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Berhalter: Efrain Alvarez will have ‘opportunity’


Efrain Alvarez had the debut of a lifetime for the LA Galaxy on MLS opening weekend. The 16-year-old recorded and assist and helped spark a comeback as LA defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 at Stubhub Center.

The debut caught the eye of U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter who will now look to monitor Alvarez in the future. Being born to Mexican parents, Alvarez is eligible to play for the U.S. or Mexico and will earn opportunities through the ranks of U.S. Soccer if he continues his positive development.

“We want to create an environment that players want to be in,” Berhalter said at a news conference on Wednesday. “We want to create a playing style, a team spirit that players want to be a part of, and if we do we’re confident that we can get players like that and we can keep players like that in our program.”

Alvarez will turn 17-years-old this June and has played for the U.S. U-15’s, Mexico U-15’s, and Mexico U-17’s. Looking to follow in the footsteps of several other young talents, the midfielder has also seen time with the LA Galaxy II in his professional career.

The USMNT continues their development under Berhalter later this month as they face Ecuador and Chile in friendlies on March 21st and 26th respectively. Although it may be too early for Alvarez to get a call-in for the senior squad, Berhalter has noticed his talent and feels the experience will only benefit the young midfielder.

“It would be great that he continues to chip away and get playing time and now can be a consistent performer for one of the top clubs in MLS,” Berhalter said. “And we’ll be there watching the whole thing, and when he’s doing what we expect him to do, there’ll be an opportunity for him with the U.S. National Team.”

The Galaxy continue life under new head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto this weekend against FC Dallas.


  1. At least part of the error here is the implicit blame of dual nationals for how last time came out. Last time we had no dual national Germans on the call sheet for the final two games that decided qualifying. Arena in fact went with the people he trusted and that was not enough. Our team didn’t qualify. I find it amusing when people blame the players not called, ignore whether that suggests a loyalty test results in a worse team, and ignore that a team that didn’t qualify maybe can’t be such picky snobs.

  2. (1) I judge players on how they play and not how they talk. If they show up and do their job well who cares if they had to mull over Mexico vs USA. (2) In my personal experience if you are trying to play at a high level you don’t half effort it for anyone. I don’t remember my effort level being that different for NCAA, HS, club, indoor, summer league, or being a ringer in hispanic league. I can’t imagine it’s true of 99% of players. (3) Bluntly, I think you are taking certain players with bad mentalities like FJ or Chandler and then that’s all dual nationals. Vastly overstated. Pulisic and Weah are also dual nationals. And I know your defense is to claim not to be that broad brush, but then you want some sort of dual national loyalty litmus test applied — a linguistic test — as opposed to how do they perform and what does their effort look like. You are judging on words what should be done on play. I don’t care if a player had to think about it first, and hemmed and hawed about what to do in words, if he plays like a stud. This is a soccer team, not the CIA or a political rally.

    And there are some dyed in the wool Americans on the team now who jog after men, so how do you like them apples?

      • Sorry, no, I understand you perfectly. You want to assess a player’s heart before they put on the shirt. They have to convince you of desire before putting on the shirt. I don’t know how the heck you accomplish understanding if someone will play at 100% for their adopted country without playing them. I think you, like the big club snobs, are wanting to deploy some relatively unrelated proxy instead of watching how they play. Are they “American” enough for you. And I think that is besides the point. I think you are confusing players who have specific mentality issues that probably go all the way across to club ball — laziness, quitting — and then making an assumption that is caused by dual nationality and then writing that over everyone. I think they are probably lazy and quitters for their club teams too. I think there are enough successful dual nationals that the “burden of proof” should be on the field and not decided beforehand in some language litmus test like they cannot be trusted. This is not the CIA, we don’t have to clear everyone to give them 10 minutes in a friendly as a trial. You put them out there and if they play 100% then they are American enough for me, and I don’t care if they had to think it over to get there. How about we get back to evaluating the team on the field and not all sorts of politics and prejudices surrounding it.

  3. Tell him you love the way he plays. Go visit him with his parents present and tell them you value their input and understand their connection to Mexico but you , as a coach see him as a USA national and hope they give him some space to find his way and will be very disappointed if he does not chose the USA. tell them we need players like him, and remember he is 16, Remember he is a 16 year old KID damn it. Call him up. what is the downside?

