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Mexican Primera Division: Why American Soccer Fans Should Pay Attention

Christopher McCollumContributor IIDecember 16, 2011

Herculez Gomez recently completed a move to Santos Laguna
Herculez Gomez recently completed a move to Santos LagunaJeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Mexican club soccer has been said to be stagnating over the past several years, as Major League Soccer (MLS) has caught up and is now acquiring more Central American talent that would otherwise be going to Mexico, while more Mexican stars have been testing their mettle in Europe.

However, while the United States gains talent from abroad, it also sheds talent domestically, with a majority of the most talented players moving abroad for greener pastures and bigger paychecks.

The focus has always primarily been Europe, going back to the first exodus of American talent in the 90's, when players like John Harkes and Alexi Lalas made the move and began building a beachhead for future American stars.

At the same time, when those players were moving to Europe, others were moving south and building their own beachheads. Now, the Mexican Pimera Division league is worth paying attention to for more than just entertainment attacking soccer and defensive blunders.

Over the past several years, more players have been exploring those paths set up in years past, and this has led to an increasingly solid group of American national team players plying their trade in the oft-ignored Mexican Primera Division.

With the majority of winter transfers coming up in the next few weeks, there could be more to join the existing eight current and former National Team players.

The contingent of Americans is led by one of Jurgen Klinsmann's favorite choices for center midfield, Jose Torres (Pachuca).

Jose Torres' return from injury could stabilize the United States midfield.
Jose Torres' return from injury could stabilize the United States midfield.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In addition to Torres, there are also fan favorite Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna), national team veteran DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), and national team defenders Michael Orozco (San Luis) and Edgar Castillo (Tijuana).

As far as the feeder programs for the Men's National Team go, there's Adrian Ruelas (Chiapas) who represented the United States at U-20 level, and Joe Corona (Tijuana), who is currently on coach Caleb Porter's radar for the U.S. Olympic Team in London.

And then, of course, there's The Forgotten Man, Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres). The maligned former left back when the National Team moved from MLS to Tigres UANL in Mexico, and has pretty much been incognito ever since. 

Never-mind Bornstein, though.

Hercules Gomez went from being an ineffectual striker in MLS to being one of the most efficient goalscorers in Mexico, which launched him into the U.S. National Team for the 2010 World Cup and now onto Mexico's most prolific offensive team, Santos Laguna.

DaMarcus Beasley's career was thought to be far into its sunset after an awful spell in Germany with Hannover 96, but moving to Puebla has revitalized the speedster and put him back onto Klinsmann's radar. 

Coming back from a surgery that sidelined him for about two months, Torres is going to be looking at the coming 2012 Clausura to cement himself back into Pachuca's lineup.

Gomez, at one point of the season, was averaging a goal every 80 minutes, which was far and away the best in Mexico. Moving to a bigger team didn't work well for him last time, as he suffered at Pachuca, scoring only five goals in 29 games after leading Mexico in scoring with Puebla.

However, the move to Santos Laguna could be a very positive one, as he has gone to the highest-scoring offense in the league. His knack for finding the net in goal-box scrums should come in handy for the team that averaged almost 16 shots per game in the Apertura.

The first intriguing match is going to be on January 7 to open the Clausura, when Torres and Pachuca take on Gomez and Santos Laguna. Both players will be itching to use that first game to set the tone for their return to the National Team.

While it's unlikely that they will be named to Klinsmann's January training camp roster, considering the January camp is traditionally for players who are in their offseason, the game is sure to be watched by the U.S. coaching staff, regardless.

So while the highest level of play continues to be in Europe where most of the best Americans play their game, on any given weekend there could be as many as half the starting lineup for the U.S. National Team playing in Mexico. That is reason enough to pay attention to the league down south.

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