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Cruz Azul closing in on MLS trio

Jose Villarreal

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Liga MX club Cruz Azul is nearing a deal to acquire three young midfielders in Major League Soccer with ties to Mexico.

According to multiple reports on Friday, the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Jose Villarreal, San Jose Earthquakes’ Rafael Baca, and Philadelphia Union’s Michael Farfan are close to completing moves to Cruz Azul for the 2014 Liga MX Clausura season. The reports state that Villarreal’s move would be a loan deal while Farfan’s would be a permanent transfer.

Cruz Azul listed the players on their website even though the deals reportedly haven’t been finalized. The Galaxy declined to comment on the reports, per LA Galaxy insider.

All three players hold Mexican citizenship and wouldn’t be counted as foreigners for Cruz Azul’s squad registration purposes. Unlike Villarreal and Farfan though, Baca doesn’t hold American citizenship and is the only one of the trio born in Mexico. A separate report in ESPN Deportes says that the players won’t be unveiled this weekend along with the signings of Marco Fabian, Xavier Baez, and Fausto Pinto, as manager Luis Fernando Tena has yet to decide who will play with the first team or the reserves, Cruz Azul Hidalgo.

La Maquina is undergoing a major rebuilding process this winter with the departures of head coach Guillermo Vázquez, veteran midfielder Israel Castro, and defender Jair Pereira. The additions of Villarreal (20), Farfan (25), and Baca (24) add a bit more youth to the club now coached by a former Mexico Under-23 coach who led the side to a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics.


What do you think of this report? Surprised that all three would leave MLS? Do you expect other Liga MX teams to come calling for MLS talent? How do you see the Union, Earthquakes, and Galaxy replacing Farfan, Baca, and Villarreal for next season?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. What nearly everybody has failed to mention here is that 2 of the 3 clubs losing players in this deal have still failed to acknowledge its even taken place. WTF. I have defended the single-entity system for years now, but if anybody out there still thinks this league doesn’t do back office deals to suit their own whims are fooling themselves.

  2. It’s a win-win for mexican club. They get 3 average players for a cheaper price than the local market and the added benefit of not counting for the foreigner quota (a huge commodity there).

  3. I always said, the day the mexican teams start taking talent from MLS, MLS will have to raise the salary cap and the designated rule.
    As a matter of fact, the mexican federation said last year, that they will keep track of the dual citizenship players in MLS in order to get them into their league and national team. Just like kilnsi is doing it right now and the American soccer federation.
    Another point, why is the mexican women’s national team getting better, because the mexican federation has been recruiting college talent with double citizenship.
    Oh by the way, ligaMX will copy MLS everything, in order to disrupt MLS and not let it grow.
    For instance, ligaMX wants 20 teams and new stadiums by 2026 in order to host the World Cup. So far they are remodeling stadiums and getting news ones.

      • Well luckily most teams are concentrated in central Mexico where crime isn’t as much of a factor as border cities.

      • are you a cartel member? because if not then you have nothing to worry about, but in the US you never know when are you going find yourself in the middle of a mass shooting.

      • Don’t worry, I’m not a cartel member. As far as the mass shooting comment, I could just as easily comment that if I am walking through Reynosa or Morelia I could find myself in the middle of a gunfight.

        Look, it’s just my opinion that Mexico has to roll up their sleeves a bit to get another World Cup under their belt. I actually want Mexico to get better, it’s where my ancestors are from.

      • I live in the border and this cartel crap is not part of everyday life. It’s a media thing.

        I’d love to see a Canada-USA-Mexico World Cup on 2026. It’s perfectly doable.

      • Ha…you’ve been paying attention to the mx media. No problem here, look over there at the US.complete BS. Mx unfortunately has a completely corrupt govt and judicial system, not just recently but for all of it’s existence before and after the revolution. Paga el perro como siempre. Everything in mx is for sale, business, govt. officials, judges, al infinito y mas alla. The narcos run their business from the jails with the help of the jailers. It’s a history of complete corruption. Yes there are too many guns in the US but you don’t have uzi carrying narcos loaded in the back of pick-up trucks driving around neighborhoods in the middle of the day. Not yet anyway 🙂
        Sadly, that is the reality. There is no comparison. The mx govt has manufactured media to not show so much reality and say that everything is fine. It’s just bs.

      • “They don’t have chance to host the WC. The only place that has that ability in Concacaf is the US.”

        You were born in the 90s, weren’t you.

