Rafael Marquez

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Mexico star Marquez back at Atlas after US drug sanctions

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexican soccer star Rafael Marquez is back with his club more than a month after the U.S. Treasury Department named him on a sanctions list for alleged drug trafficking ties.

Atlas said Monday that the 38-year-old defender is practicing with the team again.

In August, Marquez was among 22 people sanctioned by the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. He was accused of acting as a frontman for the Raul Flores Hernandez drug trafficking organization.

Marquez has denied any wrongdoing and said he will work to clear his name. He is not known to face any criminal charges in the United States or Mexico.

Atlas says Marquez will continue his legal fight while at the team.

Marquez has played internationally with AS Monaco, Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls.

Atlas hopes Marquez can ‘rejoin team’ after US allegations

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexico’s national soccer team and club Atlas have issued cautious statements backing embattled star Rafael Marquez but also apparently distancing themselves somewhat after he was among 22 people sanctioned by the U.S. government for alleged drug trafficking ties.

[ MORE: Assessing the top moves during the MLS summer transfer window ]

Atlas calls Marquez an “exemplary” player and wishes him well. It says it hopes for “a resolution that allows our captain to rejoin the team,” but does not give further details.

Marquez did not practice with the club for a second straight day Thursday.

The national team said Marquez has represented “El Tri” in a dignified fashion for two decades and it trusts “he will clear up his situation with authorities.”

The 38-year-old is a former defender for Barcelona and New York Red Bulls. On Wednesday he denied having any drug ties.

Mexico’s Rafa Marquez scores late winner in Copa win over Uruguay (video)

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The last time someone had scored a goal against Mexico, the date was Oct. 10, 2015 and said goal proved futile for Bobby Wood and the rest of the U.S. national team in their 3-2 CONCACAF Cup defeat.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | Copa America 2016 ]

El Tri entered Sunday’s 2016 Copa America Centenario opener against (a Luis Suarez-less) Uruguay having not conceded a goal in 730 minutes of play (that’s eight full games, plus 10 minutes). At the final whistle inside the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., Juan Carlo Osorio’s side had finally conceded a goal but were 3-1 victors over the 15-time Copa America winners, their streak extended to 804 minutes (six minutes shy of nine full games) before it was broken by a late equalizer.

Mexico got on the board early, four minutes into the game, when Alvaro Pereira got onto the end of Andres Guardado’s cross and unknowingly headed the ball into his own net, scoring the fastest own goal ever score in the 100-year history over Copa America.

[ MORE: Venezuela open Group C play with victory over Jamaica ]

21 minutes later, Guardado was perhaps lucky to not be sent off for a wild, sliding tackle that took out the legs of Carlos Sanchez (below video). No such luck for Uruguay’s Matias Vecino, who was shown his second yellow card of the game in the 45th minute. Down a goal, and now down to 10 men.

Uruguay had a brilliant chance for an equalizer that came and went in the 58th minute, when a turnover inside Mexico’s defensive half of the field launched a quick counter-attack the other way. Diego Rolan was the man who eventually fired the shot, but his left-footed strike bounced wide of Alfredo Talavera’s right-hand post.

[ MORE: Lionel Messi OUT for Argentina’s opener vs. Chile ]

It was Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin who bagged the equalizer and broke Mexico’s streak. Coincidentally, the goal came off the restart after Guardado was shown a second yellow card and sent for an early shower.

Then, it was time for perhaps one of the last heroic moments of 37-year-old Rafa Marquez’s legendary career. It had to be Marquez. It just had to be. Hector Herrera added an insurance goal in the 90th minute, heading home from Raul Jimenez’s floated ball across the box.

When Group C play resumes on Thursday, Uruguay will face Venezuela at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Penn., with group-leading Mexico doing battle with Jamaica at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., later that evening..

20 years later, Rafa Marquez returns to Atlas to finish where he started

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Rafa Marquez is going home to Atlas, the club for which he made his professional debut nearly 20 years ago as a 17-year-old product of the club’s youth academy, the Guadalajara-based Liga MX club announced on Sunday.

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After a year-and-a-half tour in Italy with Serie A’s Hellas Verona, for whom he signed following a complete career renaissance at the 2014 World Cup, Marquez’s legendary career, which has seen him play for six clubs in five countries — winning two UEFA Champions League and four La Liga titles at Barcelona; one Ligue 1 title at Monaco; and a pair of half-season titles at Leon — is nearing the inevitable: the end.

