11116_omargonzalez_isi_usmntjd09061544 John Dorton/isiphotos.com
Americans Abroad

Omar Gonzalez Makes an Impact in Mexico Win

The former Los Angeles Galaxy center back debuts for his new club and plays well. Elsewhere, a bunch of other American soccer stars got on the field. Some of them even played for winning teams.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 11, 2016
12:50 PM
WITH MANY of the top European leagues off for a winter break, most of the American action from abroad came either from the FA Cup in England or from the opening weekend of the Liga MX Clausura season. The most promising USMNT news came in the latter, as Omar Gonzalez performed well in is Pachuca debut.

Here were the top headlines.

Gonzalez and Arriola off to a nice start

In one of the more pleasant surprises, an American who transferred abroad from MLS got off to a rather nice start, as Omar Gonzalez started and was solid for Pachuca in its season opener against Tijuana. The center back notably demonstrated (yet again) his value on set pieces, picking up the assist on Pachuca’s equalizer in an eventual 1-1 draw.
Another American, Paul Arriola, played the final 24 minutes of the game for Club Tijuana and had some nice moments as well. Arriola, a starter for the United States at the U-20 World Cup, is hoping to finally break in and become a regular again with Tijuana.

Alvarado helps Club America to win

Ventura Alvarado is a difficult player to figure out. He's either a lock of a starter for Club America and thereby an important part of one of Mexico's best teams... or he can't buy a minute on the field.

The Phoenix native started off the Clausura in nice fashion, though, helping America preserve a clean sheet in a scoreless draw against Puebla. America should be disappointed in the overall result, but its defense did its job; Alvarado, for his part, played to his strengths, making nice passes out of the back and showing skill on the ball.

Many get playing time in Mexico

In addition to Gonzalez, Arriola, and Alvarado, there were plenty of signs pointing to this being a very busy and productive season for Americans in Mexico.

Fresh off winning MLS Cup for Portland, the freshly transferred Jorge Villafana earned the start for Santos Laguna and played a full 90 in a 2-0 loss to William Yarbrough and Leon. Aside from the sequence that led to Leon’s opening goal, Villafana was pretty effective defensively but he found it difficult to get forward and join the attack. Still, considering that his team was facing one of the most talented sides in Liga MX—and doing so on the road—it was always going to be a challenging debut.

Elsewhere, Joe Corona started for Dorados and went 67 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Jaguares, and one-time national teamer Edgar Castillo performed well at left back for Monterrey in a 1-0 win over Pumas.

Few wins for Americans in FA Cup

The third round of the FA Cup did not, by and large, go U.S. players’ way.

DeAndre Yedlin earned the start for relegation-dwellers Sunderland against Arsenal, which was good. The rest, well, was not: The Seattle native, who had begun the game well, struggled down the stretch defensively, and Arsenal rallied from a 1-0 deficit to win 3-1 and advance to the fourth round.

Jonathan Spector started in central defense for Birmingham City, which lost at home to AFC Bournemouth, 2-1, and Tim Ream played the final 19 minutes for Fulham in a 2-1 loss to Sheffield Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in one of the most controversial games of the round, Huddersfield and Reading played to a 2-2 draw in a game that featured some, ahem, “controversial” officiating. Danny Williams went the distance for Reading, which appeared set to go through against a Huddersfield team coached by former U.S. international David Wagner. A late penalty for Huddersfield, however, led to an equalizer and forced a replay at Reading.

U.S. U-23 goalkeeper Cody Cropper started for Milton Keynes Dons in a home matchup against League Two side Northampton Town. There was little Cropper could do in stopping either of Ricky Holmes’s goals for Northampton, but MK Dons fortunately scored two of its own to necessitate a replay.

There was one American who was a part of a winning FA Cup effort over the weekend, and that was Eric Lichaj. The exiled right back played the final 19 minutes for Notthingham Forest in a 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers.

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