  4. It’s interesting to hear passion brought up because at a certain point of playing it cool and slow on our part, it looks like disinterest or passion BY US. The idea also should not be that we become paralyzed on bringing in young players like Sargent or dual nationals like Alvarez for fear of offense.

    • Again, I have to repeat myself. As I said, I’m perfectly fine with us expressing our esteem for the player. Perfectly fine with us bragging about our program and its future to the player. And perfectly fine with telling him he would be welcomed if he chooses. But that’s it. No considerations that we wouldn’t give to any other promising youngster who didn’t happen to be a dual national making a decision. No groveling. No spots on rosters/camps (people forget these come at the expense of someone else) that he didn’t earn outright. And if he decides to remain a Mexico player (he probably will), say “good luck to you” and move on.

      • You’re talking sentiment. Some people may be practical When I was shopping around for NCAA one of my pointed questions to coaches was what do you see my role as a freshman or beyond being. Am I a scholarship player? Starter? Bench? Walk on? The people here jump right past that vague talk to “do I make the call ups or not?” But it is just as practical, As you see with Jonathan Gonzalez, talk is talk and players may judge your real level of passion by do I get the call or not. Period. No amount of cheery boostering may fix the failure to bring them to camp and cap them. They may not care what glowing praise you pass out if they repeatedly miss the cut and think they are being underrated or feel a lack of passion. And you can make that into a lack of passion on their part, but they may be getting “come to our camp” from the other guy while you hem and haw and play for time. At a certain point it is entirely fair for them to look at you like I did coaches who told me “bench” or “walk on,” that if the other guy is ready for me and you don’t seem as eager why pick you? You’re also kind of pretending like cosmopolitan kids can’t have more than one passion or home. Subotic, for example, spent a formative portion of his life here, but was born in Bosnia. He like Alvarez played for our youth teams. He was frustrated with particular coaches in our system and their level of interest. He picked the other choice that made equal sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes back here at the end. So is he not passionate enough for you, or is that really a balm you apply when you lose someone, and now you want to expand that out to people we haven’t even lost yet in some sort of litmus test that ignores some people have spent a lot of time in different places as a result of their personal story.

      • And therein lies our difference. I don’t follow the USMNT because I want to see guys who made a practical decision amongst several options (as you did with colleges in your example), ultimately deciding based on which was best for his career rather than any passion for what the shirt represents. For me, I get enough of that out of watching club soccer. Kiss-the-badge “loyalty” displays etc when everyone knows it was just a business decision…. I like that the international game, while lower in quality, provides an escape from that.

      • You’re still missing it. I lived in England for a period of time. I watched 2 specific teams play a lot (and some others as well, but developed less affection). When I come back and root for both them and my MLS team, that is not because I have sold out my hometown, it’s because life is complicated and I have come to feel both were a sort of home, and that I’ve got more than one team tugging on me. It’s not disloyalty to the Dynamo, it’s before the Dynamo even existed I attended tons of these other teams’ games too. I prioritize the Dynamo because I live here. But if I ever moved there, it would probably reverse. But in reality I watch every single Dynamo game so the idea that just because I also like teams x and y I don’t meet some litmus test is absurd.

  5. Every single one time switch player could by definition be called a passport player or mercenary. I agree about true mercenaries. But it’s broad brush to act like anyone who ever played for anyone else is off the list. You can be from here and like here and also be eligible for other things. You can be from someplace else but move here and love it. You can be foreign born, foreign based, and indifferent. All those people at broadly abstracted enough a level would look identical. “But he played for Mexico, Germany, etc.” But what really matters is their degree of affection, their effort in the shirt, the reasons why they appeared for someone else, and whether they think of their ex at night. If dad is pushing son to do youth in green then don’t be a fool and write off someone who might make an adult decision the other way if given a choice. Y’all don’t know what is in his heart, he hasn’t said the plane rides are too much or he just wants to play in the world cup for someone, you have no real reason to doubt him.

    • To me our real job is cap them, do the one time switch, whatever it takes, and then assess them in the shirt. Some of the problem with the dual nationals last cycle is that even when warning signals showed and they had bad important games, we didn’t react, because Snob Value. So the real important thing is police performance, police effort, police heart, not make broad sweeping exceptions based on assumptions you don’t know are true that may in fact be people’s politics creeping in.

