Lalo Fernandez has climbed to the top of the soccer ladder in the United States and seen how far the sport has grown even before turning pro six years ago.
Saturday afternoon he returned to the country where he signed his first professional contract and experienced first hand the potential of the soccer in Central Texas.
Fernandez and Tigres fell to Liga MX rivals Chivas in penalty kicks at Dell Diamond in front of a massive and rowdy crowd of more than 13,000 fans. Mexican international Alan Pulido tallied during regulation and scored the game-winning PK to give the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League winners the win.
"MLS has no celling," Fernandez said. "MLS has grown every year since David Beckham came. The league changed drastically and it's getting bigger and they're getting a lot more cities and a lot more teams and a lot more fans involved. It will grow as much as it can I feel proud of playing in MLS."
Two of the earliest youth clubs Fernandez played were based in Texas as he played with the Texas Fire in El Paso and FB Chivas in Houston. He went on to sign as a homegrown player for Real Salt Lake in 2012.
He had lone stints with now-dissolved Phoenix FC of USL Pro and Real Salt Lake's reserve team Real Monarchs playing in the USL. He signed with Tigres in 2017.
"It's a little bit different in Mexico than in the United States," Fernandez said. "The culture is different, but you can enjoy both of them. I loved playing in MLS and in Salt Lake and I love playing for Tigres now. I think the experience of playing in both leagues is something that not a lot of people have done."
Saturday's game was the fifth soccer game held at Dell Diamond, and it was far and away the most well-attended of the bunch. Tigres and Pachuca drew 7,255 fans to a friendly in July and Chivas and Pachuca had 11,181 people in attendance for a game there in 2015.
The Chivas supporters took over the left field stands, while the Tigres fans posted up behind home plate and along the third base line. Neither was quite for the entire 90-minute match.
Ismael Sosa scored the opening goal for Tigres 15 minutes in. Pulido equalized 20 minutes later with a penalty kick.
Chivas took the lead midway through the second half when a cross from Cesar Huerta bounced off Tigres defender Eduardo Tercero and into the net. Rafael de Souza hammered home a shot from the top of the box to pull Tigres level six minutes later.
Tigres made its first three kicks before de Souza hit the post and Israel Jimenez had his shot saved just after Pulido calmly slotted home his second goal of the game for Chivas.
It was announced Friday that the City of Austin and Precourt Sports Ventures are still planning to build a soccer-specific stadium and bring a Major League Soccer team to Central Texas despite negotiations with local investors in Ohio looking to keep the Crew in Columbus.
Even if it was two of the biggest teams from Liga MX, Saturday showed just how powerful soccer fans in the area can be.
Playing in a baseball stadium was nothing new to Fernandez, but there were a few more fans in Round Rock than there were when he was in the lower levels of American soccer.
"It's something different, but it's part of the transition of the sport in the United States," Fernandez said. "Soccer is becoming more (popular) and more baseball fields are also becoming soccer fields and I think it's great for communities here to get everybody involved. Everybody loves soccer and it's something that can unite all of us."