Jonathan González is not only one of the best players in the U.S. Soccer youth system, he’s already one of the most accomplished teens in Liga MX. The 18-year-old Monterrey midfielder broke into the Rayados first team this season and immediately established himself as a starter in the defensive midfield, supplanting Mexican international Jesús Molina in the process. With González playing directly in front of the backline throughout the Apertura season, Monterrey flourished, winning the Copa MX, topping the Liga MX table, and making it to the final of the Apertura tournament. González was even named to Diario Récord’s Best XI team alongside several international stars.
Best of all for USMNT fans, he was born in Santa Rosa, Calif., and he’s only ever represented U.S. youth teams at the international level, despite being eligible to play for Mexico through his parents. Even if the USMNT’s midfield is its greatest position of strength, González is the sort of player that the U.S. team can build around, especially considering the youth of and shaky recent play from U.S. defenders. He’s a decent distributor and made his bones this year destroying would-be counterattacks. And Mexico is trying to wrest him from the USMNT.
While González has logged time for the U.S. U-17, U-18, and U-20 teams, he’s still technically eligible to make a one-time switch and suit up for El Tri because he hasn’t represented the U.S. in a competitive match. He’s been vocal in the past about his desire to play for the United States, and there has never been serious reason to worry that he’d swap allegiances until recently. Interim USMNT boss Dave Sarachan called up a youth-heavy team for a November friendly against Portugal, but despite González’s eye-opening Liga MX play, he didn’t get the call. “Personally, nobody came and talked to me and let me know about that friendly. I just wasn’t called in,” he told Soccer In America.
Enter Mexico. According to a report from ESPN MX, Mexican officials have reached out to González and manager Juan Carlos Osorio has called him to discuss calling him up a friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina at the end of January. If he accepted it and played, he’d be permanently tied to Mexico, and would have a shot at making the 2018 World Cup roster. Because the USMNT didn’t qualify for the World Cup, they won’t have many opportunities to integrate González into the squad, and they won’t be cap tie him until the 2019 Gold Cup. The USMNT also has a friendly against Bosnia in January, but it’s one day after the Liga MX season opener, so González probably won’t be released.
ESPN MX’s report didn’t indicate anything about González’s feelings about playing for Mexico, and even if they’re giving him a hard sell, it’s no guarantee that he’ll actually swap national teams. That there is even a chance, however, shows how acutely painful the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the World Cup is and will continue to be. Hopefully, Bruce Arena’s fuck-up will shake the outdated U.S. Soccer system to its core and prove a long-term benefit, but it greatly increases the risk of losing out on good dual nationals like González.