    • Ha. Politics. I can’t stand any politician. That’s why I mostly limit my patriotic activity to watching soccer. Take it elsewhere buddy I’m not biting.
      Much as you might hate it, what we are saying is really not that different Is the affection there? Is the effort there? That’s what matters. But when we start offering special considerations to players as part of our recruitment pitch? When we start focusing on how to “cap tie” them rather than allow them to make their own decision? This is unprincipled and dilutes the entire purpose. All I am asking is that every player in the US shirt is doing so because it his *his first choice*. Not because he was offered a “special consideration” or because it was an easier path than the one he faced in his preferred national team setup. Let’s outgrow that.

      • My point about politics is that there is a long enough list of people who “chose us” with other options and now play well — Pulisic, Weah, Green, on and on — that it’s like where is this “baby with the bath water” anti dual national thing coming from. There are plenty of positive cases to hold up against negative ones where the implication we have a bunch of greedy mercenary passport players under consideration is bull. The player in question was born in LA and plays there. Against that background, where does the fervor come from that a kid as good as Efrain Alvarez looks can just be blown off unless he convinces them of his patriotism? Sorry, that doesn’t feel like it’s about soccer. So you can act like I am the jerk bringing up politics, but it’s more like, I am throwing right out there on the table that some of the people with overwrought antagonism to the concept might in fact have political or other motivations that have nothing to do with soccer. To me, on soccer, it’s solely, is this kid potentially better than the 30th man on the call sheet or the 23rd guy we could dress? Yes. I cannot guarantee he would pick us but if he did there is nothing about an LA kid playing in LA, or other public domain comments by him, that suggests he would play half heartedly and have divided passion. Nothing. To me it screams politics. You should bite becaiuse objectively from my POV there are too many good dual nationals already on this team to suddenly act like everyone is a Chandler or FJ whose passion is questionable. History is actually quite the opposite. And as I pointed out, if there are any issues, part of the coach’s job is to sort out who plays well and has passion and who doesn’t, and if we slip on that it probably has as much to do with our club affiliation snobbery issues as anything else.

      • There are players with one nationality who have heart or don’t. You’re conflating two issues. The heart issue is easily tested, put them on the field and watch. You can do that in a friendly first if you are scared about the risks. Making assumptions ahead of time about passion levels is basically definitional prejudice just the same as how sometimes it seems like we favor big club guys. On this, that, and 20 other issues the solution is play the people who look best in practice and in games, and get away from national passion, club affiliation, or the other accumulating sideshows we are putting between ourselves and judging pure talent, performance, and contribution. Get back to basics.

      • This is really simple. I want guys who want to play for the US first at the time they make their decision based on *how they identify*. That’s it. Not guys who were bought off. Not guys who’d prefer to be somewhere else but weren’t good enough to play yet. Efrain Alvarez (and any other player) should make their decision based on how they identify, not based on who was most willing to crowbar him into the senior team the fastest.

  6. The Corona signing worries me, with so many more experienced players in the LAG roster I just don’t see him getting enough minutes to earn a call-up. It is my understanding that the problem was between his father and a coach that is no longer there. Efrain has repeatedly said he is still interested in potentially playing for the US, that is a positive sign. If you read between the lines of the things said over the years it sounds as if it is more convincing the parents to come back than the kid. Mexico hasn’t played him a ton with their youth teams and even misspelled his name on the team sheet when they played the US last year.

  7. He looks like an excellent young player. But I’m fine if we lose out. Frankly, once a player has even thought about pulling on the green shirt, he is damaged goods to me. I get enough of the phony “kiss the badge” mercenary mentality out of club football. I’m fine with the manager letting guys know they are welcome and the door is open, but this groveling/recruitment mentality just doesn’t do it for me. I’ll take dyed-in-the wool yanks over mercenaries any day.

    • As I mentioned above it seems to be more the dad that wanted him to play for Mexico, which you can’t really ask a 14-year-old to tell his Dad to stick it. But I agree you can’t just start trying to cap every 15-year-old potential player when they’ve played 30 professional minutes.

