Man of the hour: Ricardo Pepi seals MLS all-stars' victory

The USA or Mexico.

That's the choice several young Mexican-American stars have been faced with this year.

The LA Galaxy's Efrain Alvarez, who starred for Mexico at the 2019 U-17 World Cup, decided to stick with El Tri and made his competitive debut at this summer's Gold Cup.

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa, who played for the U.S. U-20s and U-23s, recently revealed that he had filed a switch of association needed to represent Mexico.

All the attention in recent days has been on 18-year-old center forward Ricardo Pepi, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border and played for U.S. and Mexico youth teams before representing the USA at the 2019 U-17 World Cup.

Teen brigade. Pepi scored his ninth goal of the MLS season on Saturday and was picked to the MLS All-Star Game, one of four players who were teenagers when they were named to the 2021 MLS all-stars.

On Thursday, U.S. Soccer will reveal the national team roster for the first three World Cup 2022 qualifiers in September -- Soccer America will publish a special edition of SA Daily after the announcement -- and throughout Wednesday there were conflicting reports by reporters for Spanish-language outlets about Pepi being on the U.S. or Mexico roster before FS1 analyst Stuart Holden reported on the MLS All-Star Game broadcast that Pepi will indeed be on the U.S. roster.

Flair for the dramatic. Pepi came on in the second half and clinched the shootout win for the MLS all-stars in the fifth round. New England keeper Matt Turner, a U.S. star at the recent Gold Cup, made two saves in the shootout, and Pepi clinched the 3-2 victory for the USA after Portuguese star Nani missed badly in the fourth round.

Bob Bradley
, the MLS all-star coach, had no hesitation about putting Pepi in the fifth slot in the shootout:

"He's a talented young goalscorer. He has great instincts, a lot of direct ways to finish. He puts himself in good positions, and he has a really good personality. He's a fun kid who really loves being around the goal and score. So when we were talking about penalties he was ready."

And Pepi's reaction to getting called up to the U.S. national team and scoring the winning penalty kick in the All-Star Game?

"It feels great," he said. "We'll wait tomorrow for official announcement to see what happens. To get the win for MLS, it feels great."

2 comments about "Man of the hour: Ricardo Pepi seals MLS all-stars' victory".
  1. David Ruder, August 26, 2021 at 2:08 p.m.

    To make it easeier for our Mexian-Americans to decide whose National Team they want to play for, perhaps a nw Mexican American National team should be started. 

  2. Ira Jersey, August 26, 2021 at 2:25 p.m.

    US Striker pool is shallow... and Pepi is great.  Been watching him from his North Texas SC days... fun player.

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