    • I don’t think this is a plan disrupt MLS’ progress, especially considering most guys in Mexico were outcasted MLS players or willing loaned sold to Mexican clubs.

      The only problem we’ve seen is poaching of youngsters who played in MLS academies, which something MLS is very aware of and I think, like in Europe, there will eventually be some sort of compensation agreement for such cases. But MLS is certainly not going to stand idly by when they know and the USSF and everyone around that our academies are one in the most important factors in the growth of American soccer

      • Yeah….. only one conspiracy here… it is what it is and pretty standard stuff in the soccer world…. a club scouring the globe for players… conspiring to increase the quality and depth of their club. That MLS players are perhaps provoking more interest than in the past and a quality Mx club is dealing w/ an MLS club on a loan deal is a sign of respect, not a bad sign. This is what it’s like being treated as an equal… welcome to the mainstream of competitive soccer.

  4. I remember Eric Gomez talking about Mexico starting to get more agressive about getting these dual nationals. Looks like this could be just the start.

    • Idk how Tijuana’s ratings have been in the U.S. since the their influx of dual-nationals, but assuming they were boosted, I’d probably think that would be a growing trend for Mexican clubs.

      We see them trying to grab a hold of big names too in recent years (Donovan, O.Gonzalez). Also the success of Beasley and H. Gomez. All these factors taken together and I’d say there’s good reason for Mexican clubs to start trying to pursue American players and dual-nationals

  5. Good lord three guys leave MLS and the sky is falling. Look at this way like Terrance Boyd leaving Dortmound to go to a lesser league to get minutes so too did these three 🙂

  6. Never rated Baca nor Farfan, I do rate Villareal. However he needs more development. This loan will help him. I also have to mention both the Galaxy and NYRB academies are stack.

  7. Double blow to mls. Liga mx gets better while mls gets worse. The fastest way for mls to past liga mx is to sign their players away.

  8. This is also a sign of how good the La Galaxy acadamy is. It could be nothing more than move him to give s different look plus sign Wright to a pro deal.

    • How good? It sounds like he goes from LA reserves to Cruz Azul B in a playing time loan which arguably reflects badly on our development system. He was a key US U20, how can you not bridge that into the LAG first team?

      • He was a key US U20, how can you not bridge that into the LAG first team?

        Have to agree. Honestly. At least a rotation player? One begins to wonder if Bruce isn’t a beginning to fear the reaper a bit much.

      • I totally underestimated the number of minutes that JV played last year. I withdraw my comment. He played >1000 minutes in ’13. Good enough. He’ll have to make his case with those minutes, honestly.

      • are you saying that a rookie should have no trouble beating out donovan, keane, magee, zardes, mcbean. he played decent minutes last year — an amount that served as a great introduction to the professional game and helped him reach another level in his development. Now, maybe the cruz azul move would help him reach even another level and help him make a big impact for next year’s stretch run and playoffs?

      • He has Donovan and Keane in front of him and is competing with McBean and Zardes, two very promising young players. This is why, whats his name (can’t remember at the moment) left the Galaxy system for Tijuana where he became a sometime starter. The Galaxy also have Haji Wright, who just lit up Brazil and England in a youth tournament a week or so ago.

  9. Galaxy fan here. I like the move for Villarreal. He didn’t get much playing time in 2013, so I don’t begrudge him or LA for making the move happen. He’s only 20 and needs to play to develop. Liga MX is obviously better quality than MLS, so it’s great for him.

    I am concerned with LA’s personnel changes in 2013. In this calendar year we jettisoned a league MVP, signed Robbie Rogers, signed a way-past-his-prime GK (made up for it with Penedo too late in the season), refused to extend Franklin’s contract, and now LA shrunk its depth at forward. If Villarreal comes back to LA, he and the team will be better for it. If he doesn’t, then we’re left with very few options at forward when Donovan is at the WC.

      • If it’s a loan, as the article suggests, then nothing, other than having his salary off the books for the term of the agreement.

        Not sure three magic frijoles will be enough to get him up to Mike Magee, although if they could get him up to “old Robbie Rogers” it would be a nice start.

      • There could also be a loan fee. I would even be inclined to think one was likely given the nature of the loan. The galaxy would get some allocation money as a result, just like with a transfer.

      • the idea might be that it will be great for him to be in a different environment for a few months (maybe not even playing with the first team) so that he can step in in the middle of next season ready to contribute big.

