Monterrey forward Carlos Ochoa was called up to the Mexican national team a week ago by Sven Goran Eriksson. A bit of a surprise call-up, Ochoa had not been with El Tri for quite a few years.
Ochoa, though, was a bit of a rarity among his Tri teammtes. Like Edgar Castillo, Ochoa has ties to the United States. But unlike Castillo, Ochoa was not born and bred in the United States.
I got a question from a reader about Ochoa and off hand I remembered hearing something about Ochoa growing up partly in SoCal. Well, he went to high school and college here in the US. He was a star at both Sierra Vista High in Baldwin Park, Calif., and Azusa Pacific University. At Azusa Pacific, he tallied 36 goals in three seasons.
He was born in Apatzingan, Michoacan, and lost both of his parents when he was eight years old. At age 12, he moved to California to live with a brother and spent the next eight or so years in the United States. In 1998, he apparently had some sort of tryout with the Galaxy but did not make it and instead tried his luck in Mexico.
According to an old story I dug up (in Spanish), he was referred to Necaxa by Carlos Hermosillo and Ochoa toiled his way through the Mexican lower divisions. He played a total of four games for Necaxa in 1999 and 2000 before moving to Tigres for the Verano 2001 season. By the Invierno 2001 season, he found his groove and scored five goals that year. He followed it up with a two-goal campaign in the Verano 2002 but made an even more impressive move afterward as he joined Spanish side Osasuna when former Tri coach Javier "Vasco" Aguirre took over the Spanish side.
Ochoa only played a handful of games with Osasuna before returning to Mexico, where he rejoined Tigres. He bounced around to Queretaro and Jaguares before joining Monterrey in the Apertura 2006 season. He has posted goal totals of 3, 2, 4 and 2 with Monterrey. This season, though, he has scored twice already.
So there you go. Ochoa played both high school and college soccer here in the States but went to Mexico to make a name for himself.
However, I don't put him in the same category as the other sangre americana lads, including Sammy Ochoa (no relation) because Carlos has not played for a U.S. youth national team like Sammy, the only Mexican-born player in the aforementioned group.
Did he slip through the cracks? Who knows? I don't know the circumstances of his tryout with the Galaxy in 1998. If he had made it, there's nothing that says Ochoa would be a star in MLS today. He's certainly not a star in Mexico, just an average forward with flashes of something more. To put it in perspective, he's played parts of 17 seasons in Mexico, has scored 54 goals and exactly zero seasons with 10 or more goals. Jared Borgetti, his teammate with Monterrey and a big name in Mexican soccer, has played parts of 25 seasons, has scored 241 career goals and has had 12 seasons with 10 or more goals.
Good for Ochoa that he did well with the challenges life threw his way, and good for Azusa Pacific who has a former player with the Mexican national team. But I don't know that Ochoa counts as another player who got away. Edgar Castillo, most definitely. Ochoa, not quite the same category.