In the wake of the Soccer Mom Scandal, which continues to be a major source of embarrassment, this was the victory US soccer desperately needed.
Alejandro Zendejas was training with the men’s national team in Los Angeles this week.
Zendejas, 24, is a star.
If he’s not one of the best players in North America, he’s definitely one of the most famous, having played for Club America, one of Mexico’s national teams.
A sly left-footed attacker who was courted by both the country he was born in and the one he grew up in, Zendejas was technically still a U.S. player under FIFA rules, but had previously played two games in Mexico. I was participating in
Zendejas, who was expected to make his US senior national team debut Wednesday night against Serbia at the recently renamed BMO Stadium, suddenly became a symbol of the Mexican federation’s dysfunction.
He then opened his mouth, revealing that his participation in the January camp in the United States did not necessarily indicate his long-term plans.
Speaking after the team’s training session on Tuesday, Zendejas was less committed about his international future beyond the next game.
“I’m taking advantage of this week’s opportunity and enjoying the moment,” he said. “I’m concentrating on tomorrow’s game.”
He repeated the phrase over and over in English and Spanish.
He didn’t say his future was in Mexico, but he didn’t say it wasn’t either.
And who can blame him?
Mexico is out of the World Cup group stage and its federation is in turmoil, but the US team has its own problems.
Like the Mexicans, the Americans have no coach and no direction.
How can Zendejas commit its future to a program that doesn’t know where it’s going?
Born in Mexico and raised in Texas, Zendejas is considered an American player by FIFA as he represented his country in the 2015 U-17 World Cup.
Zendejas turned professional with FC Dallas in Major League Soccer, but was established in Mexico’s Liga MX. He played for Mexico at U-23 and senior level, but Eltri was confiscated and fined because he played without submitting the required paperwork.
Ironically, he never applied for a one-time change of affiliation to play for Mexico, so he is eligible to change affiliation unless he plays in an official match. Hmm.
Asked if he would be open to play in the Nations League and Gold Cup games later this year that will permanently tie him to America, Zendejas replied: Hopefully I get that win and on a personal level, I hope it’s a great game for me.
Again, who can blame him?
Interim coach Anthony Hudson said recruitment for Zendejas was initiated by Greg Berhalter, who coached the United States at the World Cup last year.
But his decision to sit Giovanni Reyna down resulted in a Game of Thrones-like feud with Reyna’s parents that destroyed the program, so Burholter probably won’t be returning as coach.
And even if Verhalter is back, would Zendejas still want to play for the same Bozo that benched world-class talent in Reyna in favor of brilliant worker bees like Tim Ware?
What if the US miraculously gets Jose Mourinho or some other foreign pragmatist who values defensive work-rate over attacker creativity?
As it stands, the diminutive Zendejas are already competing for playing time against a group of wingers including Reyna, Ware and former youth varsity team roommate Christian Pulisic.
Let’s say Zendejas beat Reyna to finish 11th on the team. Who says Reyna’s parents don’t try to thwart him like Berhalter did?
Zendejas can also take a wait-and-see approach in this case. He has only one career. He should know where he is taking his next step.
This alone is an indictment to American football culture, as Zendejas’ decision should be as easy as tapping in from inside the 6-yard box.
The US-Mexico rivalry is cyclical, with one team dominating one period and the other the next. Americans are now on top. they have better talent.
That advantage has been eroded by the events of the last few months.
Soccer in Mexico may be a brisk trash fire, but the United States has to show that its self-destructive tendencies don’t land in the same place.