Mexican stars have had limited success

[MLS] The New York Red Bulls' signing of Mexican national team captain Rafael Marquez will certainly be a boost to the Red Bulls and other MLS clubs at the gate, but what will his impact be on the field? MLS has aggressively pursued Mexican national team players since its launch in 1996, but no Tri player has ever won MLS Cup. Three former Mexico World Cup players have lost in the final, and only one, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, has ever been selected to the MLS Best XI. For a look at the 10 Mexico World Cup players who have played in MLS ...

JORGE CAMPOS (1996-98). One of Sunil Gulati's big coups on his pre-launch signing spree was the signing of Campos, the colorful national team goalie. Campos, who occasionally switched jerseys and played up front, was instrumental in the Galaxy's success at the gate in 1996 when its average attendance of 30,129 set an MLS record that lasted until 2009. Campos started for the Galaxy at MLS Cup 1996, where it blew a 2-0 lead late in the game and lost to D.C. United, 3-2, in overtime.

Campos was the first star to go back and forth on loan between MLS and a foreign league, joining Cruz Azul for the offseason. In 1998, Campos was dealt by the Galaxy along with Chris Armas to the Fire in exchange for Kevin Hartman and Danny Pena, but he only played eight MLS games, losing the starting job to Zach Thornton, who helped the expansion team to the MLS Cup 1998 title. That same year, Campos started for Mexico for a second time in the World Cup. He was later a reserve on its 2002 World Cup team.

MISAEL ESPINOZA (1996). Espinoza played one season for the San Jose Clash and ranked only being Marco Etcheverry, Carlos Valderrama and Mauricio Cienfuegos among attacking midfielders in Soccer America's 1996 positional rankings. Espinoza, a member of Mexico's 1994 World Cup, was extremely popular with San Jose's Mexican-American fans, but the Clash was unable to re-sign him and suffered both at the gate and on the field in the following seasons.

HUGO SANCHEZ (1996). Sanchez and Roy Wegerle were the only players to play in both the NASL and MLS. Sanchez, who had loan stints with the San Diego Sockers in 1979 and 1980 before moving to Spain, was 37 when he joined the Dallas Burn and failed to have much of an impact in 1996, its first season. The three-time World Cup player (1978, 1986 and 1994) returned to Mexico to play for Celaya and hung up his boots a year later.

CARLOS HERMOSILLO (1998-99). Following Campos' exit, the Galaxy signed Hermosillo, then Mexico's career scoring leader, but he was already 34 when he moved to MLS and showing his age. After appearances on the 1986 and 1994 World Cup teams, Manuel Lapuente overlooked him in 1998. He joined the highest-scoring team in MLS history but had more assists (12) than goals (6) in his first season. A year later, he scored eight goals in 16 games and helped the Galaxy reach MLS Cup 1999, where it fell to D.C. United, 2-0. He returned to Mexico and played two more seasons before retiring. He was named Mexico's sports minister in 2006 but was fired two years later.

LUIS HERNANDEZ (2000-01). At 32, Hernandez was two years younger than Hermosillo was when he joined the Galaxy, but "El Matador" was perhaps the most expensive bust in league history. His transfer from Tigres cost an estimated $4 million, and his salary was a similar figure. To make matters worse, Los Angeles had to deal three players -- Clint Mathis, Joey Franchino and Roy Myers -- to get under the Galaxy's supposed salary cap.

The Galaxy drew more than 40,000 for Hernandez's first game at the Rose Bowl, but attendance dwindled after that. The Galaxy had an unhappy loan arrangement with Club America between seasons and he ended up playing only 30 regular-season games over two seasons. He's the only Mexican to score in MLS Cup, contributing the Galaxy's lone goal in its 2-1 loss to San Jose in 2001. Hernandez returned to Club America in 2002 and never came back to MLS. The last of his 87 matches for Mexico came against the USA in its 2-0 win over the Tri in the round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup.

RAMON RAMIREZ (2005-06). Ramirez, a star on Mexico's 1994 and 1998 World Cup teams, was 35 when he was signed as Chivas USA's first player from Chivas Guadalajara. But his form had declined in the years since a 2000 car accident in which he was injured and four other people were killed, and he was not a factor for Chivas USA. Struggling to come back from a knee injury, he retired in May 2007.

FRANCISCO PALENCIA (2005-06). The popular Palencia was supposed to ignite Chivas USA support among Mexican-American fans in Southern California when he arrived in the middle of its inaugural season. He called his move from parent team Chivas Guadalajara "another challenge in my life," and he responded by scoring two goals in his first 22 minutes for Chivas USA in August 2005. He was the highest-paid player in MLS in 2006, making more than $1.3 million, but went scoreless in 23 regular-season games. Palencia, who played for Mexico at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, resumed his international career when he returned home in 2007 and finished with 80 caps for the Tri.

CLAUDIO SUAREZ (2006-09). The Mexican record-holder with 177 caps, the second most in men's history, was the most successful of the Mexican stars to join Chivas USA, playing 64 games and scoring nine goals -- as many as Ramirez and Palencia had combined -- from his position in the middle of the backline over four seasons. “El Emperador,” who played for Mexico in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, was 41 when he announced his retirement in March.

CUAUHTEMOC BLANCO (2007-09). Blanco was arguably the most successful of the Mexican stars to join MLS. He signed with the Chicago in 2007 after MLS introduced the Designated Player rule, and he was almost as valuable to the league as David Beckham, who joined the Galaxy at about the same time.

Blanco helped fill the new Toyota Park, opened in 2006, and led the Fire to the semifinals of the MLS playoffs in each of his three seasons. He became the first Mexican to be named to the MLS Best XI when he was selected to the 2008 team. He returned to Mexico after the 2009 campaign to play for second division Veracruz and remain in shape to make Mexico's World Cup team. He played for the Tri in the finals for the third time in 2010.

DUILIO DAVINO (2008). Davino was only 22 when he played all four games for Mexico at the 1998 World Cup. A decade later, he joined FC Dallas and was supposed to anchor its backline. But he missed seven games because of a foot injury and seldom showed the form he displayed in 323 games at Club America and was cut loose after one season. At 34, he still plays in Mexico for Monterrey.



4 comments about "Mexican stars have had limited success".
  1. Tom Dunmore, August 3, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.

    Toyota Park opened in 2006, and Blanco wasn't on the team then to help fill it. But interesting piece otherwise.

  2. I w Nowozeniuk, August 3, 2010 at 10:44 a.m.

    One element about this article that is missing...what kind of technical support did these players get from their took the Fire almost 3-months to figure out that Blanco needed the ball at his feet instead of leading him. It's all relative on the type of foreign player and how the teammates play to that player's strengths...simple game, if played right.

  3. Paul Bryant, August 3, 2010 at 1:20 p.m.

    Ric and I w, you have both stated something Bobby McManon of FSC stated only last night about MLS. He basically stated that one of the teams in the MLS, possibly the Red Bulls with their new acquisitions + Juan Pablo, will start playing ball control soccer instead of the kick and chase rugby style soccer we mostly see. The Mexican league is about ball control and possession. Until our U.S bred players get comfortable and confident with the ball, especially our backs and mids, MLS games will remain in many instances unwatchable.

  4. Bret Newman, August 13, 2010 at 1:39 a.m.

    Isn't it amazing how a weaker Central American country had two players better than any of the mighty Mexican players. I'm talking about the country of El Salvador, who gave us Raul Diaz Arce who was a scoring machine, and captured several MLS cups with DC United. And then there was that little magician Mauricio Cienfuegos, who was arguably the greatest Galaxy player of all-time. He also took home the MLS Cup in 2002.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications