American connection: Four reasons to follow Mexico's Liga MX

Mexico's Liga MX resumes this weekend with Week 1 of the Torneo Clausura, the second half of the split-season that involves a 17-game regular season and playoffs (three two-leg knockout rounds).

For more than two decades, dating back to the pre-MLS days in the early 1990s, Americans, many of them with family ties to Mexico, have gone south of the border to pursue their soccer dreams.

Such is the distribution of Americans across Mexico that every Liga MX game on Week 1 will feature at least one American on one or both of the teams.

1. Jonathan Gonzalez, a Mexican-American phenom.

Jonathan Gonzalez is the most-talked about American player to come along since Christian Pulisic debuted at Borussia Dortmund two years ago. At the age of 18, Gonzalez starts for Torneo Apertura runner-up Monterrey, one of Mexico's most powerful teams.

The young Californian didn't just play a secondary role. He started in central midfield and was so impressive that he was named to the official Liga MX Best XI team for the first half of the season.

Following the extraordinary start to his pro career, Mexican national team staff have put on a full-court press in a bid to convince Jona to play for El Tri. Since he played for the USA in the 2017 Under-20 Concacaf Championship, he will need to file a switch of affiliation to play for Mexico at the senior level.

Gonzalez's statement to Soccer America that no one talked to him about not being called up for the USA-Portugal friendly has fueled speculation about his future intentions.

Liga MX, Week 1
Puebla vs. Tigres, 8 pm ET
Atlas vs. Leon, 10 pm ET
Cruz Azul vs. Tijuana, 6 pm ET
Monterrey vs. Morelia, 8 pm ET
Pachuca vs. UNAM, 8 pm ET
Necaxa vs. Veracruz, 10 pm ET
Toluca vs. Guadalajara, 1 pm ET
Queretaro vs. Club America, 7 pm ET
Santos Laguna vs. Lobos BUAP, 7 pm ET

2. League loaded with Americans.

No foreign league has more Americans than Mexico's top two divisions -- 16 in the Liga MX, nine more in the second-tier Ascenso MX -- and no league has developed more players for the U.S. national team than Liga MX.

Six players currently in Liga MX were developed in the league, leading to their international debuts with the USA, and a seventh player, Jorge Villafana, made his senior debut after moving from the Portland Timbers to Santos Laguna.

3. Manneh moves to Pachuca.

Gambian-born  Kekuta Manneh became the latest American to move to Liga MX when he joined Pachuca as a free agent from the Columbus Crew

Even with Liga MX's liberal roster rules that allow teams to dress 10 foreign players -- Mexican-Americans count as foreigners if they didn't register with a Mexico club before their 19th birthday -- Manneh will faces lots of competition. He is one of 13 foreigners on Pachuca's first team.

4. New season, new homes.

Two Americans -- both former Liga MX champions -- were transferred during the winter break.

Joe Corona, who spent part of eight seasons at Tijuana, moved to Club America, where he will be coached by former Xolos boss Miguel Herrera. Arizona-born Ventura Alvarado (pictured below, second from right), who began his pro career at America, left Santos for Necaxa.

Americans in Liga MX:
149/- William Yarbrough
(28, Leon)
0/- Lalo Fernandez (25, Tigres)
249/9 *Edgar Castillo
(31, Monterrey)
192/5 Michael Orozco (31, Tijuana)
93/2 Jonathan Bornstein (33, Queretaro)
48/0 Ventura Alvarado (25, Necaxa)
42/0 Jorge Villafana (28, Santos Laguna)
39/0 Omar Gonzalez (29, Pachuca)
Jose Torres (30, Tigres)
Joe Corona (27, Club America)
22/0 Jonathan Gonzalez (18, Monterrey)
19/0 Alejandro Guido (23, Tijuana)
9/0 Rodrigo Lopez (30, Toluca)
0/0 Kekuta Manneh
(23, Pachuca)
0/0 Oscar Romero (21, UNAM)
0/0 Adrian Villa (18, Puebla)
GP/G=career games played and goals.
*Expected to join Colorado Rapids.

Americans in Ascenso MX:
3/0 Carlos Lopez
(21, Dorados)
0/0 Justin Perez
(25, Murcielagos)
31/0 Josue Soto
(22, Cimarrones de Sonora)
3/0 John Requejo
(21, Dorados)
1/0 Jesus Vazquez (22, Atlante)
45/2 Fernando Arce
(22, Dorados)
15/1 Alejandro Zendejas (19, Zacatepec)
14/0 Diego De la Tejera
(22, Celaya)
7/1 Amando Moreno (22, Dorados)
GP/G=career games played and goals.

8 comments about "American connection: Four reasons to follow Mexico's Liga MX".
  1. Garrett Isacco, January 5, 2018 at 6:20 a.m.

    I just feel that any time I spend watching the Mexican league dimishes MLS, so while I watch the EPL, La Liga and other Eureopean leagues, I just can't bring myself to watch them. I think some of this is a reaction to the Mexican-American fans and their antipathy to the US national team in particular and MLS in general.

  2. Ben Myers replied, January 5, 2018 at 1:50 p.m.

    There are lots of reasons for antipathy to MLS.  Count the 20-odd Americans playing in Liga MX, which offers are far better and more technical approach to the game than MLS.  Then watch EPL, Bundesliga, Champions League and Europa League.  MLS play looks awful in comparsion.

  3. Ben Myers, January 5, 2018 at 1:58 p.m.

    Another reason to watch Liga MX.  The people who comment on MLS play are horrific.  If there is some compelling reason to watch MLS ever, I prefer watching on a Spanish-language channel, so I do not hear English language blather.  Match commentary is yet another area where MLS needs a serious upgrade, but first, Don Garber, fix the style of play and get more quailty players into the league, but not retread one-time stars.

  4. Will Sams replied, January 5, 2018 at 4:02 p.m.

    100% agree with everything you've said.  I could never get into MLS, then I started watching Liga MX.  It's sooooo much better and sans lame American sports commentary.

  5. Ric Fonseca, January 5, 2018 at 3:01 p.m.

    First, thank you Senor Kennedy for your article.  I first want to point out the very brief article that this august journal of the jogo bonito and Herculez Gomez's astute observation about the many Mexican-Latino Americans playing in Liga MX.  The gist of the article sure as tootin' doesn't surprise me as the comments don't either, though the Spanish language LIGA MX commentators can certainly be like listening to someone scraping their finger nails down an old blackboard, but preferable to listening to really boring EPL commentators who most certainly put one to sleep, making the listener believe those chaps on the EPL b'cast themselves are half asleep and/or prefer to be elseqhere, perhaps annopuncing a rubgy game. As for the MLS announcers, well, I give'm a high C+ for trying, though Alexi and or Brad, and even Keller could do better by jazzing up their delivery, yet most certainly much better than the EPL blokes!  
    So,I do have a question for Mr. Kennedy: Of those "US players" in Liga MX, how many play, or have played for the US MNT, or even received a social media message of a possible call-up to an age specific US MNT?

  6. Albert Harris replied, January 7, 2018 at 9:46 a.m.

    Without doing any research except my own memory, I see 9 of the 16 listed on LigaMX teams as having played for the USMT.

  7. R2 Dad, January 6, 2018 at 12:03 a.m.

    A good reason to learn Spanish.

  8. Randy Vogt, January 6, 2018 at 6:52 a.m.

    Another reason to watch Liga MX right now. After two weeks of very cold temperatures in the Northeast where the thermometer has not gone above freezing, it will just be nice to see a soccer game played in warm, sunny weather.

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