[AMERICANS ABROAD]A record 15 Americans who grew up in the U.S. youth system -- including six from Tijuana -- played in Mexico's Liga MX, which concluded its Torneo Clausura regular season on Sunday. It's the largest group of Americans to play in a top-level foreign league in a season, breaking the record set in 2006-07 when 14 Americans (including Giuseppe Rossi) played in the English Premier League.
The number of Americans in the Liga MX is up from 12 in 2012-13 as six players made their first division debuts this season. They include U.S. youth international Paul Arriola, who played 19 games for Tijuana after signing from the LA Galaxy academy last summer, and Dennis Flores, signed only months earlier by Torneo Apertura champion Leon after being spotted at the Alianza de Futbol tryouts.
Only the players from Tijuana, Leon and Cruz Azul are involved in the Torneo Clausura playoffs that begin this week.
Despite the large contingent of Americans, only DaMarcus Beasley, the lone player who is not Mexican-American, would be assured of making the U.S. World Cup team at this point. Three other players -- Edgar Castillo, who led all players with 30 appearances, Joe Corona and Herculez Gomez -- took part in World Cup qualifying but are not sure of even making the 30-player short list. Jose Torres, Jonathan Bornstein and Gomez, the only holdovers from the 2010 U.S. World Cup team along with Beasley, have slim hopes being invited into Jurgen Klinsmann's May camp.
Six more American products played in the Liga de Ascenso, the second division, including Necaxa’s Sonny Guadarrama and Ventura Alvarado, who had played in the Liga MX in 2012-13. The other player who played in the Liga MX in 2012-13 but not in 2013-14 was Benji Joya, who played for Santos in the Copa MX last fall before joining the Chicago Fire on loan.
The three MLS players who moved to Cruz Azul in January made a combined three appearances in the Liga MX. Michael Farfan's single 10-minute stint earned him a Team of the Week selection as he scored for La Maquina. Rafael Baca, who attended Loyola Marymount before joining the San Jose Earthquakes but is not a U.S. citizen, played two games for Cruz Azul. On loan from the LA Galaxy, Jose Villarreal did not play for the Cruz Azul first team, though he played for its Sub-20s and made one appearance in the Liga de Ascenso for Cruz Azul Hidalgo, its farm team.
Stevie Rodriguez, another member of the Tijuana contingent, was one of several young Americans to play on loan for second division Dorados in the Copa MX, pushing the total number of U.S. players to play for Mexican first or second division teams to 23 in 2013-14. The Xolos players were eligible for short-term loans to Dorados because Tijuana was playing in the Concacaf Champions League and therefore not entered in the Copa MX.
The American group at Tijuana also includes 17-year-old Fernando Arce Jr., who made his Liga MX debut in the spring. The son of the Mexican international and Tijuana midfielder of the same name, Arce was born in Southern California but grew up in Mexico.
Other American-born and Mexican-bred players in the Liga MX include Mexico World Cup hopefulsIsaac Brizuela and Miguel Ponce, both of Toluca. Leon keeper William Yarbrough was born in Mexico to American parents.
All the Mexican-American products hail from California or Texas except Castillo, who is from New Mexico, and Alvarado, who grew up in the Phoenix area.
GP/G PLAYER (CLUB)
30/0 Edgar Castillo (Tijuana)
29/2 Jose Torres (Tigres)
28/1 DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla)
26/1 Michael Orozco(Puebla)
20/0 Herculez Gomez(Tijuana)
19/1 *Paul Arriola (Tijuana)
19/0 Greg Garza (Tijuana)
19/0 Joe Corona(Tijuana)
3/0 Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres/Atlante)
3/0 *Gabriel Farfan (Chiapas)
2/0 *Alejandro Guido(Tijuana)
2/0 *Dennis Flores (Leon)
1/1 *Michael Farfan(Cruz Azul)
1/0 Alonso Hernandez(Monterrey)
1/0 *Miguel Palafox (Leon)
*Made Liga MX debut in 2013-14.
Liga de Ascenso:
GP/G PLAYER (CLUB)
37/4 Sonny Guadarrama (Atlante)
24/3 Jesus Padilla (Dorados/Ballenas Galeana)
21/0 Ventura Alvarado (Necaxa)
18/0 Marco Antonio Vidal (Lobos BUAP)
3/0 Austin Guerrero (Altamira)
1/0 Jose Villarreal(Cruz Azul Hidalgo)