Efrain Alvarez Selected by Mexican & United States Under-23 National Teams

Efrain Alvarez is weighing his options…

The 18-year-old professional soccer player and LA Galaxy forward has been selected by both the Mexican and United States under-23 national teams, as the two nations compete to have Alvarez represent them at the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic qualifying tournament.

Efrain Alvarez

This week, CONCACAF announced the official preliminary rosters for all eight teams participating in the 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament, set to be held in Guadalajara, Mexico from March 18 to March 30. Though Alvarez appears on both the rosters for Mexico and the United States, the player will need to make a decision by March 8, the latest any country can submit their final 20-player roster.

Alvarez, who was born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents, is eligible to represent both countries under FIFA‘s statutes for dual-nationals. In the past, he has played for the United States at the under-15 level before switching to participate with Mexico’s under-15 and under-17 squads. With El Tri, Alvarez played in the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, scoring four goals and guiding Mexico to a second place finish.

However, Alvarez accepted a call into the United States men’s national team last December, for a training camp that included fellow dual-national and LA Galaxy teammate Julian Araujo. Afterward, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter gushed over Alvarez, praising his ability to play in multiple positions on offense.

“What I saw today in training is [that] he’s a guy you want to be around the ball, a very creative player, has a good change of pace, very good in tight spaces,” Berhalter said at the time.

Berhalter admitted that despite the invitation, Alvarez had not decided whether to pursue a one-time switch to join the United States and cement his international future. Under the new FIFA eligibility rules, players like Alvarez are able to change allegiances before the age of 21 if they have played less than three competitive matches at the senior level.

Mexico will face the United States in the final Group A match on March 24.

Andres Perea Granted Permission to Represent United States

Andres Perea is switching (international) sides

The 20-year-old professional soccer player and Orlando City SC midfielder has been granted a one-time switch from Colombia to represent the United States.

Andres Perea

Perea, a Tampa, Florida native, moved to Colombia at an early age, rising through the club ranks at Atletico Nacional. He went on to represent Colombia at the FIFA U17 World Cup in 2017 and U20 World Cup two years later before joining Orlando City on loan last season.

Perea, who’s at the January camp with the U-23 U.S. men’s team, received the news on his switch from senior side coach Gregg Berhalter. Because Perea played for Colombia in official competition, Perea wasn’t able to take part in the USMNT‘s 6-0 win against El Salvador last December.

“It was a very important decision for me. Colombia is my country as well, but it’s an honor for me to represent the United States as I did Colombia in the past,” Perea said.

The players of the U23 side — which will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics this summer — are training alongside 12 members of the senior group in Bradenton, Florida, with reports of a friendly match against Serbia in the works.

“Andres we find to be a really, really interesting holding midfield player for us,” U.S. U23 coach Jason Kreis said during a conference call. “The amount of ground that he’s capable to cover defensively, I think it’s a little bit different level than some of the other guys that we have in our pool. His processing of the ball, he’s still learning a little bit about that.”

Kreis anticipates men’s Olympic soccer qualifying for North and Central America and the Caribbean will take place during late March in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the CONCACAF tournament last spring was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kreis said he anticipates it will be difficult to access top Europe-based Americans for qualifying. FIFA does not require that clubs release players to under-23 teams. FIFA extended the age limit by a year, keeping the group for qualifying limited to players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997.

Each team reaching the games in Japan can supplement its roster with three players over the age limit. Top Americans are not expected at qualifying, with clubs expected not to make available Christian PulisicWeston McKennieTyler AdamsJoshua Sargent and Giovanni Reyna. All are regulars in league play this season.

Gio Reyna Among 10 Players Who Could Make US International Debut at Wales

Gio Reyna will be representing the United States…

United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNST) manager Gregg Berhalter has called up the uncapped 17-year-old half-Argentine American soccer player, as well as an injured Christian Pulisic and England youth international Yunus Musah, 17, in his 24-man roster for a pair of friendlies later this month.

Giovanni Reyna

The youthful roster — the average age is 21 years, 300 days — is comprised entirely of players who ply their trade abroad.

Reyna, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder and son of former United States captain Claudio Reyna, is one of 10 uncapped players to make the squad.

 

Alongside Reyna and Musah — who can represent Ghana as well — Internacional‘s Johnny Cardoso was also given the nod.

 

Born to Brazilian parents, Cardoso is the first player in 24 years to earn a U.S. call-up while playing for a club outside of CONCACAF or UEFA. Another dual national is Telstar forward Sebastian Soto, who besides the U.S. is eligible to represent Mexico and Chile.

