Back in 2015, future World Cup standouts Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic headlined the United States’ under-17 nationwide workforce. But for then U-17 coach Richie Williams, Alejandro Zendejas’ contribution that U.S. squad — one which included two different members of the U.S. roster finally yr’s World Cup in Qatar — was each bit as essential.
“When you talk about personalities, he was one of the greatest guys within that group,” Williams informed FOX Sports of Zendejas, the 24-year-old Mexican-American winger who is predicted to make his senior debut for the USMNT in Wednesday’s 2023-opening pleasant match in Los Angeles in opposition to Serbia (10 p.m. ET). “He’s an exceptional person.”
With membership commitments stopping Adams, Pulisic and the remainder of the Europe-based regulars obtainable for Wednesday’s exhibition or one other on Saturday versus Colombia, interim U.S. coach Anthony Hudson chosen a roster stocked largely with out-of-season MLS gamers. The record consists of 5 gamers who went to Qatar, plus prospects like Gaga Slonina and Paxten Aaronson who’ve but to interrupt thorough with their European golf equipment.
Still, Zendejas is maybe essentially the most intriguing call-up of all. Mexican powerhouse Club America surprisingly agreed to launch Zendejas for the Serbia sport — a welcome growth for a participant who has a official likelihood of sticking when the full-strength nationwide workforce reconvenes in March for CONCACAF Nations League matches with Grenada and El Salvador.
If he needs to, that’s.
Zendejas has already performed twice for Mexico’s senior workforce, video games FIFA later mentioned he should not have participated in as a result of he’d represented the U.S. on the U-17 World Cup. Zendejas may nonetheless play for El Tri after Wednesday’s match, although he’d must petition FIFA for a one-time change of allegiance. However, if he fits up for the U.S. within the CONCACAF Nations League in March, he’d be completely tied to the USMNT. Zendejas stopped in need of committing to both nation when chatting with reporters on Tuesday, however having him concerned this month cannot harm.
“I’ll probably focus on the future once we get to that standpoint,” Zendejas mentioned when requested by FOX Sports if he’d settle for an invite for the Nations League or the Gold Cup this summer time.
Landing Zendejas for good could be a coup. Already a longtime starter with Liga MX’s most prestigious membership, he has 13 objectives in 40 appearances for Las Águilas, together with this magnificence final Saturday in opposition to Puebla:
“Alex is an absolute baller,” mentioned U.S. ahead Brandon Vázquez, one other member of that 2015 U-17 squad. “He’s so shifty. His velocity and speed are great, and he’s amazing on the ball.”
And as his stats and that video show, Zendejas can even rating. That’s no small factor for a program that struggled mightily to complete in Qatar. The Americans can by no means have sufficient aim threats. For that purpose, Zendejas had been on the U.S. employees’s radar since earlier than the World Cup, with then-coach Gregg Berhalter starting the recruiting course of final yr.
“It’s been great to see him,” Hudson mentioned of Zendejas, who will return to Club America after Wednesday’s match. “I feel the gamers have actually loved him being right here, having him across the camp.
They’ve been impressed by his talent set, too. “He’s actually dynamic left-footed participant,” Aaronson said. “When he picks the ball up he at all times seems to be like he will create one thing particular.
Should he ultimately select the U.S., Zendejas would develop into the newest twin citizen to choose the U.S. over one other nation since 2018. Four — Sergiño Dest, Antonee Robinson, Yunus Musah and Jesús Ferreira — began the Americans’ spherical of 16 loss to the Netherlands on the 2022 World Cup. Zendejas would additionally develop into the second coveted Mexican-American attacker to rebuff El Tri‘s advances in somewhat greater than a yr, becoming a member of fellow El Paso, Texas native Ricardo Pepi. Vázquez, ahead Cade Cowell and fullback Jonathan Gomez are different gamers in camp that may nonetheless swimsuit up for both nation.
The alternative to see Zendejas and different blue-chip children this month has been a welcome distraction for a program nonetheless reeling from the scandal involving Berhalter and the mother and father of winger Gio Reyna. Hudson, certainly one of Berhalter’s assistants in Qatar, took over the workforce till the unbiased investigation into the matter is full. Hudson admitted that the state of affairs has weighed on the senior gamers particularly. He addressed the difficulty with the squad earlier than camp began.
“I think there’s a sense of sadness, because everyone put so much into [the World Cup],” Hudson mentioned Tuesday. “It’s sadness because all the attention is gone away from all the good work there, and has been shifted in another direction.
The mood started to changed when training began. “You come into camp, and it is like the surface world type of disappears for a 10-12 days,” Hudson added.
Now that the first match of the 2026 World Cup cycle is here, the emphasis is on the future. And the present.
“I’m simply making an attempt to benefit from the second, making an attempt to reap the benefits of this chance,” said Zendejas, who revealed that before reporting he spoke to Pulisic, who wished him well this week.
“It’s enjoyable to reconnect with a bunch of gamers that I used to play with. We type of misplaced connection for a bit, however it’s good to see the fellows once more.”
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