BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Last month, former US U-17 World Cup veteran Alejandro Guido celebrated his 18th birthday by signing a three year professional contract with Club Tijuana and so far his adjustment in Mexico has gone well.
For Guido, a top American prospect, signing with Club Tijuana offered him the opportunity to play with a rising Mexican club while living close to where he grew up.
While the contract was a career milestone for Guido, the timing was not optimal as it came after date when Mexican clubs must register their players for the current season. As a result, Guido is not eligible to play in the current Clausura tournament. He must instead wait until July when the Apertura begins.
Despite that, Guido is progressing at the club where he is training daily with the first team along with fellow Americans Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona, and Gregory Garza. In training, the right-footed Guido is playing a variety of midfield positions ranging from holding midfielder, to either wing position, or to his natural central attacking number 10 role.
"It's been going great," Guido told YA. "Everything has been going well with the transition. The club is very welcoming. It's been really nice. I just train with the first team every day. I have a bunch of other Americans here too. We all talk in English a lot. We are all around each other a lot."
By training with the club's first team, Guido understand what it takes to play the game in the fast-paced Mexican Primera Division. He knows the style of play of the club and feels prepared to contribute at the start of the next season.
Still, he knows that a lot of hard work remains for him to earn a spot in the starting lineup at the beginning of the Apertura.
"My first goal is making my debut professionally," Guido said. "After that I want to earn a spot in the starting eleven. I'll have to work hard but I think I can do it. But first I have to get minutes."
For Guido, joining Tijuana was the conclusion of a long process in his journey to decide where he wanted to begin his professional career.
Following the end of the 2009 U-17 World Cup in Mexico, Guido was wanted by several clubs and Eredivisie club Vitesse showed immediate interest. Guido flew to Holland and trained with Vitesse's first team for a month. Soon after he returned to the US, Vitesse wanted him to return again for another two month training stint.
After his second training round with Vitesse, Guido moved back to the US where he trained briefly with MLS club Colorado Rapids and then went to Tijuana for an extended period.
When he turned 18 on March 8, Guido decided to sign with club Tijuana who showed a lot of interest. The opportunity to play with Xolos, as they are often called, allowed him to live at home across the border in nearby San Diego.
Despite being away from a set team for many months, Guido feels improved since the U-17 World Cup after training extensively in Holland and Mexico.
"I think I've learned a lot the past six months and I've changed as a player in my mentality," Guido said. "I've been training with older professional players when I was at Vitesse. My knowledge of soccer changed tremendously. It was a big transition. I've changed a lot since the World Cup in a positive way."
Guido was born in the United States but was raised in Tijuana. Every day as a child he would cross the border into San Diego to go to school.
Growing up in Tijuana, Guido is very familiar with the history of soccer in that area of Mexico. Tijuana has been the location of many teams in Mexico but few had ever achieved meaningful success. Xolos were founded in 2007 but only achieved promotion last May through the playoffs.
While many promoted teams struggle and are frequently relegated, Xolos have thrived in the current Clausura and are in position to qualify for the league playoffs and perhaps contend for a championship.
The city of Tijuana has had more than its share of problems over the last decade with drug trafficking and a surge in the crime rate. Even with these problems, Xolos has helped provide a necessary boost to the city's population.
"The vibe is so different in the city now," Guido explained. "It is incredible what this team has done for this city. It is growing tremendously. I've heard about people coming all the way from Los Angeles to watch the team. The team is creating so much energy way into the United States. They always knew the team had potential. When it did happen, the city responded."
Guido also is hoping that his development at Xolos leads to his international prospects with the United States. The next step for him is making the US U-20 team who will attempt early next year to qualify for the 2013 World Cup in Turkey.
Guido has already taken part in a U-20 camp in February in Florida and also spent time in March at a U-18 camp under coach Javier Perez.
When US Soccer hired Jurgen Klinsmann as the US national team head coach he had considerable influence over the US youth teams as well. One of Klinsmann's objectives is to have all the national teams play with a similar style and so far that style as revolved around the 4-3-3 formation.
Guido has adjusted to that formation well over the past year and he is optimistic that it will work for the U-20 team under new coach Tab Ramos.
"I loved it," Guido said of his first U-20 camp. "We were trying to implement the 4-3-3 system. It hasn't been tough to adjust. When I was at Vitesse it was the formation we played. I got used to it and I loved it. That's the formation that the world is using right now. I think Tab Ramos is doing a great job with it - Jurgen Klinsman as well."
On the US U-20 team, Guido is one of an increased number of Mexican-Americans who have decided to play for the United States. Others on the team are Juan Ocegueda, Luis Gil, and Omar Salgado.
Guido spent time with Mexico at the U-15 level in addition to playing for the United States. When the time came for him to make a decision, he chose the United States and is happy with his decision so far.
"It was a tough choice," Guido concluded. "I was actually with the U-15s with Mexico and the United States. I had to make a decision and I chose the United States. I went into residency and I've been happy ever since I decided to go to the US. The US has treated me excellent and hopefully one day I can make my senior debut."