Reigning Gatorade Rookie of the Year Jonathan Bornstein is half-Mexican.
First XI: MLS' Mexican influence
By Jeff Bradley / Special to MLSnet.com
We're a week away from the latest installment of USA-Mexico, and what better time to take a fun look back at 11 years of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in MLS. Unlike the relationship between the national teams of the U.S. and Mexico (and their respective fans), the melding of two cultures has had its happy times ... of course, what would a First XI be without some fun, funny and awkward moments, too?
11. A most-hated Metro.
Not sure exactly how or why this happened to a Mexican-American fellow named Edmundo "Eddie" Rodriguez, but in 473 minutes of action, he became the whipping boy of MetroStars fans. Edmundo assisted on the first goal in team history, but it all went downhill from there. If memory serves me correctly, Rodriguez had a stinker in the home opener vs. the Revolution (the famous Nicola Caricola own goal game) and that performance was not soon forgotten.
10. Inauspicious debut.
Poor Cesar Delgado. Signed by the Wizards a day before the season opener in 1999 when Tony Meola went down with an injury, Delgado was thrown right into the fire and got -- pardon the awful pun -- burned. Jason Kreis lit him up for a hat trick and the late Mickey Trotman added another. It's too painful to go back and watch the tape, but I think Cesar got nutmegged one or two times. Delgado would never be heard from again in MLS as he was released.
9. Fantastic debut.
Hopes were sky high for young Mexican striker Damian "Don't call me Damian Alvarez" Alvarez. He burst onto the scene in 1997 with 11 goals in 19 games, added one in the playoffs and a big one in an Open Cup semifinal victory against the MetroStars at Columbia University. A year later, however, Damian was on the outs. After just four games, Dave Dir shipped him to New England for Oscar Pareja, who would go on to legendary status in Dallas. As for Damian, he was soon on his way back to Mexico.
8. A wonderful night.
I was in the Rose Bowl along with some 69,000 fans when the Galaxy played their first-ever MLS game, hosting the MetroStars. Truly one of the most glorious nights in league history, and nothing was cooler than seeing the fans flood the field in the aftermath of the game and carry neon-clad goalkeeper Jorge Campos off the field. Campos had a pretty spectacular first season in MLS, but soon the challenge of playing for Mexico and in MLS became too much. Though coach Lothar Osiander used to complain openly about having a 5-foot-8 goalkeeper, Campos was still a positive guy in league history.
After Campos left MLS in 1999, there was some outcry in Chicago for the Fire to sign a Mexican player. I thought perhaps they'd made their fans happy when they used the first selection in the 2000 draft to take a defender out of UCLA named Carlos Bocanegra. I remember the Spanish-language media rushing toward Carlos in Fort Lauderdale, eager to interview him, only to hear 'Los say, "Uh, I don't speak Spanish." Oh well. Yet fans of the Fire did not fret long over Bocanegra's lack of language skills as he became a fixture on their backline for many, many years.
6. No, he's not that Zico.
Another city that badly wanted a Mexican star was San Jose, and I was thrilled to hear that they'd signed Zico in 1997. I mean, even I'd heard the name Zico before. Showing my ignorance here, in a big way, but the Zico who signed with the Clash was not the famous Zico (who is Brazilian, not Mexican), but he did have a wonderful mane of bleach-blond hair. Zico had a goal and an assist in seven games and took a pretty hard red-card foul from Branco (shocker there), and that was all she wrote.
5. Really big deal.
Speaking of bleach-blond hair, ESPN The Magazine sent me out to the Rose Bowl to cover what was then the biggest signing in MLS history, Luis "El Matador" Hernandez, who came to the Galaxy for a big load of cash in 2000. Hernandez was going to light up the league and bring a ton of new fans out to Galaxy games, or so I wrote in the magazine. Turns out he did neither. Oh, he was a better than average MLS striker, but not the difference maker, on or off the field, that many of us thought he'd be. Sadly, even though he scored some big goals in his time in L.A., I'll remember him most for his studs to the forehead of Peter Nowak in the Open Cup semifinals.
4. Now I remember.
A while back when I was feuding with the fans of the 1997 Western Conference Champion Colorado Rapids, I had trouble recalling the name of their Mexican central midfielder. A few days ago, it came back to me. David Patino. I think he had a nickname, and I'll be checking my e-mails to see who the first Rapids fan will be to chime in with the answer (and, I'm sure, a few more choice words for me).
3. On the rebound.
We won't harp on the first season for Chivas USA in MLS. They learned their lesson the hard way that this is not a league to take lightly. Instead, let's focus on a player who, if Chivas locks him up, could well become the best-ever Mexican player in MLS history. Talking here about Panchito Mendoza. How can you not love this guy? Never stops running, plays way bigger than his 5-5, 130 pounds. And, this is huge ... he's my eight-year old son's favorite player, by far.
2. Thanks, Mom!
Count me in as an MLS fan who had no idea, until ESPN's Jeff Carlisle told me, that 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year Jonathan Bornstein was half-Mexican. Juanito has some work to do if he's going to displace Bocanegra as the best Mexican-American in MLS history.
1. Who's next?
The answer could lay ahead in months to come as "Sueno MLS, Chivas Wants You" gets underway. I hope I can get my wife, who has the TiVo running for American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, What Not to Wear, Nanny 911 and every other reality show, excited about this one!