11513_marquezrafa_isi_mlsbs110312106 Brad Smith/isiphotos.com

Rafa Sees Yellow; Castillo and Corona See Victory

Jon Arnold flies around CONCACAF, bringing you the news you need to know as a USMNT fan. In today's edition, we find the Mexican captain in trouble, Tijuana on fire, and Oribe Peralta unstoppable.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
January 16, 2013
5:18 AM
The new year will bring many vital CONCACAF matches, so there’s no better time to get acquainted with the region than right now. Each week, ASN will bring you a distinctly American look at the other parts of our little corner of the footballing world, from Americans playing in CONCACAF to the foes who will try to destroy the USMNT in the final round of World Cup qualification. Welcome to CONCACAF Watch.

Tijuanamerica/Rafa Marquez Watch
Each week we’ll spotlight the Liga MX club on the border that has become a hot spot for American talent, and we’ll keep an eye on a man most American supporters love to hate. This week they happen to coincide.

Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona both went 90 minutes for Club Tijuana in a 1-0 victory against León. The fixture was the first home match the Xolos played since winning the Apertura title. Both USMNTers figured in the build-up for the lone goal of the match, which came in the sixth minute through Alfredo Moreno on his 33rd birthday.

Castillo was also booked for taking a dive in the box. Former New York Red Bulls Designated Player Rafa Marquez also picked up a first-half yellow. The bookings that made the headlines, though, were straight reds to León’s Carlos Peña and Tijuana’s Leandro Augusto. The match was relatively quiet other than those moments as Tijuana locked things down after the goal. Also of note, former Chicago Fire DP Nery Castillo made his debut with León, playing the first 78 minutes of the match.

Greg Garza was not in the squad as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.

Other Americans in Liga MX
DaMarcus Beasley continued his bright start to the Clausura with a couple of shots for Puebla in their 1-1 draw against Toluca. He had two shots in the first half and was substituted in the 69th minute. Michael Orozco Fiscal again went the full 90 minutes for Puebla in defense.

Herculez Gomez again started for Santos, but his contributions in 88 minutes of play were overshadowed by this week’s Liga MX Player of the Week (who we name below).

Jose Torres is yet to make his Tigres debut. He’s working back from a thigh problem.

Liga MX Player of the Week
Oribe Peralta gets the nod for his brace against Chivas. Peralta is most famous for his Olympic heroics that helped Mexico to the gold in London, but he could easily become even more known to U.S. fans if he can play his way into Mexico’s first-team attack in 2013.

Liga MX Team of the Week
Tigres stayed among the unbeaten after defeating Atlante 3-1. The club's attack looks to be the best in the league with playmaker Lucas Lobos once again creating headaches for defenses, and he has a new pal to combine with in countryman Emanuel “Tito” Villa. The latter man moved from Pumas in November and opened the Clausura with a hat trick last weekend.

Copa Centroamericana Drawing Near
Three out of five Hex opponents are taking part in the Copa Centroamericana beginning Friday. In addition to deciding regional supremacy, the competition also serves as a qualifier for this year’s Gold Cup, though five out of the seven teams contesting the cup will secure qualification. The real intrigue for U.S. fans, though, is taking a look at the teams the USMNT will face in qualifying.

Like the January camp, the squads are domestically based with additions from MLS and other leagues on break, so these aren’t the A-teams, but there’s still plenty to glean.

The American’s first qualifying opponent is the most MLS-saturated roster at the tournament. Victor Bernardez, Marvin Chavez, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Mario Martinez, and Jerry Bengston will represent their country, though Chavez will no longer count as a foreign player in the eyes of MLS. Roger Espinoza just joined Wigan and Andy Najar is on a month-long loan with Anderlecht, so they won’t be available. Other familiar names, like Carlo Costly, Wilson Palacios, and Maynor Figueroa are still playing in Europe so this side is made up entirely of players currently in the Honduran league or MLS. It will give some of the fringe men an opportunity to show what they can do in advance of World Cup qualifying.

Costa Rica
Costa Rican is hosting the tournament in their national stadium, which opened in 2011. Alvaro Saborio scored the first goal in the stadium’s history, and the MLS player will try to replicate that feat in the tournament. Jairo Arrieta, of the Columbus Crew, and Timbers midfielder Rodney Wallace join him on the Costa Rican roster. The team is affected by the tournament’s mid-January timing but should still qualify with ease and is still a good bet to lift the trophy.

Panama, coached by former striker Jilio Dely Valdés, have two familiar faces for MLS fans. Forward Blas Perez and young defender Carlos Rodriguez, both of FC Dallas, are in the initial 24, which will be pared down to 21 on Wednesday. One player to watch is defender Román Torres, who after Perez is the most-capped player in the team. Torres helped Milionarios to a Colombian championship and is now bound for Brazil where he will seek to help Palmeiras get back into the top division.

Restrepo Returning to U.S.
Diego Restrepo, the Venezuelan-American goalkeeper, is returning to the United States with hopes of joining a MLS club for the 2013 season. He will train with D.C. United. The end goal is to find his way on to the Venezuelan national team.

“I think if I go back to the U.S. and play in MLS, I think the opportunity to play for the Venezuelan national team is going to be there just because they really don’t have anyone right now,” Restrepo said Tuesday evening by phone from Venezuela. “Renny Vega was their starting goalie, and now he doesn’t have a job. Dani Hernandez plays in Spain, and he’s become the number one, but really they don’t have a number two, number three goalie, so I think there’s a chance to fight for a spot there, and I think I just need to get minutes to be able to prove myself."

That wraps it up for this week. Who do you think will win the Copa Centroamericana? Which USMNT player is set for the best season in Liga MX? Who has the best hair in CONCACAF? Debate it all in the comments.

Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is ASN's CONCACAF correspondent.

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