Talented number of options are available to U.S. south of border
It's not exactly as if a wave of Hispanic-American athletes has plowed through Team USA, but the number of Mexican-American players currently in the national-team pool is growing by the year. In fact, there are five Americans playing in the Mexican Primera División and three of them have played for the U.S. in international competitions before.
As national-team coach
Here are the candidates Bradley from whom has to choose, in order of likeliest to make an impact in the near future and get some playing time in South Africa (provided the Americans reach the World Cup):
Whether Castillo is the most talented player of the quintet of Americans in Mexico is debatable, but he is the most talented American left back who plays south of the Rio Grande. His position alone has American fans salivating over the prospect of having someone come in and lock down the starting spot on the left. Bradley has cycled through several different left-back options, including
Enter Castillo. The former Mexican national-team prospect was part of El Tri's unsuccessful 2008 Olympic qualifying team but was cleared by FIFA to switch national teams under a new provision which allows such moves for eligible players. Castillo suffered through a disappointing season with América, but is much more stable now with Tigres UANL. Part of that is reuniting with former Santos manager
Whether Castillo plays a role in the final two qualifiers remains to be seen, but he likely will be given every opportunity to lock down the left-back spot.
The diminutive midfielder is probably the most talented player of the bunch and is the only one who has been a regular on the U.S. national team. But for some reason, Torres hasn't been able to notch much playing time. Despite his club situation, Torres has been a regular with Pachuca, one of Mexico's best clubs over the last decade, but the Longview, Texas, native hasn't been able to break through with the national team.
Part of the reason may lie in that Torres' abilities may set him apart from most of the other U.S. midfielders. But he doesn't quite fit into Bradley's system as easily as
While Torres' talents alone should continue earning him calls to the national team, he'll have to navigate the sheer numbers the U.S. has in the midfield. In addition to Feilhaber and Holden,
The Orange, Calif., native is often overlooked in central defense as other players have established themselves with the U.S.
But Orozco is still an attractive option. His time with San Luis has provided him the chance to play in many important games in front of many large crowds, and such experience matters. He has also added a bit of punch to his game, with two goals for San Luis this season, already a career high.
Orozco, who played for the U.S. in the '08 Summer Olympics, has been a key part of San Luis' defense.
The Dallas native has played in every game for Indios de Juárez this season, but that includes a one-minute outing against Tigres and an eight-minute appearance against San Luis. Vidal, a defensive midfielder, needs to establish himself with Indios more, or perhaps with a stronger club, before he gets a look from the U.S. But he's working steadily, starting seven games for Indios this season and playing 90 minutes in six of them.
Ochoa is the only one of the group who wasn't born in the U.S. A native of Michoacán, Mexico, Ochoa starred for Riverside (Calif.) Poly High and played for the U.S. in the '05 World Youth Championship. A forward, Ochoa has appeared as a late-game substitute in three games for Estudiantes Tecos this season, but only in one since Aug. 2.
Still, Ochoa is now playing with Estudiantes' first team, and not the club's second-division sides, as he had in the past. Ochoa was a standout in the Primera A Division (now the Liga de Ascenso) but had tapped out his skills. While he may not play regularly, Ochoa is at least on the first-team roster.
However, Ochoa might be better served by playing in Major League Soccer, where he would at least get on the field regularly, provided he finds himself in the same situation in seasons to come.