From Arriola to Yarbrough: Americans to follow in the Liga MX 2017 Clausura

Following a short break, several U.S. footballers are ready to make their marks during the 2017 Clausura. With the league set to begin on Friday, here's a look at some of the Americans to follow in Liga MX.

Omar Gonzalez, DF, Pachuca

Since his arrival in Dec. 2015, Gonzalez has developed into one of the best central defenders in the league. The former LA Galaxy footballer was vital alongside Oscar Murillo during Pachuca's run to the quarterfinals of the 2016 Apertura.

Looking ahead to the Clausura, the 28-year-old has the talents to help Los Tuzos chase another title. We might even see him get a goal or two playing occasionally as a striker; he was thrown forwards at times when Pachuca was desperate for a goal last year.

Paul Arriola, FW, Club Tijuana

Although Arriola went the entire Apertura season without a single start, the 21-year-old was easily the most exciting player off the bench for Xolos.

Now, with another tournament under his belt and minutes garnered with the senior U.S. men's national team in 2016, the California native appears ready to take his game to the next level. It will be fascinating to see how the agile winger develops his talents in 2017.

Michael Orozco, DF, Club Tijuana

Orozco was a key player at right-back for manager Miguel "Piojo" Herrera last season. Although he lacks the pace and attacking capabilities that Herrera tends to favor in the position, the veteran was able to maintain a starting role with consistent performances in the backline.

A favorite of former U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Orozco's status with the national team is now up in the air following Bruce Arena's return to the helm. With this in mind, the defender should have plenty of motivation to immediately shine.

Edgar Castillo, DF, Monterrey

Castillo, who has been an important member of Los Rayados' roster since 2015, only had a handful of starts last season after suffering an injury to his knee in August. Now back to full health, the 30-year-old will have to fight for a more impactful role in Monterrey's squad.

Luckily, the defender has proven himself capable of being a key player for Los Rayados on numerous occasions and shouldn't face many hurdles working his way back into the gameday roster. More Liga MX minutes could also mean a return to the national team.

William Yarbrough, GK, Leon

Unlike any other footballer on this list, Yarbrough was born in Mexico. After initially showing interest in El Tri with Mexico's Under-20 squad, the dual-citizen goalkeeper later switched allegiances in 2015. Thanks to his U.S. roots through his Texan parents, the 27-year-old has been able to earn call-ups for the U.S. men's national team.

With a starting role in Los Panzas Verdes' latest run to the semifinals of the Apertura, it's no surprise that Yarbrough has garnered attention from north of the border. That said, the American with excellent reflexes will be challenged by Leon newcomer Jose Antonio Rodriguez in 2017.

Jorge Villafana, DF, Santos Laguna

Will this be the year that Villafana gets a call-up to the U.S. men's national team? After becoming an important member of Santos Laguna's squad in 2016, the quick left-back appears ready to gain his first minutes with the national team if given the opportunity.

Villafana has had little trouble assimilating into Liga MX's more technical style of play, and he could help improve a Guerreros side that finished last season in 16th place with another good showing.

Jose Francisco Torres, MF, Tigres

Despite the fact Torres was seldom seen on the pitch for Tigres in the Apertura playoffs, the midfielder's 11 starts in the regular season can't be overlooked. In fact, any minutes gained in Los Auriazules' immensely talented roster should be applauded.

It's doubtful that Torres is on the U.S. men's national team's radar at present, but the 29-year-old will likely not be bothered if he is able to win another championship with Tigres in 2017.

Until then, the aggressive midfielder will need to earn his spot back in manager Ricardo Ferretti's starting XI.

Other Americans to keep an eye on: Ventura Alvarado (Santos Laguna), Jonathan Bornstein (Queretaro), Amando Moreno (Tijuana), Joe Corona (Tijuana).