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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

Gold Cup
 By Tom Marshall

Liga MX pair Alvarado and Yarbrough facing big international decisions

Club America's Ventura Alvarado could well be lining up for the U.S. versus Mexico on April 15th.
Club America's Ventura Alvarado could well be lining up for the U.S. versus Mexico on April 15th.

The prospect of dual Mexico and United States citizens deciding between national teams is nothing new, but when it is at the full national team level and involves young players, the stakes are naturally higher.

That is the situation Club Leon's William Yarbrough and Club America's Ventura Alvarado may find themselves in very soon. There have been murmurings that both could soon be involved at the international level, and with Mexico and the U.S. playing friendlies later this month, before meeting each other in April, their international futures may be decided over the next few weeks.

Alvarado was born in Phoenix, Arizona to Mexican parents and headed south to join Club America as a teenager, rising through the youth ranks alongside the likes of Raul Jimenez and Diego Reyes.

From there, the now 22-year-old sharpened up during a successful year-long loan spell at second division Necaxa in the 2013-14 season. On return, the center-back -- who can also play right or left-back -- had to be patient before bursting into the limelight in the semifinal of the 2014 Apertura, when Paul Aguilar was banished from the squad, and Alvarado filled in as the team's right-back as Las Aguilas charged to the title.

But it has been this present Clausura in which Alvarado has really kicked on and impressed, with incoming America coach Gustavo Matosas finding him a place in the side in both a back four and a back five system (as a center-back). Alvarado has looked the part as a regular at arguably Mexico's biggest club and reports suggest that he is almost a certainty to be called up for the U.S. for the March friendlies against Denmark and Switzerland in Europe later this month.

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The interesting issue is whether Mexico will also come calling for a player who El Tri coach Miguel Herrera knows from their time at Club America and who he actually handed a Liga MX debut against Toluca in Feb. 2013.

For now, "El Piojo" has been cautious, indicating recently he had "not decided" about Alvarado and adding that he has sufficient depth to cover his position. If taken at face value, it should mean Alvarado becomes a U.S. international, with the defender having previously stated he is available to whoever comes calling first and the door seemingly open to him to win a starting spot if he can continue his rise.

Nevertheless, with Mexico involved in both the Copa America and Gold Cup this summer and Herrera likely to include at least ten center-backs over the two squads, someone with the youth, versatility and potential of Alvarado would surely be closer to being involved than Herrera is letting on. Mexico isn't exactly blessed with depth at center-back at present, and the likes of Rafa Marquez and Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez won't be able to carry on much beyond this summer.

One player with U.S. citizenship who Herrera has been in indicating is in his future plans is Leon goalkeeper Yarbrough.

The bilingual 25-year-old was born in Aguascalientes to Texan parents and raised in Mexico, joining Pachuca's youth team before moving on to Leon.

Leon goalkeeper William Yarbrough already has two Liga MX titles to his name.
Leon goalkeeper William Yarbrough already has two Liga MX titles to his name.

Yarbrough's big break came two years ago, when coach Gustavo Matosas debuted the inexperienced 'keeper and backed him as the team's starter. Five clean sheets in his first nine games consolidated Yarbrough's position, who went on to become a prominent figure in helping Leon to the 2013 Apertura and 2014 Clausura back-to-back championships.

Brave, bold and both a good shot-stopper and distributor of the ball from the back to launch the team into attack, Yarbrough has started the current Clausura well and made a spectacular save last Saturday against Santos Laguna.

Already with two Liga MX championship titles and experience in the Copa Libertadores, Yarbrough is at least in the mix for Mexico and Herrera has said that Yarbrough is on the list of possible goalkeepers to be included this summer.

Then on the U.S. side, Tim Howard (when he returns), Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando are the older heads, with Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid and Cody Cropper some of the younger hopefuls keeping them on their toes, but there's no reason to think Yarbrough couldn't compete for a place.

Like Alvarado, he's so far been non-committal so far on his international future.

"If that day (of being called up by both Mexico and the United States) arrives, I'd be tied up in knots," admitted Yarbrough in February.

Potentially, both Alvarado and Yarbrough will have a difficult decision to make very shortly.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.


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