Gregg Berhalter: An opportunity for Efrain Alvarez on USMNT should come

The accelerated pace at which 16-year-old Efrain Alvarez has climbed through the LA Galaxy system has caught the attention of Gregg Berhalter, and the U.S. men's national team coach weighed in for the first time on the accelerated pace at which Alvarez might have to make a decision about his international future.

Speaking in Houston on Wednesday to promote the USA-Chile match that is expected to draw a large crowd at BBVA Compass Stadium on March 26, Berhalter said the national team staff has been monitoring the progress of Alvarez, who helped engineer the LA Galaxy's 2-1 comeback win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

"For us," said Berhalter, "it’s been interesting to watch from the background because he’s a guy that has taken a pathway that, you’d call it a somewhat normal pathway although it’s been accelerated. He started out in the academy of LA Galaxy, he played there, he went to the second team of LA Galaxy, he did really well with the second team and now he’s making an impact with the first team. That’s exactly what we want to see continuing. It would be great that he continues to chip away and get playing time and now can be a consistent performer for one of the top clubs in MLS."

Alvarez was 12 when he entered the U.S. youth national team program in 2014. He soon joined the Galaxy academy program after Chivas USA folded. But he left the U.S. youth national team program in 2016 and plays for Mexico's U-17 national team that is preparing for Concacaf qualifying in May.

Alvarez signed with the Galaxy II in 2017 and an MLS Homegrown Player contract in 2018. He tore up the USL in 2018, scoring 12 goals for the Galaxy II, but he never played a game for the Galaxy.  He needed only eight minutes on Saturday to earn his first assist and then was involved in the second goal as the Galaxy rallied for a comeback win over Chicago.

That performance prompted speculation that Mexico might make a preemptive strike at trying to tie Alvarez to El Tri by calling him up and playing him at the 2019 Gold Cup, the first chance it would have to play him in an official competition.

"We’ll be there watching the whole thing," said Berhalter, "and when he’s doing what we expect him to do, there will be an opportunity for him with the U.S. national team. Regarding a potential choice for him, we want to create an environment that players want to be in. We want to create a playing style, a team spirit that players want to be a part of. If we do, we’re confident we can get players like that and keep players like that in our program."

Alvarez started out at the age of 7 with the short-lived New York Cosmos West youth club and has been part of an exceptional group put together by Brian Kleiban, now a Galaxy academy coach, that includes U.S. U-20s Alex Mendez and Uly Llanez. While Berhalter termed Alvarez's path to the pros as "normal" -- from academy to second team to first team at the Galaxy, his former club -- he reiterated that there is not one preferred path.

"I’ve said all along that every player has their own pathway," said Berhalter. "What I want for my players -- each and every one of them -- is that they can maximize their own potential, so then they have different ways to do that. For some of them, it’s going to be going to an MLS academy, playing for an MLS second team and signing with an MLS first team really developing that way. For other guys, it’s going to be different pathways and it is going to be going to Europe or it is going to be playing at a mid-level team in Europe and then making a jump from there. Every player has a different pathway."

14 comments about "Gregg Berhalter: An opportunity for Efrain Alvarez on USMNT should come".
  1. Bob Ashpole, March 6, 2019 at 11:24 p.m.

    Actons are more important than watching. I am looking forward to the next camp.

  2. R2 Dad, March 7, 2019 at 1:53 a.m.

    "players like that "? That's as committed as you can get, Gregg? Are you just making this as easy as possible for El Tri to get Alvarez because there is nowhere you can play him on "your" team? Oh, now I see--he's only 5-8", not tall enough to be a "real" midfielder for the Nats.  Gregg: "Grow 3 inches and then get back to me, Efrain. But take your time--you're only 16 and we already have Michael Bradley running the show between now and 2022".

  3. frank schoon, March 7, 2019 at 9:44 a.m.

    It is difficult to believe he's 16, he looks more like 18 to me. Watching this video makes it clear that he learned the game , a la street soccer wise,  which was the family and his brothers were his competition and he has talent. This is not DA creation. 
    Looking at the video, at 57seconds , you can tell as he kicks the ball, the feel he puts into his shot and at the same time the thinking process, which tells me he's able to place shots under pressure; this is something you rarely see in a 16 year old.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, March 7, 2019 at 11:49 a.m.

    Yeah, but Berhalter won't invite him to camp this month.

  5. frank schoon replied, March 7, 2019 at 12:14 p.m.

    Bob, 16 ? We have got to be hurting to bring in 16year olds. The competition will him eat him up. Let him mature first.
    Look he made a nice pass to Zlatan but he had plenty of space and time for the initial dribble before passing. As a matter of fact I would recommend for him to work on his right foot because that pass should have been with his right not left. By using his left he had to take an extra step, meaning more time,which he didn't have to do if he used his right.
    With his ability, he should be able to use his right for that little short pass in the air.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, March 7, 2019 at 9:23 p.m.

    Frank, I didn't say dress him for a match. Calling him into camp when he has already played in MLS matches is not a problem. It is a recruitment tool and an opportunity to evaluate him.

  7. Theodore Eison, March 7, 2019 at 12:58 p.m.

    I would like to hear that Gregg paid Efra & his family a visit. Short of that, color me disappointed

  8. beautiful game, March 7, 2019 at 3:29 p.m.

    Coach B sounds less up-beat than the bloggers. For the coach to have a neutral or negative attitude is not the right path. Don't be surprised if El Tri coming knocking at Alvarez's door.

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, March 7, 2019 at 9:28 p.m.

    The LA Galaxy GM recruits for Mexico. Alvarez now plays for Mexico.

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, March 7, 2019 at 9:28 p.m.

    The LA Galaxy GM recruits for Mexico. Alvarez now plays for Mexico.

  11. R2 Dad, March 7, 2019 at 7:35 p.m.

    Play the kids!

    Play the kids!

    Play the kids!

  12. Right Winger, March 7, 2019 at 10:39 p.m.

    Said it many times before.  When it comes to US SOCCER.  I can’t believe some of the things I hear on here.  

    This is young man was run off at 14 from the US program.  Welcomed by Mexico.  Why would he want to come back.

  13. Bob Ashpole, March 8, 2019 at 1:34 p.m.

    He certainly won't come back if not invited.

  14. Chris Christodoulou, March 8, 2019 at 4:38 p.m.

    Please invite him. 

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications