With so many U.S. nationals playing abroad these days, it’s easy to forget that the process of earning respect and opportunities has been a long road paved through decades. While players are now spread out across of a multitude of countries and leagues, a handful of clubs have shown a particular faith and affinity for the American professionals.
Over the next week, we’ll take a look at clubs where U.S. players have made a particularly strong impact in numbers and performance through the years.
So far, we’ve covered Everton FC and VfL Wolfsburg, today we go south of the border to Club Tijuana of Liga MX.
With more than 30 percent of their season ticket holders crossing the border in San Diego to watch their home matches, it’s no surprise Club Tijuana has been infused with U.S. internationals.
A fantastic club which has long been a friend of the USMNT, Xolos have employed seven players in the first team and many more throughout the youth system. Three – Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona (both pictured below) and Greg Garza - were a part of the club’s only title-winning squad that captured the 2012 Torneo Apertura.
Garza signed with Tijuana on Dec. 21, 2011, and quickly became a key member of the Xolos lineup. The left back combined to make 84 career appearances for Tijuana, including six appearances in Concacaf Champions League and four in the Copa Libertadores.
Paul Arriola spent nearly five years at Estadio Caliente, signing as an 18-year-old and playing in more than 100 games. First identified during the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico, the Chula Vista product had the chance to sign a Homegrown deal with the LA Galaxy in 2013, but chose Tijuana instead.
Showing versality to play as a forward and also at wingback, Arriola utilized his time with Xolos to earn a spot on the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup side and a regular role with the USMNT before his transfer to D.C. United in 2017.
WATCH: Paul Arriola Goal vs. Puebla on Jan. 13, 2017
Joe Corona also began his professional career for his father’s hometown club, living with his family in San Diego and commuting every day. In 2011, he scored one of the most important goals in club history in the promotion playoff final, lifting Tijuana into Liga MX for the first time. In the season opener the following year, he scored the club’s first-ever goal in the top division.
Joe Corona: A Foot in Two Countries
Edgar Castillo arrived on loan from Club America just in time for the championship season in 2012, moving permanently the following year when he was part of the squad that made it to the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals. They reached the 2014 Clausura playoffs before he moved to Atlas.
Edgar Castillo: Futbol y Familia
Herculez Gomez spent two years on the books in Tijuana starting in 2013, playing one season before going out on loan. Michael Orozco – who famously scored the winner in the USA’s first victory against El Tri on their home soil after going 0-23-1 in Mexico – joined Xolos in 2015 and helped them reach the 2018 Clausura semifinals. That last year, Rubio Rubin signed up for one season, making 15 appearances in all competitions.
The Journey: Michael Orozco