Monterey Bay F.C. bolstered its roster on Thursday after the club announced it reached terms with Liga MX veteran Rafael Baca on a contract for the remainder of the season.
The deal, which is still pending league and federation approval, includes a club option for 2024, according to a press release issued by Monterey Bay F.C.
The former Cruz Azul midfielder spent a decade in Mexico’s topflight Liga MX but will now reunite with Union coach Frank Yallop, who was Baca’s manager with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2011.
“It’s great to be back with Frank [Yallop],” Baca said. “He was the coach that believed in me, and I hope we can continue to conquer accomplishments here at Monterey Bay. I’m excited to reunite with Rams [Ramiro Corrales] and Simon [Dawkins] as well, and hope to achieve a championship together the way we did in San Jose, winning the Supporters’ Shield in 2012.”
The Tuxpan, Michoacán native signed his first professional contract with Major League Soccer club San Jose Earthquakes after training with the team for several months.
Baca also teamed up at the time with Salinas native Ramiro Corrales and Simon Dawkins, who are currently assistant coaches with Monterey Bay F.C.
“I’m excited because I think he’s going to help the team of course, but also the players,” Corrales said. “The young guys like Adrian [Rebollar] and Walmer [Martínez], the experience he has on the field and the way he carries himself off the field, he’s going to help them out.”
“We go way back. I met him when he was 22 years old, so I know the type of player that he is and the quality that he brings into the team. But not only that, the kind of person he is. That is a huge part of building a team. Character goes a long way and I think he’s the right guy to bring into this team.”
Baca became a fixture in the middle for the Quakes the next two seasons, including the club’s Supporters’ Shield winning season in 2012. He then started three of the club’s four CONCACAF Champions League matches in 2013.
Baca appeared in 88 matches for the Earthquakes and recorded two goals and eight assists across 6,550 minutes.
Following three seasons in MLS, Baca joined Liga MX side Cruz Azul ahead of the 2014 campaign. He made his first start in his rookie season against UNAM Pumas at the esteemed Estadio Azteca on April 27.
In 2016, Baca was starting every match for Cruz Azul as a main cog in the midfield.
Over the next several years, he helped lead the club to several honors including a Copa MX: Apertura title in 2018, both the Supercopa MX and Leagues Cup in 2019, Liga MX: Guardianes in 2021 and Supercopa de la Liga MX in both 2021 and 2022.
Baca played over 22,700 minutes across 311 matches for the side, adding nine goals and eight assists for La Máquina.
“To bring in someone with Rafa’s experience is going to really help the team, the group and the whole Club,” Yallop said. “For him to play over 300 games in Liga MX and win what he’s won, he’s just a consummate professional. I’ve known Rafa since 2011. When I first scouted him in college, I really liked him, he stood out.”
“We brought him in to train with us at the Quakes and after one or two days we knew we needed to sign him. It took a while because of visa issues, but he was one of the best signings we ever made. He had a great couple of years with us before going on to have a fantastic career at Cruz Azul. Now, we’re reunited. We’re so happy and excited to have Rafa join us.”
Baca earned the captaincy as a sophomore at Loyola Marymount University and helped the men’s soccer program to its first-ever conference championship during his junior season in 2010.
He earned All-West Coast Conference First-Team honors in three seasons as team captain.
Following his junior year, Baca was named to the short list for the Hermann Trophy, which is awarded each year to the top men’s and women’s collegiate soccer players in the United States.
“I’m excited to be back in the states after 10 years at Cruz Azul,” Baca said. “It’s a new beginning for me now here at Monterey Bay and I’m excited for the opportunity. I will definitely bring experience to the team, as well as leadership. I hope to motivate all of my teammates to believe that we can be champions.”