Leagues Cup | "Liga MX had a big influence on me" - Luis Barraza


The Barraza house was not a quiet one on Sunday mornings.

The first noises often came from Luis, who like most children, would barrel into his parents’ room not long after seven in the morning to alert them that the new day was here.

“I would be the annoying kid and wake up my dad to go to the park and kick the ball around,” Barraza recalled.

After sufficiently exhausting his son, Luis’ dad would return to the family home and the rest of their Sunday rituals could unfold, most notably, watching soccer on the television.

“Breakfast would be made and me and my dad would sit down and watch Liga MX,” Barraza explained. “I think given the schedule of the league at that time I think Pumas was almost always playing on Sunday at 11 o'clock in the morning.”

The goalkeeper grew up in El Paso-Juarez, a border town that sits on the seam between Mexico and the United States. While that gave Barraza unique cultural experience, his childhood mirrored that of any young soccer fan.

When he wasn’t outdoors playing in the park or the street, the family home became an indoor arena.

“I definitely made my fair share of broken glass in the house,” he said with a laugh.

It was there that Barraza made fond memories and tried to copy the goalkeepers that inspired him, the likes of Pumas legend Sergio Bernal, and former Mexican international Oswaldo Sanchez, who began his career with Atlas, the club Barraza will take on next.


“I think Liga MX had a big influence on me,” Barraza said. “I grew up watching the Mexican league and I grew really fond of Pumas. They were probably one of the first teams that I actually liked to watch and kind of learn the game through.

“I think it had a big influence on my career. Now that I'm here on this stage, facing those caliber of teams, I think it's nice to look back and reminisce and think about being on the other side of the screen.”

Barraza was fortunate enough to be in the starting XI the last time NYCFC met Atlas during the Campeones Cup. When MLS and Liga MX meet it is a landmark occasion for fans of both leagues, while for Barraza, it is a chance to improve and experience a different soccer culture.

“I think when we faced Atlas last time you could see how open the game was, how direct the game was for them, and how they exploited a lot of spaces to create chances,” he said. “It was a lot of direct play and a lot of back and forth play which is typical in the Mexican league. I certainly think there's a there's a big difference when it comes to playing style.”

Barraza is also aware of the wider implications of this game and the Leagues Cup. As someone that grew up in a Mexican-American home, he is proud of his heritage, and excited by what the tournament can represent for the next generation as they grow up and learn to love the sport in the same way he did.

“I think it's awesome,” Barraza said of Leagues Cup. “It's an amazing opportunity for kids that have a dual background [to be exposed to both leagues]. For me growing up, it was kind of this singular idea of Liga MX and that being the aspirational goal. Me being from Juarez, at the time there was no professional team at the time. I think the closest team at the time was Santos Laguna, which was a 15-hour drive away. 

“I think there's more chances of kids being born with both nationalities and then either going to play Liga MX or here in MLS and have that aspiration.” 

The fact Barraza will now also be potentially exposed to more Mexican soccer fans is not lost on him. His career has seen him traverse the United States, starting at Real Salt Lake’s academy, then to Marquette University, and now to NYCFC, and he considers the Leagues Cup a special moment to connect with those in Mexico. 

“It’s going to be amazing to potentially have your name be the topic of conversation in Mexico as well,” he said “I’ve spent my entire career here in the United States, I went to Real Salt Lake’s Academy, I went to Marquette University, and now I'm here in New York so a lot of people within the soccer community here in the States know about me, but not necessarily in Mexico. I think that's something really special.” 

Friends and family are already keen to attend that first game and celebrate another important moment in Barraza’s professional career – one they have all witnessed evolve from those Sunday mornings in the park and in front of the television. 

As for the man himself, the first whistle against Atlas will not only represent another milestone, but a wonderful celebration of his two cultures meeting in New York City.

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