Among the other call-ups are a record nine players participating in the UEFA Champions League, including RB Leipzig‘s Tyler AdamsBarcelona‘s Sergino DestJuventus‘ Weston McKennie and Chelsea‘s Pulisic.

Pulisic had been a doubt for the roster after injuring his hamstring during the warmup of last weekend’s game against Burnley. However, at a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League game against Rennes, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said that a scan of the injury revealed that it was “very minor” but that he wouldn’t play on Wednesday.

“We are excited about getting this group back together,” Berhalter said in a statement. “I’m proud of the way the players have handled the challenging times — they really stuck together. We have built a solid foundation, and now we get a chance to continue our work together ahead of what is going to be a critical 12 months for our team.”

The USMNT will play Wales, who will be without manager Ryan Giggs, first on November 12 before travelling to Austria to play Panama on Nov. 16.

The roster’s average age is 21 years, 300 days. Starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen, now a backup Manchester City following a loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf, is on the roster for the first time 2019. Lille forward Tim Weah, a son of former FIFA player of the Year and Liberia President George Weah, is with the U.S. for the first time since 2018 after recovering from a string of injuries.

Due to the conditions related to the pandemic, the matches will be played without fans in the stadiums. The participants have received an exemption from quarantine provided to professional sports organizations.

The match against Wales will be the first match for the USMNT since February when they beat Costa Rica 1-0.

The Americans have not played on a FIFA date with most of their player pool available since a 4-0 victory over Cuba in the CONCACAF Nations League on Nov. 19 last year. Exhibitions in March at the Netherlands and Wales were canceled, along with the CONCACAF Nations League final four in June and the start of World Cup qualifying in September.

The players will report to camp starting on Nov. 8.

USMNT squad (caps / goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 4/0), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City/ENG; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 17/0)

DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 38/3), Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 10/0), Sergino Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 3/0), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht/BEL; 18/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 40/1), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich/GER; 0/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 7/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 10/1), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA;0/0), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 0/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 19/6), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 0/0), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton/ENG; 0/0)

FORWARDS (8): Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona/ESP; 0/0), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen/FRA; 0/0), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 34/14), Uly Llanez (Heerenveen/NED; 1/1), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 0/0), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 12/5), Sebastian Soto (Telstar/NED; 0/0), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 8/1)

Gio Reyna to Join US Men’s National Soccer Team

Gio Reynais movin’ on up…

United States manager Gregg Berhalter has confirmed that the 17-year-old part-Argentine American soccer player and Borussia Dortmund midfielder will be called up to the senior team for the March international window.

Gio Reyna

Earlier, Reyna was named to a 50-man provisional roster for the Olympicqualifying tournament, which spans beyond the March international window. But Berhalter, speaking at a reporters’ roundtable during MLS Media Day, stated that Dortmund wouldn’t allow Reyna to be released for the Olympic qualifying tournament, and that his performances warranted getting called up to the full team.

Reyna, the son of former U.S. internationalClaudio Reynalast week became the youngest American to play in Champions League at 17 years and 97 dayswith an impressive performance that included an assist in BVB‘s 2-1 home victory over Paris Saint-Germain.

“We want our younger players performing and playing at a high level, and [Reyna] is doing that,” said Berhalter. “And as a result of him doing that he gets an opportunity with the first team.”

Reyna has made immense strides this season, even as the U.S.Under-17team exited the group stage at the FIFA U17 World Cuplast fall. Berhalter chalked that up to Reyna finding a rhythm within the Dortmund team. The previous season Reyna had to wait until he received his European passport before he could begin playing official games for the club at youth level.

“It was a very choppy year for him in terms of his development,” said Berhalter. “And I think we saw some of that at the U17 [World Cup]. You could tell he didn’t have rhythm.

This year Reyna has had more of an opportunity to settle in and rise through the ranks of the team.

“You can see [Reyna] has rhythm now and he has a good understanding of what the team wants to do. And they’re using him in a way where you know they’re not asking him to take full responsibility in terms of he doesn’t have to carry a team. He’s playing a role, and he’s executing his role.”

The result has been that Reyna’s qualities have shown through.

“[Reyna’s] position when he gets the ball in the pocket, his awareness to turn and his efficiency when he’s turning his excellent,” said Berhalter. “He doesn’t waste any touches turning, he turns right away. The second thing is his ball security under pressure is phenomenal.”

Now Berhalter must try to figure out Reyna’s best position, although he concedes it’s a nice dilemma to face.

“I can see [Reyna] playing as a winger. I can see him playing potentially as a No. 10 and a 4-3-3,” said Berhalter. “He can play a number of different positions. I like him being able to affect the game on the offensive side, similar to Christian[Pulisic]. They’ve been using him on the left. He can also play on the right so I think he gives you flexibility.”