      • No argument here. And I’m fine with us letting youngsters have time to come to a decision about how they identify (I’m the child of immigrants myself so I’ve been there). But there is a difference between letting a player know “Hey, we value your abilities and would welcome you into the fold once you have made your decision” and actively attempting to secure a player by pandering and making solicitations in an attempt to “outbid” your rivals. Before you know it, you’ll wind up with guys who engage in corny antics like “refusing to celebrate” goals against countries of their heritage. Screw that. Give me guys who go to the Azteca, score goals, celebrate, and p*ss on the field.

      • All GB needs to do is show the kid a montage of Jona Gonzalez’ 2018 World Cup highlights… If Alvarez still wants to stick with El Tri after that, then he’s probably too far gone anyway and USMNT just needs to move on

      • you don’t know what you’re talking about. how many first team minutes did green have when we capped him to win that race? how many first team minutes did sargent have when he was capped — and scored his first night out? how many first team minutes did Pulisic have when he was first capped? you make exceptions for the exceptional. Alvarez had 12 goals last year as a teenage minor leaguer, helped win his first pro game with an assist, and is an unusual case. this is precisely the quality of player you don’t want to lose the race for.

    • This is exactly the dumb, old school thinking that would hold the US back. We are a diverse country with people from mixed backgrounds. This is very much a business decision as well. It could effect, in a dramatic way, a persons future income (millions of dollars) doing a job that is their entire life from their perspective at this time. He should absolutely be recruited and we are not even talking about some dual national, who spent most of his life abroad, being developed abroad. He is an American who is a soccer product of American development. Do you want to signal to the hundreds of talented Latino American kids becoming professionals that they should be striving to play for Mexico because they are not fully appreciated in the American system (even if they are developed within it).

      • Total misread Danny. All ethnicities and backgrounds are welcome, just as they are (or should be) in the USA generally. I hope the team is as diverse as our country. As as long as they come to the decision *on their own* that they identify as American and are proud of it. No coercion. No groveling. No bidding. No mercenaries. That’s all.

    • i judge the heart for the shirt once they are in it. ideally we shouldn’t have to fight over someone but i would not assume that someone leaned on by their parents must be a disloyal passport player. born here, playing here, this is not us capping some German born there and played their whole career overseas, and who decided at age 23 or 25 they were coming here because Germany senior team didn’t care.

    • The kid was born here. Under the US Constitution, that makes him a US citizen. If he helps the US national team and decides to play here, then we should welcome him. I have grown awfully sick of the nativism that thinks only certain “Americans” are good enough to qualify as Americans.

      • Gary Page — You are attempting to graft a xenophobic argument onto me that I am not making. As I stated multiple times, I am all in favor of welcoming ANYONE onto the team if they are able to say that playing for the US is their first choice (provided of course that they are eligible, which Alvarez certainly is).
        However — Let me make this abundantly clear — I *am not* in favor of us offering “special considerations” to players -such as guarantees of playing time or spots on rosters/camps that would not be earned on current merit alone. For clarity, this would also this include telling a player who makes it clear that they would rather play for another country, but is stuck down the depth chart at their position, that they should enhance their chances of competing at a World Cup by “being American” a few weeks a year. If playing for the US is not their first choice, I have no interest in them. I am appreciative of the fact that for some youngsters, this is a decision that takes time. So give them time. Make sure they don’t ever make a decision to do something they regret for short-term reasons.
        I read comments on this site and it’s obvious too many people develop a “bidding war” mentality every time a potential dual national is identified. The emotional investment of “beating” Mexico (or whoever) to the player overwhelms the pricinples of why we care about the national team at all. I want 11 guys out there — regardless of race. place of birth, religion, whatever — who all feel the way I do about my country. Not a combination of Americans and mercenaries/imposters who’d rather be wearing other colors.

      • dude, we have a long history of playing DmB, Reyna, Donovan, Pulisic, Sargent type players well ahead of time. talent gets you the fast track. part of the issue here is denial he merits the fast track. have you seen the stats? seen the highlights? dear god. And then ditto on dual nationals at risk. we brought in AJ, Green, and others perhaps a hair earlier than pure merit. part of the calculus of timing has to be, do i risk losing this person. at a certain point farting around on dual nationals becomes impossible to tell apart from disinterest or lack of passion on our part. so right back at you there.

