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Old December 12th, 2007, 06:50 AM
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Default The race for the Mexican-American Player

Jawge please comment. Interesting read on identifying talent. - T.K.

The race for the Mexican-American Player

Though existing as CONCACAF competitors for decades, the border war between the US and Mexican national teams has only gained true relevance in recent years. Now, and heading into the future, the battle is evolving into one both countries would never have imagined 10 years ago.
We are now witnessing a race for talent between the two rival nations, as Americans and Mexicans are beginning to stake their claims for the services of burgeoning Mexican-American players.

The struggle to secure the services of Mexican-Americans is a growing issue that will have increasing consequences as American youth soccer continues to grow and improve every year. As the general player gets better, competition increases, and the best players become better players. When some of these players rising through the ranks are Mexican players, it becomes an issue for the U.S. and Mexico. A gain for one equals a blow to the other. And now we’ve witnessed the first blow at the senior level.

Edgar Castillo was born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and featured in the ODP setup as a youth. Castillo was one of New Mexico’s top players growing up, but never gained recognition from any U.S. youth national teams. In 2006, Castillo joined Santos Laguna of Mexico. His brother Noel went with him and made the reserves, but Edgar went on to break into the first team and become a prominent figure in the Primera Division. He became such a prominent figure that he caught the eye of Hugo Sanchez, and now the 21 year-old midfielder is a member of the Mexican national team pool. He debuted for El Tri in August in a friendly against Columbia (ironically in Denver). But Edgar Castillo isn’t Sonny Guadarrama, Castillo’s Santos Laguna teammate and Austin, TX native, who played for the U.S. U-18s and U-20s before switching over to El Tri’s youth side last year. This is a player who didn’t get a look.

"It's frustrating and I really don't understand why Edgar has never gotten a chance with any of the U.S. national teams," says Edgar’s father, Carlos Castillo. "At least things are working out well for Edgar. It's going great for him in Mexico and we're very happy about that. But it makes me worry that the United States is ignoring other kids like Edgar."

It is worrying. Especially since Castillo decided to accept an invitation to the Mexican national team when, "the other side never called me." Castillo has admitted that he was disappointed by the lack of interest from the U.S., and the U.S. might be as well if they start letting players flow across the border in the same manner as Castillo.

Youth coach Linda Lara, who covered Castillo’s ODP expenses growing up, shares Castillo’s disappointment, and revealed an even more disappointing reason for Castillo’s lack of exposure. "They always told us he was not big enough. But after all of his success in Mexico, one would have thought the U.S. national team program would finally give him a chance."
They didn’t.

The U.S. has struggled to identify talent throughout the years because all too often, coaches are looking for size over soccer brains and skills. And the Hispanic player hasn’t been fully integrated into the youth setup because their style of play isn’t entirely compatible with the athletic approach we’ve taken. But it’s discouraging to keep hearing about players missing the cut because of something like size, or style, when some of the top impact players to rise through the ranks in recent years are players like DaMarcus Beasley and Freddy Adu (both are 5’8”, Castillo is 5’9”), and players like Landon Donovan (who’s also 5’8” and was raised playing the Hispanic style). Nobody will argue about the size of talented players like Clint Dempsey (who also grew up playing the Hispanic style) and Jozy Altidore, but this is a game where Diego Maradona and Leonel Messi dominated the world by capitalizing on other qualities. Because really, 10 Oguchi Onyewus are not worth one Messi, and scouting should be about many qualities, not just one as primitively narrow minded as size.
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