Soccer  > General Soccer  > Marquez transfer to NY could indicate trend
August 4, 2010, 10:41 AM
By Brian Trusdell

HARRISON, New Jersey -- The Mexico-United States rivalry has become one of the fiercest in soccer. Now maybe the acrimony is transforming into grudging acceptance.

Tuesday's presentation of El Tri midfielder Rafa Marquez as the latest acquisition of the New York Red Bulls represented the second high-profile Mexican to sign with a Major League Soccer club within a week - following Nery Castillo's joining the Chicago Fire.

Previous Mexican transfers to the United States were perceived more as a side trip or for money, starting with the old North American Soccer League and continuing through Jorge Campos at the launch of MLS in 1996, Carlos Hermosillo and Luis Hernandez. But Cuauhtemoc Blanco's success with the Fire in his two-plus seasons in Chicago have changed opinions.

"I think for many years the American market has been attractive to Mexican players," explained Enrique Borja, 64, a former Mexican national team hero, former executive with Necaxa and Tigres, the Mexican Football Federation president from 1998-2000 and now the executive director for strategic alliance for CONCACAF.

"Many players have come to play but they haven't necessarily achieved the desire impact. I think that the player who changed everything is Cuauhtemoc, due to the way he plays, due to the team he played on. Now with the arrival of Rafa, a player who's been in one of the top clubs in the world, it's a new opportunity for MLS to look toward the Mexican, or Latin, market. "

Marquez arrives in the United States after seven years at FC Barcelona, where he won four Spanish league titles and two European crowns.

"To make this decision I did not think in other Mexicans who have come here ??? the only thing I was thinking to come here to MLS is that it's a league that's growing and that is' a league that is competitive and that will continue to grow," he said.

"I believe that Mexico will continue to have the potential. The United States has grown a lot in the past few years. But I don't think that makes the difference in who is the best or worst. Each one is fighting for their own cause???I don't think that this makes MLS stronger than Mexican league. Each have their problems ??? I believe that the two can grow equally."

The traffic isn't all north of the border either. U.S. international and former Los Angeles forward Herculez Gomez's transfer to Puebla earlier this year and his subsequent success as the co-scoring champion in the Mexican Clausura season earned him another transfer to reigning CONCACAF Champions League champion Pachuca. He will be followed by fellow U.S. World Cup teammate Jonathan Bornstein, who will move from MLS' Chivas USA to Tigres in January. Francisco Torres' play with Pachuca earned him a place on Bob Bradley's U.S. World Cup roster as well.

"The most important thing is that matches between Mexican and American teams are being televised in Mexico and many other countries," Borja said. "This constant competition makes the public see that the league in the United States is growing and the competition is logically not just at the national team level.

"The tournaments, like the (CONCACAF) Champions League, that are televised feature competition between the top clubs from the countries. And the Mexican public, the presidents and officials of clubs are constantly seeing the development of American players."

All of this is gladly welcomed by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who has been trying to convince Latin immigrants to the United States, particularly Mexicans, to accept his league as comparable to what they've known.

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