At the 2014 World Cup, Marquez famously became the first player in history to captain his country at four different World Cups.

[ MORE: Man City early leaders to land Guardiola | Transfer rumor roundup ]

Now back in Mexico, Marquez joins a struggling side which finished 16th of 18 teams in the just-completed Apertura season. Atlas, who finished in the bottom-third of the league in terms of goals conceded this fall, now find themselves in danger of being relegated with another poor showing in the upcoming Clausura.

Talking Houston, El Tri, Chivas loan with Erick “Cubo” Torres; Ready to “do all the right moves” in MLS

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2014 was a heck of year for Erick “Cubo” Torres. The young striker scored his first senior goal for the Mexican national team, starred for Chivas USA during its final year in Major League Soccer and watched an uncertain club future play out before finding a home with the Houston Dynamo.

Now on loan to Chivas Guadalajara, Torres can focus on his game knowing his national coach likes him and his club isn’t going anywhere. Torres, 22, traded some Q&A with PST during a promotional tour celebrating a relationship between his Mexican club’s relationship with Tecate/Tecate Light in the United States.

Torres isn’t headed back to MLS for a little bit still, but the striker has been encouraged not only by the Houston community but the support of Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera for those El Tri players plying their trade in the U.S.

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“It’s very meaningful to hear what my mentor and teacher Miguel Herrera has expressed,” said Torres, who netted his first El Tri goal in October versus Panama.

“He has influenced a big deal in my decision to remain in the MLS, now with the Dynamo in Houston, because just like the national Mexican soccer Team, Miguel’s advice has motivated me a lot. The eyes are on the MLS, and my efforts are being looked (at). It’s important that everybody sees the work that is being done in the MLS.”

Torres mentioned DaMarcus Beasley as a player he’s most interested in getting to know, and playing alongside, noting Beasley’s vast experience and time in Mexico. And he mentioned that Dynamo fans’ welcoming thoughts on social media have been a boon to his confidence, and that Houston’s ethnic diversity is a big part of his comfort.

“The Hispanic community in Houston, it’s very important,” he said. “It’s a beautiful city, where I will feel very comfortable, since its so close to my country and where there is a lot of people who will make me feel at home.”

[ RELATED: Do MLS players hold the power in CBA talks? ]

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Torres has found playing time tight for relegation-threatened Chivas Guadalajara

But Torres wasn’t averse to discussing his wild 2014. The striker and his Chivas USA teammates had to watch as fans speculated about the future of the club, Los Angeles “rebrand” badges were bandied about, and the league eventually decided that the Goats would be no more. I asked Torres whether he was relaxed or anxious about the impending changes.

“Honestly, I was very excited for this new change in my life and career, a new type of soccer and new lifestyle overall change,” said Torres, who exploded for 15 goals in 26 matches last season with the Goats.

“I thank God because I’ve had a lot support from a lot of people who helped in this transition process and quickly adapt to the new city and the MLS. I took this challenge with a lot of enthusiasm because I knew it was going to be a good opportunity to move forward in my career.”

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He’s also relishing the loan, even knowing Houston could try to trigger its end before May 13.  A lifelong Chivas fan raised in Guadalajara, moving away from his boyhood club hasn’t been easy.

Knowing that Chivas is not entirely safe from Liga MX relegation doesn’t make it less difficult, and finding playing time in a forward corps of Omar Bravo, Aldo de Nigris, and Rafael Marquez Lugo hasn’t been easy work, either. But Torres knows there’s a greater good despite being limited to a pair of substitute appearances for Guadalajara since Jan. 18.

We asked Torres about his goals for the season ahead, with Chivas, Houston and Mexico.

“Now that I’m with Chivas I’d like to close this tournament the best way possible, try to add more goals and minutes as wells as in the near future be able to play with the national soccer team, because there are important events coming such as Copa America and Copa Oro. In either of this two events, there could be an open opportunity for young players, so I¹m definitely working towards that. Also, there is an interesting process with the national team within my category and I am concentrating fully putting my mind in representing my country. After incorporating with my new team in Houston, I hope to adapt as fast as I can to do all the right moves.”

Torres should thrive in Houston, and it’ll be interesting to monitor how Herrera uses “Cubo” this summer. The striker was dynamite to watch in 2014 and should help the Owen Coyle’s Dynamo be a part of the discussion in a loaded Western Conference.

*Many thanks to Tecate’s Gustavo Guerra and Shaun Levy for arranging the discussion with Torres.