By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Jul 18, 2018) US Soccer Players - With the 2018 World Cup over, the attention shifts to club soccer. While some European leagues are in their preseason, Liga MX offers fans the chance to jump right back into some meaningful action. Liga MX kicks off its 2018 Apertura season when Veracruz hosts Pumas and Queretrao visits Atlas on Friday.
For the American contingent south of the border, the offseason brought perhaps the biggest landscape shift in recent years. Several players switched clubs within the league. A few Americans left Mexico altogether. Longtime Liga MX veteran Jonathan Bornstein departed Queretaro and landed with Israeli side FC Maccabi Netanya while American icon Landon Donovan’s short-lived stint with Leon FC ended rather quietly.
It's the players changing clubs who figure to make the most of their newfound opportunities. We saw this prior to last season when Ventura Alvarado changed his fate for the better.
THE OTHER GUADALAJARA CLUB
Omar Gonzalez won a league title and played in the FIFA Club World Cup during his spell with Pachuca, but the former LA Galaxy star has found a new home. Gonzalez will don the red-and-black of Atlas, Guadalajara’s second club. Atlas has long played in Chivas’s shadow and has never come close to matching its rivals’ success. Atlas last won a league title in 1951 and last played in the Liga MX final in 1999.
Atlas struggled last season, as the club has done more often than not. Atlas finished in 15th out of 18th place with a record of 5-9-3 and allowed 26 goals in 17 games. Only three clubs allowed more than that and Pachuca was one of them. However, Gonzalez had fallen out of favor before the Clausura and played in only five games with los Tuzos.
With Atlas, he will bring his size and experience and should give the club a strong foundation to build around. In Atlas’s final preseason tune-up, the club tied Club America 0-0 with Gonzalez holding down the middle of the defense.
FINALLY A CHANCE
For years, Jose Fransisco Torres has been a bit of a forgotten man. He was still very much playing soccer professionally, but it was hardly evident as Torres’ playing time with Tigres was virtually non-existent. He played one minute in the Apertura 2017 season and saw no time at all last season. In total, he has played 73 minutes since January 2017. The last time he played more than 1,000 minutes was during the Apertura 2014 season.
Torres moves from Tigres to Puebla, leaving after spending six-plus years with the Monterrey-based club.
Puebla does not have the stockpile of talent that Tigres had and will not offer the same level of competition for playing time that Tigres offered. Whether or not Torres will make an impact with Puebla will be evident from the first game, a road match against Cruz Azul on Saturday. Pundits have tipped Torres to start. If he does, he might once again exceed 1,000 minutes of playing time this season. That would jumpstart a career that seemed destined for obscurity with Tigres.
A FRESH START
Another American looking to kickstart his own career is Michael Orozco. After a successful run with Puebla from 2013 through the Clausura 2015 season, Orozco moved to Tijuana where he was initially a key piece of the defensive puzzle. Injuries and coaching decisions limited his playing time. Over the last three seasons, Orozco has played in 1,533 minutes, or just 232 more minutes than he saw in the Apertura 2016 alone.
Orozco returns to Puebla but will compete with nearly-relegated side Lobos BUAP who also call the city of Puebla home. Lobos BUAP faced relegation, only saved after Liga MX put a hold on promotion/relegation. The club now has restructured itself and brought in players like Orozco to try and stabilize the situation.
Orozco will be playing under coach Francisco Palencia, who spent time in MLS with Chivas USA. If Orozco can regain the form he had from a couple of seasons ago, he should be able to slow the bleeding. Lobos BUAP finished in last-place a season ago, getting just nine points from 17 matches, allowing 33 goals while scoring just 18.
BUILDING FOR MORE
Necaxa’s Alvarado meanwhile stayed put and looks poised to take a step forward for the club this season. Alvarado played seven games for Necaxa and was on the field for two of the club’s five clean sheets last season.
Alvarado saw a total of 629 minutes last season, an improvement from the 391 minutes he played in the Apertura 2017 season and the 23 minutes he’d seen the season before that. His minutes played total from last season is the second-highest of his career. With one campaign under his belt with Necaxa he seems poised to make a run in the 2018 Apertura. Alvarado gives hope that the other Americans who made high-profile moves in Mexico will also find similar success, and soon.
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
More From Luis Bueno :
- Big wins for the Galaxy and LAFC point to something more
- MLS Power Rankings: Time running out for struggling teams
- The market just changed for LAFC and the Galaxy
- Mexico gets out of the group but it wasn't easy
Logo courtesy of Liga MX