Those stuck in passenger vehicle traffic at the Ambassador Bridge or Detroit-Windsor Tunnel might spare a thought for FC Juarez third-choice goalkeeper Marco Canales.
His international border commute from Mexico into El Paso, Texas where he lives can be brutal. Waits can take as long as 2½-3 hours, said Canales, 17, whose FC Juarez team plays Detroit City FC Wednesday in an international friendly at Keyworth Stadium. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
“Sometimes there's about five cars in the line crossing back here to El Paso and sometimes there's about 50 cars,” Canales said. “Right now with Trump and all of that, and there are a lot of immigrants who want to cross to El Paso who are undocumented, so they get more attention.”
Ironically, the commute into Juarez isn't so bad where there is little or no wait. He still departs at 6:30 a.m. to arrive for an 8 a.m. practice, just in case.
The teenage netminder shrugs off such inconveniences as FC Juarez suddenly finds itself in Mexico’s top flight without even so much as a kick of a ball.
The four-year old club made the leap to the first division from the second after buying Lobos BUAP and taking that team's spot in the top-tier Liga BBVA MX.
DCFC was originally scheduled to play the Puebla-based team before last month's switch took place.
“It caught everyone by surprise because we all heard a lot of rumors about it happening but we never thought it would happen,” Canales said. “There had been rumors it would happen since last year. ‘It was going to happen. It was going to happen.’ We kept waiting and then all of sudden our team president purchased a franchise.
“We're all glad for the opportunity.”
Los Bravos start play in the Apertura on July 19 when they face Club Atlas. Coincidentally, DCFC hosts Atlas in an international friendly Sept. 7.
FC Juarez plays its home matches at 19,703-seat Olimpico Benito Juarez, though there is talk of building a new stadium.
Though the American side of the border has its own soccer team, the USL Championship El Paso Locomotive, FC Juarez draws a strong following from the area’s Hispanic community. MountainStar Sports Group, which owns the Locomotive as well as the city's Double-A baseball team, also has a minority stake in FC Juarez.
FC Juarez’s stateside following is only likely to increase as Mexican marquee teams Club America, Chivas, Pumas UNAM and Tigres will visit Juarez, which hasn’t had first division soccer since Indios were in the top flight in 2010. That club disbanded after being relegated.
Canales, who is a dual citizen, best illustrates FC Juarez cross-border story.
The El Paso Cathedral High School goalkeeper emerged from a tryout attended by thousands to land one of 33 spots on the club’s third division team two years ago.
Due to his dual citizenship, he couldn’t play any minutes in any Tercera División matches.
However, the regimented Monday through Sunday practices only honed the shot-stoppers’ game. Occasionally the first-team coach summoned Canales over from the adjoining academy field when another goalkeeper was needed to take part in drills.
“So that's when I started showing a little bit of what I had to them,” said Canales, who signed a professional contract and joined the first team this year.
Canales is in full understudy mode as he learns by watching first-choice keeper Enrique Palos, a 14-year veteran on loan from UNAL Tigres, and 36-year-old backup Ivan Vazquez, whom Canales likens to Colombia’s Rene Higuita because he is so good with his feet and has scored five goals off free kicks.
“What haven’t I learned from those two,” Canales said. “I spend a little more time with Enrique Palos. He's really a great professional, a great athlete by how he works out at the gym, his way of eating ... is just brilliant.”
“It's really what's called the invisible training that makes the difference. So I've learned a lot from him.”
The Spanish word for goalie is portero, but for Canales it might as well stand for politician. Asked about Mexico’s 1-0 result over the U.S. in the Gold Cup, the dual citizen said, “I've always followed both of the national teams, the U.S. as well as the Mexican national team. I mean in every way, it was a win-win for me.”
FC JUAREZ VS. DETROIT CITY FC
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Keyworth Stadium, Hamtramck