Mexicans Abroad Recap: Vela and Real Sociedad roll, Nery Castillo continues scoring run

Carlos Vela and Hector Moreno both enjoyed fruitful weekends in Spain, while Nery Castillo continued to rack up the goals in Greece, inspiring his side to a comeback win.
January is proving to be a fairly fruitful month for Mexicans playing abroad. While Mexico's banner player abroad, Javier Hernandez, has had an extremely quiet month, those plying their trade in Spain and elsewhere have continued to find success.

Real Sociedad rolls, Vela included

Perhaps most notably in Spain, Carlos Vela picked up an assist over the weekend as he set up David Zurutuza and Real Sociedad's second goal of the game with a clever through pass to put his side 2-0 up within just three minutes of the opening whistle. Sociedad went on to roll over Sporting Gijon by a 5-1 scoreline, with Vela being replaced by Xabi Prieto in the 80th minute.

Hector Moreno and Espanyol found success, as the center back was on the field for the entirety of the Barcelona-based side's 1-0 triumph over Mallorca, where Moreno picked up a yellow card. The result sees Espanyol extend its league unbeaten streak to six and its streak of clean sheets in the league to three games. It now sits tied on points with Levante for the fourth and final Champions League berth, with Levante currently holding the spot by virtue of its 3-1 win over Espanyol earlier in the season.

Looking over to that other team in Barcelona, Jonathan dos Santos was again named to the bench but did not play as Barcelona's senior side was only able to draw 0-0 with Villarreal, allowing Real Madrid to take a seven-point lead in the title race.

In fact, Madrid was able to extend its lead in part thanks to a 3-1 win over Real Zaragoza, with Pablo Barrera entering as a 66th minute substitute in the losing effort. Sticking with Zaragoza, the club announced Monday that it had reached an agreement to terminate Efrain Juarez's contract, sending him back to Celtic.

Down in the second division, Andres Guardado and Deportivo continued to run wild at the top of the table, posting a 2-1 win over visiting Cartagena. Though he did not pick up a goal or assist, Guardado was active throughout, playing the whole match. Deportivo is currently three points clear of second-placed Real Valladolid and five points clear of the promotion playoff places, and has not lost since November.

Anibal Zurdo was also active, starting and going 74 minutes as Guadalajara snapped a four-game losing streak with a 1-0 win over Numancia and moved nine points clear of the relegation zone. Lower in the league pyramid, Espanyol youngster Taufic Guarch did not make the squad as Espanyol B posted a 1-1 home draw with CF Vilanova in the Tercera Division (fourth tier).

All quiet (on the field) in England

There was little playing time to be had for Mexicans playing in England, with Hernandez limited to a substitute appearance in Manchester United's 2-1 loss to Liverpool in the FA Cup, coming on for Paul Scholes in the 76th minute. With midweek games and the Europa League coming up, though, Hernandez could be in line for more playing time in February after a quiet January.

Despite his sterling performance in the third round, Giovani dos Santos was left out of the squad in Tottenham's 1-0 win at Watford in the fourth round of the FA Cup. To add to the frustration, it now appears that Dos Santos will continue with Spurs after Villarreal pulled out of the race to sign the young forward and his agent confirmed he'd declined offers from MLS and Russia.

There was no action to be seen for Antonio Pedroza with Crystal Palace – the Eagles fell 3-1 on penalties after their League Cup semifinal series with Cardiff City ended 1-1 on aggregate, though Pedroza was not in the squad. The team was out of action on the weekend, with the Championship taking a break thanks to the FA Cup, which Palace has already been knocked out of.

Castillo's on fire

Nery Castillo recorded his second straight two-goal game as he scored both goals in a 2-1 comeback win over Levadiakos. For his first goal, Castillo used his pace to beat the onrushing goalkeeper to a long ball and lift it up and into the net from the edge of the area. He capped off another memorable evening with an 89th minute winner, lacing a left-footed shot into the top corner from near the penalty spot after Levadiakos failed to clear its lines.

The former Chicago Fire and Manchester City man has experienced a massive revival this January, having now scored a goal in every one of Aris' January games for a total of six goals over four games.

Ajaccio rises in the table

Once left for dead at the bottom of the table, Guillermo Ochoa and Ajaccio have continued their impressive run of form, with Ochoa on point as the Corsican side posted a 2-1 win on its trip to Valenciennes. While it hasn't fared too well in cups, Ajaccio's league form has been impeccable as of late, having won four straight games, with Ochoa conceding just two goals in the process.

No luck in North Europe

Francisco Rodriguez had another week to forget as Stuttgart conceded three goals for a second straight game, falling 3-0 at home to Borussia Monchengladbach to extend its losing streak in the league to four games. With a trip to Leverkusen and a visit from Bayern Munich ahead in the calendar, it will take a special effort for Rodriguez and his team to snap the streak any time soon.

Over in the Netherlands, Ulises Davila was once again forced to watch from the stands, as he was not named to the squad for Vitesse's 3-1 loss at PSV Eindhoven.

Elsewhere in the world, Edson Rivera was called for Braga's 2-1 win over Maritimo in the Portuguese league but did not feature, Jose Delgadillo remains on winter break in Croatia with HNK Rijeka, while Mexican players in MLS continue their preseason training, with First Kick set for March 10.