Alex Zendejas: Thriving in Mexico City, always fond of Dallas, settling in with USMNT

He grew up in El Paso, the West Texas city that — besides being the namesake of the Marty Robbins song that won the first country & western Grammy Award — boasts being part of world’s largest international metroplex with Mexican sister cities Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez, where Zendejas was born.

At age 14 in 2012, Zendejas joined the FC Dallas academy. He also spent time at U.S. Soccer’s U-17 residency in Bradenton, Florida, and in 2016, two years after signing an FC Dallas Homegrown deal, he moved to Guadalajara to join Liga MX club Chivas. He moved 300 miles eastward while loaned to Zacatepec by Chivas in 2018-19. A 2020 transfer to Club Necaxa moved him north of Guadalajara to Aguascalientes.

Since January 2022, when he joined Club America, Zendejas has lived in Mexico City.

When he addressed the media on Monday, a week after committing to the U.S. national team and ahead of Friday’s Concacaf Nations League game at Grenada, Zendejas was asked about his time in Dallas.

“FC Dallas means pretty much everything, because they’re the ones that opened the doors to me,” Zendejas said. “They actually went to my home city, El Paso, to do a training session tryout. And that's when I got the opportunity to move to Dallas and get into their academy system.

“I’m super, super grateful for them. The thing I miss most about Dallas? The food's great, the people, my roommates that I had there. I lived in Frisco. The lifestyle. Everything's so convenient and so close.”

Shortly after joining FC Dallas’ youth program, Zendejas was called into a U.S. U-14 national team camp run by Hugo Perez in Southern California, where teammates included Christian Pulisic, Luca de la Torre, Haji Wright, Weston McKennie and Jonathan Gonzalez.

The Northern Californian Gonzalez opted in 2018 to commit to Mexico but hasn’t been capped by El Tri since October 2019 and now plays for Monterrey's second division team, Raya2 Expansión. The other four were on the USA’s 2022 World Cup team.

Zendejas’ U.S. youth national team play included the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile, as well as trips to Italy, Slovenia, Mexico, Panama and Bosnia-Herzegovina. His last U.S. youth national call-up came in January 2016, shortly before he joined Chivas, with the Tab Ramos-coached U-20s.

Chivas’ Mexicans-only policy seemed to have ended the chances of seeing Zendejas wear a U.S. jersey again. He accepted a call-up to Mexico’s U-21s in 2017, and to its U-23s and full national team in 2021.

Because the Mexican federation (FMF) had not filed paperwork with FIFA to make him eligible for El Tri, FIFA fined the FMF 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,900) for fielding an ineligible player and ordered Mexico to forfeit the national team's two senior friendlies and three under-23 games in which Zendejas played.

Zendejas joined the USA’s January 2023 camp for three days and played in its 2-1 loss to Serbia.

“I was super grateful that they gave the opportunity even though I didn't stay the whole camp, because we [Club America] were in season,” he said.

The experience helped lead to his ultimate commitment to the USA.

“I spoke to my family about it almost every day or every week, because I was getting calls from everywhere,” Zendejas said. “It was a bunch of chaos that happened over there. People saying stuff that wasn't true, people saying stuff that was true. But at the end of the day I just tried not to focus on that, tried to focus on, like, my club team, playing well. And then at the end of the day I spoke to my family and we decided to represent USA.”

Asked whether he was promised a spot on the U.S. team, Zendejas said: “That's not possible. We have to work daily to prove we deserve the opportunity."

The left-footed Zendejas grew up admiring Lionel Messi and David Silva, and he still follows his favorite team, Barcelona, closely.

In 2018, VamosDeportes posted a montage of Zendejas' goals for second division Zacatepec and compared him to Messi.

Zendejas played 40 games (5 goals, 2 assists) during his eight months with Zacatepec. He scored 11 goals in 50 games for Necaxa before moving to Club America, for which he has scored 12 goals (three assists) in 44 Liga MX appearances, including the gamewinner — with his right foot — in a 2-1 Super Clasico victory over his former club Chivas last September. 

Shortly after returning from the U.S. camp in January, Zendejas suffered a hamstring injury. After missing five games, he come off the bench late in a 2-0 win over Tigres and last Sunday he entered Club America's Super Clasico at Guadalajara in the 63rd minute of his team's 4-2 win.

The victory keeps Club America in second-place of the Torneo Clausura standings and put Zendejas in a good mood upon arriving in the USA's camp in Orlando. During Monday's training, he and fellow attacker Daryl Dike, who was injured for most of 2022 and last appeared for the USA in the summer of 2021, played together for the first time.

"It was nice," Dike said. "In the possession drills, we were on the same team, so things were going well there. Then we had the finishing drill. ... Obviously you can see how good he is. His left foot is a wand."

Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos

3 comments about "Alex Zendejas: Thriving in Mexico City, always fond of Dallas, settling in with USMNT".
  1. Santiago 1314, March 20, 2023 at 11:23 p.m.

    I actually Posted this before your Article on the other Zendejas article:

    Santiago 1314, March 19, 2023 at 4:11 p.m.

    Stayed up Late, to watch the America vs Guadalajara "Classico"
    Zendejas came ON about the 60th minute:
    Left Footer, who Plays on the Right Wing...
    Likes to Cut-In across the Midfield...
    Combines VERY Well with Midfielders as far as Possesion and Switcing Play.
    Can SPIN TURN on a Dime to His left, When Closed Down on the Line.
    He has a Low Center of Gravity, which helps him on his Turn and Cuts, and makes him Hard to Knock off the Ball, without Fouling him.
    of Course that means he is Facing away from Goal and Has to Drop the Ball Back
    (That's An ATTACK KILLER...Can he Beat his Defender down the Wing and then Cross with his Right Foot.??? Still to be Determined. I don't think he even attempted to go Around his Defender to the End Line.)
    I Don't want to Over-Hype him, but he has that Explosiveness on his Runs that Reminds you of Messi... 
    "IF" he can continue to progress; 
    Definetely a Player that can;
    CHANGE THE WAY THE WORLD SEE US SOCCER.!!! (We don't have anyone like him)

  2. John Richardson, March 21, 2023 at 2:32 a.m.

    Great update Mike.. I think I will actually watch these matches.  Looks like some of our up and comers and some experienced players.  Nice to see the American Latino players represented !

  3. Grant Goodwin, March 21, 2023 at 12:20 p.m.

    Awesome article and update.  Glad to always see more Latino representation on the US National Teams as it seems "we" forget about them or just don't seem to care enough to effectively scout them.
    -Somebody in Mexico's Federation screwed that up...Big Time by not filing a switch form with FIFA.
    Even though i root for Mexico when they are not playing the US, i am happy for us to reap the rewards of what screwed up.

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