Between all of the existential angst and frantic pointing towards how much of a disadvantage MLS teams are at in the CONCACAF Champions League due to its quarterfinals starting in MLS preseason, you might have noticed a theme in the Liga MX sides on Tuesday and Wednesday nights: Americans.
Club America was the only team to not field an American left back in their tilt with the Seattle Sounders at Estadio Azteca. Santos Laguna and Queretaro started California natives Jorge Villfaña and Jonathan Bornstein, respectively, while Tigres fielded Texan Jose "Gringo" Torres. What with auditions for USMNT left back seeming to be so wide open that Jurgen Klinsmann needed to pull DaMarcus Beasley out of retirement for the Gold Cup, one would think Jurgen Klinsmann would be praising the endeavors displayed by defenders from these United States of America.
One problem: none of these guys have gotten a sniff of the National Team under Klinsmann as of late.
In fairness to Klinsi, all three players are in very different stages of their career. Bornstein might be the oddest name of the bunch. Often maligned by American fans (and forever the patron saint of Honduran soccer), Bornstein has seen a surprise career renaissance in Mexico. He had fallen out of favor with the national team after Bob Bradley's departure, but once again managed to achieve cult status with Mexican fans after scoring the go ahead goal against Pachuca in the 2015 Liga MX semifinals. Jose Torres, a member of the 2010 World Cup squad with Bornstein, was another Bob Bradley favorite that fell out of the picture after a year and a half of Klinsmann's reign. Normally a crafty midfielder, Torres showed versatility when Tigres needed it, and was a member of their Liga MX championship squad.
Jorge Villafaña is another case completely. Both Torres and Bornstein are good players, good enough to maintain spots and playing time on good Liga MX teams (which is more than some current national team players can boast, honestly). Villafaña, on the other hand, has just spent the past year and a half taking MLS and Liga MX by storm. He helped anchor MLS Champions Portland Timbers, locking down several dangerous wingers (including Colombian international Fabian Castillo and USMNT debutant Ethan Finlay) when most people expected him to be the weak link along the green and gold's back line. His play earned him a move to Santos Laguna, where he's proceeded to improve even more, winning the starting left back spot and continuing to play impressive defense. Torres and Bornstein, while solid players, were casualties of regime change, and that happens. But Villafaña hasn't even been called by U.S. Soccer, despite playing for their U-23 team and being a dual national that is fully available to be called up by Mexico.
All of this calls into question Jurgen Klinsmann's relationship with Liga MX. It's clearly a superior league to MLS (even despite the timing of the CCL. It just is), but he's shown a remarkable inconsistency with the players he calls up. Ventura Alvarado, William Yarbrough, Joe Corona, Greg Garza, Edgar Castillo, and even DaMarcus Beasley have enjoyed call-ups from Klinsmann on the back of their Liga MX play, but with all due respect, the left back spot for the USMNT has been inconsistent since Carlos Bocanegra moved to central defense. Now, Klinsmann has a rising star proven in both Mexico and the United States, in danger of being called up by Mexico, and it still seems he hasn't had the courtesy to shoot him a text. It just doesn't seem to vibe with his normal urgency to secure the services of dual nationals.
The U.S. has World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala later this month, and there's no real word on if Villafaña will get a call-up at all, but I, for one, am tired of any excuses as to the alleged dearth of left backs in the U.S. pool, even if you don't count Fabian Johnson as a defender. Klinsmann has good left backs at his disposal. It's up to him to call them.