chicago intend on bringing back Nemanja Nikolic and/or CJ Sapong next season, they're going to need a lot more deep crosses to feast on. In particular, the Hungarian veteran has gone hungry too often since Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent departed the Windy City. Bringing in Hernandez would solve that issue, and allow Johan Kappelhof to return to his more comfy central defense slot.
Montes is a 22-year-old center back already well-seasoned by 148 Monterrey appearances, and standing a sturdy 6-foot-3, he's a force in the air at both ends of the pitch and excels in moments that require physical defending.
He's also an avid, accurate tackler who has dramatically reduced the number of whistles and cards he draws over the last couple of years. The true surprise in his game comes when the big guy is on the ball. He's quite the nimble ball-handler and an excellent passer, especially from range.
This probably sounds like a player that should fall out of reach for potential MLS suitors. The thing is, he has less than a year left on his contract, which means anyone can approach him with a pre-deal offer (or tender a cut-rate bid to Los Rayados) in January.
The best MLS fit: There have only been four defenses more generous than New England's this season, but that is far from the only reason their name appears here. The ideal partner for Montes is someone precisely like Andrew Farrell, a smooth criminal around the box crying out for an air-marshal partner (only Montreal have conceded more set piece goals than the Revs in 2019) who also needs plenty of help moving the ball safely out of the back. New England have shown they'll spend big on a center back. Maybe now they could spend smart on one.