Q & A: Jonathan Bornstein Talks about Life in Mexico
Jonathan Bornstein has embarked on a new chapter in his career, becoming one of the few U.S. National Team players to play professionally in Mexico following time in Major League Soccer. After five seasons at Chivas USA and two starts in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the defender chose a change of football, culture and lifestyle when he joined Tigres in January. ussoccer.com spoke with Bornstein about his experiences in the land of the MNT’s biggest rival.
Feb. 14, 2011
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ussoccer.com: How do you like Monterrey so far and where are you staying?
Jonathan Bornstein: “I really like the city; it’s actually a beautiful place to drive around. I bought a car and found a really nice area to live. It’s a nice tight-knit community, and there’s a lot of great places to go eat. It’s pretty cool.”
ussoccer.com: How is your Spanish coming along?
JB: “It’s coming along pretty well. I’ve been taking classes now for a month, and just living here you have to speak it on a daily basis to get around. If I go to the store I have to speak in Spanish and with my teammates everything is in Spanish, so I’m learning rather quickly. I’d say that I can understand it a lot better than I’m able to speak it. They keep telling me ‘poco a poco’, so I’m in no rush to hurry it along and just taking it day by day in my studies.”
ussoccer.com: Have you run into any situations where the language barrier was a problem?
JB: “I bought my car speaking all in Spanish, so there may have been a few times where I needed help understanding. The owner of the car dealership spoke English and he’s a friend of the vice president of our club, so he made sure everything was good for me and he was able to translate for me if I had any questions. It was the same thing with renting my house. For me it was just all about making sure that I understood what was being put in front of me. Overall I’ve been able to get by and haven’t really had any problems or issues with not being able to do something because of the language.”
ussoccer.com: What about when you’re talking to Tuca (Tigres head coach Ricardo Ferreti) because he speaks more of a Portuguese mix?
JB: “He speaks pretty good Spanish. He’s actually one of the ones I can understand the best when he speaks because I think he understands that I don’t understand it as well. When he speaks to me, he really enunciates his words and speaks slower to me so I’ve had no trouble understanding him at all. Even in the meetings and on the field, there’s really never been a time I didn’t understand him so he’s been one of the ones I can understand the best.”
ussoccer.com: So now that you’ve been immersed in the Mexican football culture, how would you describe it?
JB: “I would say the style of soccer down here is a lot different than it is in the United States. Here it is a lot more technical. The players have the ability to pass and move on and off the ball very well. In the United States, it’s a little more defensive minded and very strong and you run very hard. I’m definitely enjoying the type of soccer we play. I’m trying to fit in as best as I can and as quickly as I can so I’m trying to learn on the job. Also for the lifestyle, I’m learning what Mexico is all about. There are definitely some differences in my life; for example, I have a maid who cooks and cleans for me. That’s pretty standard custom here, which is something I’m not used to.”
ussoccer.com: What is it like playing in front of Tigres fans? They are pretty notorious for being passionate. They call the stadium El Volcán because it sounds like a volcano is erupting all of the time…
JB: “I would say that we have the best fans in all of Mexico. After playing in front of them for the first time, everything that everyone had ever told me about Tigres fans and how great they are definitely was true. I think they’re extremely passionate about the sport. They understand what it’s all about, and I hope I can keep winning over their hearts by playing better and proving myself to them each time I can go out there.”
ussoccer.com: You said you are learning what Mexico is all about from a cultural standpoint. Are there a couple of things that you can point to?
JB: “One of the things is definitely the food. Growing up in L.A. we obviously had a lot of Mexican food, but I think it’s a little bit different the way it’s prepared here and the way the service is here. Every day I come home from training and I have a very good 2-3 course meal. You always have a soup and then a salad, then a main course and always a ‘postre,’ a dessert. so that’s a lot different. At home, I’m used to just having a whole meal at one time and not such a fancy presentation.”
ussoccer.com: Have you started putting chile and salsa on everything?
JB: “Not too much chile, but salsa and definitely lime. They put lime juice and limón on everything, whether it is soup or fish or salad.”
ussoccer.com: Have you noticed any big differences in the training sessions?
JB: “I would say that we do a lot more intra-squad scrimmaging here than I’m used to doing. We never did so much of that at Chivas USA, and usually not with the national team either. We usually have enough numbers here by bringing up younger players to get a full field scrimmage. I would say many days, like Wednesday and Thursdays if there is a Saturday game, are devoted to full field games. That’s a lot different here and it’s something that I actually like because you get to play on a big field for a majority of the time. We do have normal drills that we do and that I’ve done throughout my career, shooting drills, passing drills, and crossing and finishing. Much of it is pretty standard, but in terms of just having more of a playing aspect in terms of full field games is different.”
ussoccer.com: Are there any team rules that are very different than you’re used to?
