5. MEXICO: Tri stars return home

The second half of the Mexican First Division season begins Friday night when UAG hosts Tigres in the first of nine games scheduled for the opening weekend of play in the Torneo Clausura.

Mexico national team striker Francisco Fonseca will debut for Tigres after just six months at Portuguese club Benfica. Kikin rejected claims he was a failure at the Lisbon club, for which he scored three goals in nine appearances.

"I'm very grateful to Portugal," he said. "I enjoyed it tremendously, but this chance arose ..."

Jared Borgetti, Mexico's all-time leading scorer with 38 goals, also returned home, joining Cruz Azul after 18 months abroad with English Premier League club Bolton Wanderers and Al Ittihad in Saudi Arabia. Borgetti became the first Mexican to play in the EPL but never settled in at Bolton.

Both Fonseca and Borgetti were called up by new Mexico national team coach Hugo Sanchez for a four-day mini-camp beginning Sunday to prepare for the friendly against the USA Feb. 7 in Glendale, Ariz.

Another well-known Mexican international striker to return home is Francesco Palencia, who left MLS's Chivas USA for UNAM. Palencia told the newspaper La Jornada that MLS shouldn't be underestimated, noting that the league is very physical. Palencia hopes a strong showing with Pumas -- Sanchez's former club -- will earn him a recall to the Tri.

Sanchez's roster includes eight players from Guadalajara, winner of the fall's Torneo Apertura. Mexico's No. 1 goalie Oswaldo Sanchez, who joined Santos from Chivas, is also in Sanchez's squad.
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