      • He doesn’t merit anything. Not while he is playing for Mexico’s youth teams. “Fast tracking” as you describe it is not some carrot we should be whoring ourselves in the international market with (although Klinsmann certainly dabbled in it). Leave that sort of thing to Qatar. Players like Pulisic, DMB, Donovan who had decided they were all-in on US Soccer were rightly fast-tracked to the senior team. And if Alvarez decides he is all-in on the US, he can prove he deserves the same.

      • Doesn’t merit anything? He is a standout on his YNTs, had 12 goals for LAG2 last year, and helped them win their first LAG game of the season. This sounds to me like the people who talked down Pulisic or Sargent because “they haven’t played a first team game yet.” Talent is talent and I’m suggesting that on a domestically born and based talent who is in demand if you even had the slightest doubt on loyalty (or talent for that matter), you win the race first and then evaluate what they in fact currently offer second. We can use Green now because we won the race several years ago. He then disappeared for years getting his game together. But we can call him and play him and score on France because we took the risk a while back. If you wait for the player to fully bloom and be perfectly worthy of the shirt you may discover that other teams who have the same right to call him have beaten you to the player by not being so particular about things. I would rather elevate substance over style. Waiting until too late on some sort of vague, half considered principle is self defeating, particularly if the player will be playing for our opponent.

  8. We have grown lazy about securing dual nationals so odds are the Opportunity will be for Mexico. He is already playing for Mexican YNT so this one will take effort and not “maybe some point when we think you’re ready….”

  9. Call him in for the March friendlies. That doesn’t mean you have to play him. But you get him in there to build comraderie with our other young players and hopefully build in him a desire to play for the US instead of for Mexico.

    • Exactly Gary. Call him up. This puts the ball in his court, he can decline or accept. The talent is there folks. It’s not the 1980/90s anymore ask any college coach my who recruits for a living. For kids today it’s all about the ‘love’. Kids know what real and what’s fluff though to. They want to go where they are going anted. The puts the onus on USSF to do a better and earlier job on know lung who we prioritize on ‘wanting’. In a globalized North America where families move across boarders frequently this dual national issue isn’t going away any time soon. We need to adapt to the new reality not play in the old school sandbox that’s out of date.

      • “Grab whomever you can prove to regulators is eligible to play for your team! If a 16 year old kid isn’t ready to make a decision about how he identifies, force him into a decision by gaming him with call-ups! Don’t worry about how they identify with your country or soccer culture — they’ll come around once they sense a starting spot at a major tournament is within their reach! Anybody who disagrees is weak!”
        Again, I’ll pass. You’re right that the dual national issue isn’t going anywhere. But that decision shouldn’t be made like a college scholarship offer is evaluated (i.e. a practical “what’s in it for me” decision amongst multiple suitors). The day it becomes a “business decision” for the player (as many of you seem to be advocating) is the day I lose interest in the USMNT. Just another club team, only playing lower grade soccer and less frequently.

      • You continue to miss that a player with significant mutlicultural and multinational experience might love two or more places. Weah has lived and played a lot in France and his dad is president of Liberia. It’s practically helpful to us he decided early and decisively. But are we seriously suggesting he’s less of someone we want if he has to think over France where he played and lived? Or Liberia where his family comes from? I could get if he went through the motions once called, and expressed that he was in it for some ulterior motive of wanting to ride our coattails. But beyond those sorts of explicit expressions he is not here for the right reasons, I don’t care if a player had to think about 2 places or even 3 places, once he goes all in for us. My only concern is does he go all in for us. And I think the only meaningful place to determine that is on the field. You can’t tell Jermaine Jones from some other guy in terms of heart for the shirt until a ball is kicked in anger.

    • Excellent point IV. With more American families have more and more links to other countries its a real thing to have love in your heart for both nations. Speaking to most Mexican Americans I usually hear this type of sentiment that they want both Mexico and the US to win and root for both at a WC but when they play each other they have mixed feeling and sometimes bitter rivalries within their family on game day. Just agreeing with you and hoping other see the future in that in global reality more kids will have love in their hearts for multiple countries they could be eligible for and we have to adapt to this new reality which means identifying and courting these talents earlier so they feel ‘wanted’ by the USA.


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