JB: “They call it ‘concentración’ here, and I know they do it around the world but we never did it at Chivas. The day before the game, even if it’s a home game, we go and stay at the hotel and we eat as a team and we stay there over night and we go as a team to the game the next day. That’s definitely something that’s different for me and I know it’s a cultural thing here that they like to do.”
ussoccer.com: Have you had the signature Monterrey dish called ‘cabrito’ yet?
JB: “I haven’t actually had it yet. I always see signs all over the place and I keep meaning to try it at a restaurant but I always end up getting something else like tacos or chicken. I will try it sometime though.”
ussoccer.com: What’s been your most memorable experience there so far?
JB: “I would probably say the soccer aspect has taken over the majority of my life. Getting my first start was pretty uplifting for me, just being able to feel like I’m part of the team and contributing. Every game I’ve played in so far we’ve won, so I’m just hoping to keep that streak going as long as I can and hopefully getting more assists and more goals because I’ve gotten pretty close to scoring a couple of times.”
ussoccer.com: How are they playing you?
JB: “I’m playing in a position called ‘contención’. It’s a defensive center midfielder, tilted to the left a little bit. It’s a lot different than left full back, but I’m getting used to it. It’s soccer, and I’ve always said it’s a game that you’ve got to adapt to. Once again I find myself learning on the job and kind of starting over at a new position, but I’m enjoying it.”
ussoccer.com: What is your team’s tactical formation?
JB: “It’s kind of like a 4-2-2-2. We have a line of four defenders and then two ‘contenciónes’ and then we play with two side attacking midfielders and then two forwards. Sometimes we switch it up and throw a 3-3-4 or a 3-3-2-2, but most of the time it’s pretty standard.”
ussoccer.com: How have your Mexican teammates taken to you?
JB: “I think we’ve been getting along pretty well, and whenever they get asked about me they say they enjoy my company and enjoy having me on the team. I think I bring a different aspect to the team, an American mentality that they’ve never really experienced. I’ve just been trying to prove myself in terms of soccer as much as I can. I really enjoy my teammates on a personal side and getting to know them each day has been very fun.”
ussoccer.com: Have you become fast friends with anyone?
JB: “Yes, Carlos Ochoa. We carpool to practice every day and spend a lot of time together. I’d definitely say he’s a friend. There are a couple guys on the team I’ve hung out with off the field. I’d say they are all great guys.”
ussoccer.com: Has anyone brought up the U.S.-Mexico rivalry yet?
JB: “Up to this point, no actually. I’m sure it will come up when the games for the U.S. and Mexico start getting a little closer.”
ussoccer.com: Not even Ochoa because he was part of that rivalry for a while?
JB: “We’ve talked about it between me and him, just about some games that he played in and some games I played in. With the Gold Cup coming up, we’ve talked about who is going to win this one. He speaks perfect English and that is probably one of the reasons we get along so well. He tries to speak to me in English and I try to speak to him in Spanish. It’s a pretty good relationship there.”
ussoccer.com: Have you played against any Tigres rivals?
JB: “We’ve played against Santos. They consider us a rival game, but for us it’s against Monterrey, the Rayados. That’s coming up next weekend, so we’ll have our clásico. That’s all anyone talks about around here. We’ve got to win that one and prove who the better team in Monterrey is.”
ussoccer.com: Do people recognize you on the street now in Monterrey?
JB: “Yes it’s starting to get to that point. If I go around with Carlos Ochoa he definitely gets recognized and then they’ll recognize me. If I go by myself to the supermarket or something occasionally people will be like ‘Oh, Bornstein!’ and once one person recognizes me then a lot of other people catch on. As of right now I’m able to go undercover and do my own thing, but everyone keeps telling me the more I play the less I’ll be able to stay hidden.”
ussoccer.com: Do you read the soccer coverage in the Mexican newspapers?
JB: “A little bit. I try to stay up to date on what the other teams are doing and how they’re playing and sometimes I’ll grab a newspaper and read about it. There’s a great deal of coverage for soccer here, and there are full pages devoted to Tigres and Rayados here in Monterrey and then there’s always pages devoted to other teams. The press is very big here in terms of soccer and they like to cover as much of it as they can.”
ussoccer.com: Other than taking Spanish lessons, have you done anything else to try to adapt to your new environment?
JB: “I got a nice house here and I’m neighbors with Carlos so I’ve been able to get adapted by hanging out with him and his family. He’s got two pretty amazing daughters, so I hang out with their family a lot. My girlfriend is actually coming to live here with me, so that will be a good change for me. It’s been pretty easy to adapt. Everyone here is pretty helpful in terms of the club and helping me with finding a car or finding a place to live. Everything has been very easy.”