  10. The players that come to mind that are most likely to be above in the pecking order for cruz azuls midfield are Marco Fabian, Chaco gimenez, and Barrera.

      • His goal against Real Madrid, yes. THE real Madrid was a thing of beauty. I do think his quality suffered towards the end of last season. With the various injuries the Galaxy had, Villarreal probably played more minutes for a young player than he should have ab the fatigue factor got to him. He is still a talented player with a tremendous upside and the Galaxy would be loathe to lose him permanently.

      • Rafael Baca is a great cental mid as well.

        I think this is great for them.

        They’ll sharpen their technical skills and and play in tight spaces which should do a lot to help them hone their already strong attributes

    • They might be terrible in MLS, but could also be great in Liga MX similar to Herculez Gomez. This is actually pretty smart on Liga MX’s part. Poach MLS players for pennies that aren’t exactly lighting up the league, probably because their style of play doesn’t mesh with MLS, and then hope they become huge stars in Mexico and then sell them for a bigger price tag. Villareal has a real possibility of being one of these cases. If they don’t pan out, then Liga MX hasn’t really lost all that much in terms of cost. MLS teams in order to compete from losing players like these will either have to start paying these guys more or change their style of play in order to get the best out of some of these players.

  11. wow best of luck to Villareal. at 20 years old he has already played for his hometown team (Los Angeles) and his father’s favorite team (Cruz Azul).. pretty cool. Hope he takes his game to the next level there..

  12. I’m not surprised that they would leave, especially Villarreal. Playing in Liga MX is a step up from MLS and he will be able to train in a much more competitive environment. He’ll probably play with the reserves and if he shows well he might get a few sub appearances for the first-team.

    • Multiple media sources have said Villareal move to Cruz Azul, is only a loan. ose Villareal loan deal is ONLY until mid-May, then Galaxy have option of taking him back or loaning back out until Dec. No Option on Villarreal,only on Baca & Farfan.

    • Villareal is only making 30k a year because of MLS rules on academy players. Teams can only have 2 HGP on their roster making Generation Addidas money. LA has Zardes and McBean.

      MLS has some really dumb rules but this one takes the cake. It’s something only ex-NFL goobers could come up with. It’s a rule that actually harms our youth development. How so you say? Follow the logic – LA already has their quota of HGP making GA money. Thus, they have less incentive to put more money into their academy because they know they won’t be able to sign any more players to competitive contracts.

      • “Villareal is only making 30k a year because of MLS rules on academy players.”

        Actually $48,750 in 2013 per the MLS Players Union and likely due for a raise in 2014. It’s disappointing that an LA kid who has come through the Galaxy academy and started 12 games for the club as a teenager is going to Mexico. Why is he going? If MLS is inferior then he has a better chance playing for LA then Cruz Azul. If LA is too tough then maybe he should stick around with the club that invested in him and work a little harder to get minutes. This leaves me with a bad taste about Villareal.

      • It is a bit puzzling why this leaves a bad taste in his mouth as if it is some kind of betrayal…. happens all the time in soccer… it is a few month loan, agreed to by the LA Galaxy in order to benefit their player and the LA Galaxy by providing him with quality training and playing time to aid in his fitness and development.

      • MLS in a nutshell…cant keep young talent here can only sign old washed up euro retreads…not a great business plan for growing the sport here. This league needs a total paradigm shift.

      • If you don’t think Frank Lampard will sell more tickets then Villareal you’re nuts. And in the end that’s what it’s about. Revenue and profit. MLS is a business.
        That being said, the limit on HG contracts and minimum salaries is pretty dumb.

      • The League has brought in far bigger names than Fat Frank and TV ratings are still rather minuscule. The poster I was replying to was saying that MLS needs to develop US talent & stars, not keep bringing in old euros. And, I agree with that.

      • I think MLS would be better off doubling the salary cap and taking away a DP. I think a team would be better off having five guys getting $500 k per year than one guy getting $2.5 million per year. They can poach a lot of fringe first division European players like Barnes and Reo-Coker that way and that would do more to improve the league quality, IMO. And then do away with the kind of silly rules you mention. The minimum salary should be at least $50 k and anyone making the bench consistently should get at least $75 k. Starters should be getting minimums of $100 to 150 k. You see cases of starters making $70 k or less, which is ridiculous.

      • I’d replace the salary cap with a foreign player salary cap. And would also get rid of the stupid HGP contract rules.

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