If Mexican clubs hadn't started providing pro soccer opportunities for Mexican-American talent, the USA's historic win at Azteca Stadium may not have happened.
For one, Michael Orozco Fiscal scored the USA’s winning goal on Wednesday and was one of five Mexican-Americans fielded by Jurgen Klinsmann who got their pro starts in Mexico.
Eight years ago, at age 18, Orozco had finished his youth career with the Irvine Strikers. He had trials with Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy. They may have recognized his talent, but didn’t have in place a development program that would suit a young player not ready for prime time.
Mexican clubs, on the other hand, have long had ambitious youth programs and highly competitive reserve leagues.
Orozco got a trial with Necaxa while the Mexican club was training in Southern California, where Orozco was born and raised by parents who had emigrated from Mexico. Necaxa invited him to move south of the border.
"I got paid about $200 a month," said Orozco, who started out playing on Necaxa’s reserve team in the second division. "They provided housing, at their club house, and food, so it was possible to live on that, but it wasn't easy.
"It was difficult and frustrating. There were several times when I wanted to go home. I spent a lot of time on the phone with my parents. But I kept at it, hoping for a break with the first team."
It never happened with Necaxa, but when Coach Raul Arias left for another First Division club, San Luis, he asked Orozco to follow.
In August 2006, nearly two years after arriving in Mexico, Orozco made his First Division debut, three minutes into which he was red-carded. But six months later, he was back in the first team and after playing 32 First Division games was called up top the USA’s U-23 team for Olympic qualifying.
He helped the USA reach the Beijing Games, where he started all three games. The 2008 Olympics ended badly, though, when he was ejected in the 2-1 loss to Nigeria that eliminated the USA.
He moved back into San Luis’ starting lineup upon his return from the Olympics. In 2010, he spent a season with MLS’s Philadelphia Union -- playing for his former Olympic team coach Peter Nowak -- before returning the San Luis.
Orozco had played one game for the USA’s full national team, under Coach Bob Bradley, in 2008 and returned to the fold when Klinsmann took over in 2011.
Klinsmann started three Mexican-based Mexican-American players on Wednesday – Edgar Castillo, Jose Torres and Herculez Gomez. Joe Corona entered the game on the 89th minute. Orozco entered the game in the 77th minute and scored three minutes later.
The Texan Torres, 24, and New Mexico product Castillo, 25, both moved to Mexico as teens when they saw no opportunities in their homeland. (“Too small” was the reaction both were subjected to by U.S. coaches charged with finding talent.)
Both Torres and Castillo have won titles with Mexican clubs. We’d likely have never heard of either of them -- or Orozco -- had Mexican clubs not provided them a place to develop their talent.
So Mexico has been playing a role in U.S. player development that, on Wednesday, contributed to its first loss to the USA on Mexican soil.