In Mexico, they are cheered on by the supporters of various professional club teams throughout the country, but at other times they are jeered on the pitch by detractors for one reason – they pulled on the shirt of the United States of America.
Jose Torres, Herculez Gomez, Edgar Castillo, Michael Orozco Fiscal and Joe Corona were all born and raised in the U.S., but as Mexican-Americans faced a decision when presented with the opportunity to choose to play internationally for the country of their birth or to represent the native country of either one or both of their parents.
“My teammates (in Mexico) talk a little bit of trash, but it’s part of the game,” said Corona, who plays professionally for Liga MX’s Club Tijuana and commutes every day from San Diego for training and games. “It’s hard, but in a good way. They respect me and they also want me to do well.”
Corona, who played a year of college soccer at San Diego State with recent U.S. MNT call up Steven Beitashour, is a prime example of the dual roles the Mexican-American players face playing professionally in Mexico, but also internationally for the U.S. Men’s National Team. One commonality among the players, however, is that they’ve received excellent support during and after their decision to play for the U.S.
“My family has always been there for me,” Corona said. “They’ve always supported me and they feel proud. I feel proud and it’s an honor to play for the U.S. Every time I have to opportunity to come up with the senior team, it’s been great.”
Jose Torres was just a teenager living in Texas when Mexican club Pachuca came calling. Torres, the son of a Mexican father and American mother, moved to Mexico and still plays for Pachuca and while all of the players have made the trip to Estadio Azteca at least once with their club teams to face Club America in league play, Wednesday’s match will be a new experience.
“When I was growing up and I was in Pachuca, I would watch a USA versus Mexico game and I’d always think if I’d be there one day,” Torres said. “Now, I have the chance to face Mexico in Azteca and that’s something special to me.”
While dealing with the difficult choice of having to select, or in the case of Edgar Castillo to switch teams, is in the past, the emotions behind Wednesday’s international friendly against Mexico still hold a deeper meaning for the U.S.’s Mexican-American players.
“Ever since day one, my family has always been there. It really didn’t matter if I chose Mexico or the U.S.,” said Michael Orozco Fiscal, who plays his professional soccer with San Luis. “I obviously chose the U.S. for a lot of reasons, one being born in the U.S. and playing and growing up in the country. It’s been great so far and playing out here in the Mexican league is a job. You can try to fulfill your dream and that’s something I’m trying to do. My fans and teammates are all happy for me.”
The players realize the effects of their decision to play for the U.S., but all are happy with the choice they’ve made and are clearly relishing the opportunity to play at Estadio Azteca.
“It’s good to face Mexico. I play here in Mexico and I’ve played with Mexico,” said Castillo, who played for the Mexican National Team before switching allegiances to the U.S. in 2009 after a new FIFA regulation allowed the move. “It’s a special game for me even though I’m going to get booed by all the people.”
Castillo called Estadio Azteca home for six months while playing for Club America last year, but now the native of Las Cruces, N.M., teams up with Corona at Club Tijuana.
“The stadium will be full and people will be booing us before warm-ups, but I think that just makes us stronger. We’ve got a very solid squad. I’m very happy and motivated to play against Mexico in Estadio Azteca,” Orozco Fiscal said. “That’s another dream come true because not a lot of people get to do that especially if you’re Mexican. I’m happy and ready to fight every minute and give the best I can to win this game.”
U.S. forward Herculez Gomez rounds out the current contingent of five Mexican-American players on the roster for Wednesday’s match. Gomez, who grew up in Las Vegas, spent seven years playing in MLS before making the move to Liga MX. Noted for his tireless work and desire, Gomez won the 2011-12 Liga MX Clausura championship with Santos Laguna.
Come Wednesday, all five players know what to expect come game time at Estadio Azteca against a Mexico team that is riding high following a gold medal victory at the 2012 Olympic Games.
“We have to be smart,” Torres said. “We know the altitude is pretty high for the guys, but some of us are used to it. We have a great team and smart players and I think we can get a good win here.”