[AMERICANS ABROAD] Mexico's Primera Division kicks off the 2011 Torneo Apertura this weekend. Ten Americans are vying for starting jobs, and several young players are on the verge of breaking into the first team. Herculez Gomez, Edgar Castillo and Adrian Ruelas joined new clubs, while DaMarcus Beasley makes his debut in Mexico after seven seasons in Europe. The most exciting young American may be 21-year-old Joe Benny Corona, who helped Tijuana win promotion to the top flight for the first time. For a look at the Americans ...
Estudiantes Tecos (Gomez, Antunez) vs. Toluca
Pachuca (Torres) vs. Santos
Club Tijuana (Corona) vs. Morelia
Tigres (Bornstein) vs. Cruz Azul
Atlas vs. Puebla (Beasley)
Atlante (Guadarrama) vs. Chivas
UNAM vs. San Luis (Orozco)
Club America (Castillo) vs. Gallos Blancos
Jaguares (Ruelas) vs. Monterrey
(in parentheses are career Mexican First Division statistics)
Edgar Castillo, Club America (6 seasons, 135 games, 7 goals)
Still only 24, Castillo is beginning his seventh season in Mexico. The New Mexico product was signed by Club America in 2009 but after half a season was shipped off on loan, first to Tigres, then San Luis and Puebla. Back with America, this is a make-or-break season for Castillo. He started Saturday in the friendly against Manchester City in San Francisco.
Jose Francisco Torres, Pachuca (5 seasons, 111 games, 3 goals)
The Tuzos' worst season in a decade resulted in a major householding. Torres stayed, but Coach Efrain Flores has brought in seven new players in the attack and midfield. Torres, 23, played in 29 league games last season with a career-high 11 yellow cards. He has not played for the USA in 2011.
Michael Orozco, San Luis (4 seasons, 71 games, 3 goals)
After one season on loan to MLS's Philadelphia Union, Orozco returned to San Luis but didn't play in the 2011 Torneo Clausura. The 24-year-old defender has been starting for San Luis in preseason and hopes a strong Mexican campaign will earn him a recall to the U.S. national team.
Herculez Gomez, Estudiantes Tecos (2 seasons, 44 games, 15 goals)
Gomez burst on the scene in 2010, sharing the goal-scoring title with 10 goals at Puebla. After a season at Pachuca, where he scored just five goals in 29 games, he's moved to the modest Tecos, where he'll be reunited with Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, his coach at Puebla. He was hot in the pre-season with four goals.
Sonny Guadarrama, Atlante (3 seasons, 25 games)
After missing out on first-team soccer for two seasons, Guadarrama returned to the First Division with Atlante in 2010-11. The 24-year-old midfielder played 13 games for Atlante, more than he had in four seasons at Morelia.
Jonathan Bornstein, Tigres (1 season, 7 games)
In his first campaign since moving to Mexico, Bornstein had trouble breaking into the lineup at Tigres, which won the 2011 Clausura first-phase title and had the best defense in the league. With the backline returning intact -- it includes Mexico national team player Jorge Torres Nilo -- Bornstein's best chance for playing time will be in midfield.
Adrian Ruelas, Jaguares (1 season, 2 games)
After debuting for Santos in the 2011 Clausura, Ruelas figured to get more playing time this season but he returned from vacation to discover he had been loaned to Jaguares, based in Chiapas. At 20, Ruelas is considered the top young Mexican-American prospect besides the Vancouver Whitecaps' Omar Salgado.
Daniel Antunez, Estudiantes Tecos (1 season, 2 games)
The well-traveled Antunez, 25, arrived at Estudiantes Tecos from Finland in January. He isn't expected to be much of a factor for Tecos,
DaMarcus Beasley, Puebla (1st Mexican First Division season)
After seven seasons in Europe with PSV, Manchester City, Rangers and Hannover 96, the 29-year-old Beasley hopes to resurrect his career at Puebla. He scored the winning goal in his first game for Puebla, a preseason tournament game against 2011 Concacaf champion Monterrey. Beasley was one of 20 new players brought in during the offseason at Puebla, which hasn't won a Mexican league title since 1990.
Joe Benny Corona, Tijuana (1st Mexican First Division season)
The San Diego State product, born to a Mexican father and Salvadoran mother, was the hero of the Xoloitzcuintles' promotion battle with a goal and an assist in the decisive Liga de Ascenso game against Irapuato and should see action on the right wing.
Other Americans: Five young Americans -- Moises Orozco, Victor Garza, Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Uvaldo Luna and Daniel Navarro -- were invited to join Tigres' first team for pre-season training. Ernest Nungaray spent time in pre-season with the Morelia first team.
Note: American-born Isaac Acuna has returned to Club America after playing on loan to Queretaro and Miguel Ponce plays for Guadalajara. Both have played for Mexico's U-22 team.