[7UP SUENO ALIANZA] Coaches from archrivals USA and Mexico will work together at the 7Up Sueno Alianza National Finals, the crowning event of the Hispanic player identification program. U.S. U-14 coach Hugo Perez and Mexico's U-20 coach Sergio Almaguer will share the bench to guide the Alianza U-15 and U-19 finalists in a total of six games at the HubStub Center in Carson, Calif., Sept. 19-22.
Almaguer coached Mexico at this year’s U-20 World Cup, where El Tri reached the round of 16, losing, 2-1, to Spain. As a player, he made 17 national team appearances and was part of its third-place 2000 Copa America squad.
Perez, a U.S. Hall of Famer who played at 1984 and the 1994 World Cup, is also a U.S. Soccer Technical Advisor and served as Tab Ramos’ assistant at 2013 U-20 World Cup.
The Alianza finalists were chosen from tryouts in 11 cities over the last six months. The events have become popular among scouts from the Mexican soccer federation and Mexican Liga MX clubs, 16 of which will be represented at the National Finals.
Among the Alianza teams’ opponents at the National Finals are the youth teams of Apertura 2012 champion Tijuana Xolos, who have five Mexican-American players on their first team -- Paul Arriola, Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona, Greg Garza and Herculez Gomez -- and six in the youth ranks.
“It’s natural for us to look for talent in the United States,” said Xolos scout Jose Meza while attending the Alianza Sueno event in the San Francisco Bay Area that attracted 670 teenagers to the open tryout. “It makes geographic sense, because we’re so close, and we’ve already established that there’s a lot of talent here.”
Meza says he looks for technique, leadership qualities, athleticism and intensity when he’s scouting.
”And we’re always looking with lefties,” he said. “Everybody’s looking for good left wingers.”
Club America’s Youth Academy Director Jose Luis Arce believes Mexican-American players are often more advanced athletically than their counterparts south of the border.
“There’s more sports science here,” he says. “And they eat better.”
While scouting north of the border, Arce says:
“I compare them mentally to players we have in our academy in the same position and try to see if they have something more to offer.”
The Alianza events have also attracted MLS scouts, and MLS teams provide competition, such as the San Jose Earthquakes, whose Academy teams faced Alianza’s Northern California finalists, and Chivas USA, which will compete at the National Finals. Teams from Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire have also played Alianza teams.
College coaches have been more difficult to attract to the events, but Alianza has added a college counseling component to its program to help educate players on the college recruitment and admissions process.