Just one month ago, David Ochoa was wearing a Nations League winner’s medal and celebrating the U.S. men’s national team’s dramatic victory against Mexico. One month later, it appears Ochoa is ready to switch sides.
Ochoa is preparing to file a one-time change of association to represent the Mexican national team, Fox Sports reported on Monday.
If Ochoa has indeed made up his mind, it would end weeks of speculation surrounding his international future since June, when he was with the USMNT Nations League squad. Ochoa spent time training with the Mexican national team shortly after, making it clear he was keeping his national team options open.
The Real Salt Lake goalkeeper and Oxnard, California native first emerged as a top USMNT prospect when he played for the United States in the Concacaf Under-20 Championships in 2018. Ochoa eventually played in the 2019 Under-20 World Cup despite being one of the youngest players on the team.
The 2021 MLS season has seen Ochoa earn the regular starting job for RSL for the first time, and the 20-year-old has impressed in his 13 starts so far this season.
Ochoa last represented the United States at the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament in March, where he was part of the U.S. team that failed to qualify. Ochoa had an up-and-down tournament, flashing moments of brilliance but also committing the blunder that led to a Honduras goal that ultimately doomed the United States to miss out on the Olympics.
Despite that showing, Ochoa showed enough to earn a call-up to the USMNT’s Concacaf Nations League squad, where he served as the team’s third goalkeeper.
Losing Ochoa to Mexico would be a blow for the U.S. program given his status as one of the best young goalkeepers in MLS, though it wouldn’t likely impact the USMNT in the immediate future given the presence of Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath and Matt Turner as the consensus top three goalkeeper options for Berhalter.
The time of the decision seems rushed given Ochoa’s young age, and the unlikeliness that he would be a factor for Mexico’s national team in the near future.
Filing a one-time Change of Association with FIFA would essentially tie Ochoa to Mexico, even if he doesn’t actually play a cap-tying match for El Tri.
Ochoa is one of a handful of Mexican-American players weighing the option of playing for either the United States or Mexico. LA Galaxy fullback Julian Araujo and FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi are two high-profile prospects who Mexico would be eager to pry away from the USMNT player pool and have join Mexico Gold Cup midfielder Efrain Alvarez, and reportedly Ochoa, in a group of American-born players choosing to play for El Tri.
What do you think of this development? Worried about the possibility of the USMNT losing more Mexican-American players? Does the depth in the U.S. player pool make you less worried about these types of departures, or do you see Ochoa’s reported decision being a worrying sign?
Share your thoughts below.