There’s a lot of intrigue and a bit of mystery surrounding Wednesday night’s international friendly between the United States and Mexico. The two powers of CONCACAF reconvene just 46 days after el Tri faced down an early 2-0 deficit to defeat the American hosts 4-2 in Gold Cup Final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.
That result sparked a fury of calls for U.S. and former Fire head coach Bob Bradley’s sacking, which came late last month. The next day, having long flirted with the idea of Juergen Klinsmann as head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati named the German World Cup winner as the team’s new manager.
Familiar with Klinsmann from his time with Bundesliga side Stuttgart, Chicago Fire midfielder and longtime Mexican international Pavel Pardo is intrigued with Wednesday’s match in Philadelphia.
Pardo on Mexico
“It’s going to be a good game,” he said. “Klinsmann is the U.S. coach now, I think it’s going to be interesting to see how the team performs under him. From the Mexican side, I’ve always found it interesting when our national team plays here. I like it because the people here are far away from their country but when the national team comes they can see their players and have that connection with home.”
While most of the names on Klinsmann’s first roster were what you would expect, the recall of Edgar Castillo and Michael Orozco Fiscal, two Mexican-based U.S. internationals were definite names that stuck out.
While U.S. fans should be a bit more familiar with Orozco Fiscal, who was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team and spent the 2010 season on loan with the Philadelphia Union from San Luis, Castillo is a much less known quantity.
Born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Castillo began playing professionally in Mexico for Santos Laguna in 2006 and with dual nationality, went on to play for el Tri in both 2008 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying as well as making three appearances for the senior national team.
Despite a transfer to Mexican giants Club America in 2009, Castillo slowly fell out of favor in the Mexican national team setup and went out on what has been a series of loans from las Aguilas, first to Tigres, then San Luis and most recently Puebla.
When FIFA changed their rules regarding national team eligibility for dual citizens in 2009, Castillo saw the opportunity to switch to the country of his birth and became the first player to be capped by the U.S. under the new rules in a friendly against Denmark in November 2009.
Despite his loan spells around the Mexican Primera Division, Castillo is a player Pardo is familiar with from their time together at America.
“Edgar’s a good player. When he was young he played for Mexico and then he had the opportunity to play for the United States. Sometimes as a player you have to choose what is better for you, in which team or country you have the possibility to play. For him he has dual nationality and he did what was best for him.
As a left back, Castillo plays a position that the U.S. has long tried to convert center backs, or speedy wingers and even forwards into playing for long over a decade. That long list of players includes Jeff Agoos, Carlos Bocanegra, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey and everyone’s favorite Jonathan Bornstein. The results have been mixed at best and often times a letdown, with opponents recognizing the spot on the field as a weak one.
According to Pardo, is Castillo potentially the answer at left back for Juergen Klinsmann and the United States?
“He’s a very fast player. He’s not the best defender but he can learn. It’s good to see he’s playing for America again, he’s really good going forward with great crossing ability and is a hard worker. He has potential to be a very good player. We’ll see what’s going on in the future with the national team. Juergen likes smart players and people that have good technique, I think that’s the reason Edgar has been recalled for the U.S.”
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.