Building Atlanta United: A look at the history of Mexican DPs in MLS

Ask Atlanta United supporters the criteria for a Designated Player that they’d like for the team to pursue and one nationality consistently is mentioned: Mexican.

The reasoning goes that Mexican standouts will bring increased fan support, which translates into tickets sold, merchandise purchased, better TV, radio and streaming numbers, etc. Of course, they would also bring quality and skill on the field.

With Mexico in town to play Paraguay at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, let's look at the history of the Designated Player and the Mexican standouts in the United States' top league.

The Designated Player rule was introduced to MLS in 2007 as a measure to allow teams to pursue high-profile stars whose larger salaries wouldn’t count against each team’s salary cap. It has been tweaked over the years so that now each team can sign as many as three Designated Players.

There have been seven Designated Players in league history who are Mexican. Just two, Giovani dos Santos in Los Angeles and Erick Torres in Houston, are currently in the league.

Their results have been a mixed bag, which is true of the entire pool of DPs, regardless of nationality.

Here is list of Mexican DPs:

Giovani dos Santos, LA Galaxy

Erick Torres, Houston

Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Chicago Fire

Nery Castillo, Chicago Fire

Luis Angel Landin, Houston Dynamo

Omar Bravo, Sporting Kansas City

Rafa Marquez, New York Red Bulls


So, how are they doing/did they do?


Giovani dos Santos

Los Angeles Galaxy, M/F

Signed in 2015

The 27-year-old has made an impact when healthy, scoring eight goals and notching 10 assists in 18 games. Adding up goals and assists/per game, his 18 in 18 isn’t far behind the Sebastian Giovinco’s of 51 in 45. Dos Santos’ impact is more than stats: the Galaxy have just one loss in 11 games this season. Dos Santos has played in 10.

The team’s attendance increased to 23,392 in 2015 from 21,258 in 2014.


Cuauhtémoc Blanco

Chicago Fire, M

Signed in 2007

He scored 16 goals with 26 assists in 62 games for the Fire.

Of more importance, he helped the Fire reach the Conference semifinals all three years. They’ve made the playoffs once since.

After solid attendance 2004 and ’05, the average dropped to slightly more than 14,000 in 2006. With Blanco, the attendance increased to roughly 16,500 in 2007, 17,000 in 2008 and then dropped back to 14,700 in 2009.



Omar Bravo

Sporting KC, F

Signed in 2011

Bravo scored nine goals with two assists in his only season in MLS. He returned to Mexico but said he would love to play in the league again.

“It was the best experience I’ve had at international level,” Bravo was quoted as saying on “I had a great time and I’m eager to return, I would love to play there again.”

The team finished first in the East with a record of 13-9-12, losing in the conference finals.


Erick Torres

Houston, F

Signed with Dynamo in 2015, previously with Chivas in 2013-14

As a DP with Chivas Torres was a success with 22 goals and two assists in 44 appearances. However, that team folded and Torres signed with Houston, where he has had no success.

In 17 appearances since the start of the 2015 season he has no goals and two assists in 17 appearances.

A feature about Torres on in March listed some of the reasons why Torres is struggling: Owen Coyle’s formation didn’t suit Torres’ strength and other players were performing better.

Coyle resigned on Thursday. That, combined with Houston’s need to do anything to get out of the bottom spot in the Western Conference, may open a door for Torres to regain his form.



Rafa Marquez

New York Red Bulls, D

Signed in 2010

Marquez appeared in 44 games from 2010-12, with one goal and nine assists, which isn’t bad for a defender. What was bad was the team played in more than 70 games during those three years.

What was bad was his attitude.

He said the defenders on his team weren’t on his level.

He picked up red cards.

He taunted fans.

He was paid more than $4 million.

After leaving to play in Mexico, he said he regretted playing in MLS.


Nery Castillo

Chicago Fire, F

Signed in 2010

The Fire thought they had re-discovered the Blanco magic with the signing of Castillo, the second youngest DP in league history.

It didn’t work out that way… at all.

He played in just eight games and didn’t score.


Luis Landin

Houston, F

Signed in 2009

He was Houston’s first DP.

It didn’t work out. Like Castillo, he barely played for the Dynamo with two goals and three assists in 16 appearances in two seasons. He was eventually released.