Sub-17 Copa Independencia 2013 and Mexico’s Preparation for u-17 World Cup

Coming right on the heels of Copa Mexico de Naciones, a u-15 national team tournament in Mexico City, capital clubs América, and Cruz Azul hosted the 4th edition of the Copa Independencia. Founded in 2010, the Copa Independencia is an elite u-17 international club tournament held in August in Mexico City every year. In the past the competition has drawn the likes of Peñarol (URU), Sao Paulo, Santos and Internacional (BRA), Boca Juniors and River Plate (ARG), CSKA Moscow (RUS), Barcelona (SPA),  and Fiorentina (ITA). Previous editions of the tournament were won by Sao Paulo in 2010, Boca Juniors in 2011, and Chivas last year.

This year’s edition of the tournament, from August 19 to 25, boasted some of the most storied clubs from the Americas yet again with Corinthians from Brazil and Universidad de Chile sending youth squads. Not to discredit these teams but the Spanish contingent stole the headlines as both Real Madrid and Barcelona flew youth teams across the Atlantic to compete. 6 Mexican sides round out the 10-team field, with Toluca, Tigres, Pumas, and Chivas joining joint-hosts Cruz Azul and América. Continue reading

Judging Tecatito’s Move to FC Twente

Jesús “Tecatito” Corona has earned his long-awaited move to Europe through quality showings for both club and country. The Monterrey winger has shown an ability to play a number of different positions in various lineups and recently assumed a leadership role with Mexico’s U-20 squad during the World Cup in Turkey. FC Twente finally wrapped up the deal to get their man after months of negotiations with the Mexican club.

FC Twente are an above average side in the Eredivisie in the Netherlands, which is a competitive league under the upper echelon of the the English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish Liga, Italian Serie A, or French Ligue 1. The team finished 2nd in 2010-11 to earn a Champions League place, 6th in 2011-12 to book a ticket to the Europa League, and ended the season in 2012-13 sitting in 6th place but missing out on European competition.

In the 2011-2012 European campaign, Twente was knocked out before the group stage of the Champions League by Portugese side Benfica. Rather than get disheartened, the team went on to win their group in the second-tier Europa League and beat Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti before falling to Schalke 04 in the round of 16. Continue reading

Cuban forward Yaikel Pérez signs with Fort Lauderdale Strikers

Yaikel Pérez playing with Alianza F.C. in El Salvador – photo credit to ElGrafico.com

On Tuesday afternoon the Fort Lauderdale Strikers announced the signing of Cuban forward Yaikel Pérez for the remainder of the 2013 NASL season.

Pérez played for local team Ciudad de Habana growing up in Cuba and impressed coaches enough to earn a call up to the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The striker was on the Gold Cup squad along with Lester Moré, Maykel Galindo, Pedro Faife, and Reysander Fernández who have all since defected to the United States. Defection is an ugly word held over from the heated political exchanges between the United States and Cuba during the Cold War. The unique political situation of the two countries presents an opportunity for Cuban migrants to receive a work permit to work in the States more easily than other undocumented immigrants from Latin America.

Pedro Faife and Reiner Alcántara both joined Miami FC, a precursor to the modern Strikers, after they left the national team during a World Cup Qualifying match in 2008. Five players who left Cuba’s u23 team during qualification for the 2008 Olympics trained with Miami FC, but none were given contracts at the time.

Pérez signed with Miami FC in 2006 but only stayed in southern Florida for a single season. After leaving Miami FC, he bounced around amateur and minimally professional teams in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. In 2012 the Cuban forward moved to El Salvador where he established some consistency with Alianza F.C. and also played for CD Aguila. On August 13, NASL club Fort Lauderdale Strikers announced they had reached an agreement for Pérez for the rest of the 2013 season. The Strikers have 12 games left in the season and 6 of those are at home in Lockhart Stadium.

Some may criticize the team for signing a player in what may be an attempt to pander to a large Cuban population in southern Florida. There might be some merit in those criticisms since Pérez has not exactly lit up the field in his journeyman career (the Strikers are his 10th team in 8 years). However, Pérez may have hit his stride recently in El Salvador and simply needed the interceding years to make up for the lack of development he received in his native Cuba.

Copa México de Naciones: A Premier International u-15 Tournament

“El futuro del fútbol mundial nuevamente estará en México mostrando sus cualidades”

“The future of world football will again be in Mexico showcasing their talents” – a promotion commonly used in press releases for the Copa México de Naciones

Last year marked the first edition of the Copa México de Naciones which ran from June 18 until June 24. The tournament invited the following 8 teams: Mexico, Spain, Nigeria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Canada, and United States. Nigeria decided not to attend the tournament which prompted organizers to include an all star youth team from Mexico’s amateur Third Division, which is actually the fourth tier of the country’s league system. This last minute addition was listed as “Mexico II” in the proceedings.

Both in 2012 and 2013, the tournament rules stipulate two 35 minute halves with a 10 minute break for halftime. This is crucial as the group stage games are played on consecutive days.

The United States team went 1-1-1 in group B of the 2012 tournament; beating Costa Rica, drawing Colombia, and losing to Spain. Mexico II beat Mexico in penalties in one semifinal match while Colombia defeated Spain in a penalty shootout in the other. Colombia lost to Mexico II after the final went into extra rounds of penalties. Continue reading