[AMERICANS ABROAD]May 12 was a somber day for Mexican-based players Edgar Castillo, Herculez Gomez, Michael Orozco and Jose Torres.
All had played six or more games for the USA in 2013, its most successful year in its history, but none made the shortlist announced that day for the 2014 U.S. World Cup team. Along with Joe Corona, who was named to the 30-player list but did not make the final cut to 23, all had played for the 2013 Gold Cup championship team.
Now, two months later they are back -- Castillo and Gomez at new clubs -- as Mexico's Liga MX resumes Friday night. They are senior members of a large contingent of Americans playing in Mexico.
LIGA MX, Week 1:
Friday, July 18
Queretaro-UNAM (Azteca America/ESPN Deportes), 8:30 pm
Tijuana-Puebla (Azteca America/ESPN Deportes), 10:30 pm
Saturday, July 19
Cruz Azul-Pachuca (Univision), 6 pm.
Veracruz-Santos (UDN), 6 pm.
Monterrey-Leones Negros (UDN), 8 pm
Leon-Club America (Telemundo), 9 pm
Atlas-Tigres (UDN), 10 pm.
Sunday, July 20
Toluca-Morelia (UDN), 1 pm
Guadalajara-Jaguares (UDN), 6 pm
Note:All kickoff times ET.
A record 15 Americans who grew up in the U.S. youth system -- including six from Tijuana -- played in the first division Liga MX last season. Six players made their first division debuts, including U.S. U-20 Paul Arriola, who played 19 games for Tijuana after signing from the LA Galaxy academy, and Dennis Flores, signed only months before playing his first game by Torneo Apertura champion Leon after being spotted at the Alianza de Futbol tryouts.
On top that, 17-year-oldFernando Arce Jr., who debuted this week with the U.S. U-20s at the NTC Invitational, debuted for Tijuana, the club at which his father, former Mexican international Fernando Arce, was then playing at.
Seven Americans in all played for Tijuana last season though that number could drop as Castillo and Gomez, the two senior Americans at Xolos, left.
After two and half seasons at Tijuana, Castillo moved to Atlas, the seventh Mexican club for the 27-year-old left back. He played 32 games for Tijuana, the most of any American in Mexico last season.
Gomez joined Torres at Tigres on loan from Tijuana after going scoreless in 20 Liga MX matches in his first season with Xolos. He had scored 35 goals in his first three-and-a half-seasons in Mexico with four other clubs.
The two Americans likely to start for Xolos are 22-year-old defender Greg Garza and Corona. Garza, who has played 34 games in three seasons at Tijuana after coming over from Estoril in Portugal, could make his U.S. national team debut in the new cycle. Corona enjoyed an excellent second half of the 2013-14 season after an injury slowed him down following a good 2013 Gold Cup campaign.
This will be a key season for Arriola, who has been playing this week with the U-20s in Los Angeles. He has all the attributes to one day help out the senior national team on the wing, one of its weak spots at the World Cup, but his progress will depend on finding consistent playing time. After debuting in 2014, 20-year-old midfielder Alejandro Guido could see more playing time with Tijuana this season.
U.S. U-20John Requejo Jr., and Raul Rodriguez, whose brother Stevie Rodriguezmoved on loan to Dorados de Sinaloa, have followed Arriola's footsteps in signing with Tijuana out of high school, while Amando Moreno left the New York Red Bulls for Tijuana in the spring.
The new Liga MX season will be a chance for Orozco to get back in the lineup at Puebla. He would have likely made the 30-player shortlist until he was injured late in the Torneo Clausura campaign. After the World Cup, DaMarcus Beasley, the lone Mexican-based player on the U.S. squad, didn't return to Puebla.
Not all Americans who moved to Mexico have had success. Michael Farfan scored in his only appearance for Cruz Azul after being transferred the Philadelphia Union in January, but he is now back in Philly training with the MLS club. U.S. U-20 standout Jose Villarreal moved on loan to the Cruz Azul from the Galaxy on a season-long loan, but he did not play in the Torneo Clausura and is not expected to play this fall.
Mexican League Transfers:
Ventura Alvarado, Necaxa (D2) loan return to Club America
Jonathan Bornstein, Tigres on loan to Queretaro
Edgar Castillo, Tijuana to Atlas
Gabriel Farfan, Chivas USA (MLS) permanent move to Chiapas
Herculez Gomez, Tijuana on loan to Tigres
Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Tigres on loan to Alebrijes de Oaxaca (D2)
Stevie Rodriguez, Tijuana on loan to Dorados de Sinaloa (D2)
Marco Vidal, Lobos BUAP (D2) to Mineros de Zacatecas (D2)