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Efrain Alvarez chose Mexico after U.S. dropped him, LA Galaxy coach says

ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle shares his findings after speaking to 18 sources on the factors that led to the USMNT's World Cup qualifying failure.
Progressing from the last six World Cup group stages, Mexico have no issues starting the tournament well, but can they progress in the knockout stages in Russia?

Top LA Galaxy prospect Efrain Alvarez chose to represent Mexico after he was dropped from a United States camp, his coach Mike Munoz told Soccer America.

Alvarez, who will turn 16 in three weeks, was called up to Mexico's under-17 team this month after turning heads in the USL with six goals in a three-game span for Munoz's LA Galaxy II.

A Los Angeles native, Alvarez played for the U.S. under-15 team in 2016, but Munoz said Mexico jumped at the chance to have him join its U15 team after the U.S. later opted to leave him out.

"With U.S. Soccer, Efra was dropped from the camp for whatever reason. I don't know if there was a collective decision from U.S. Soccer," Munoz told Soccer America. "Unfortunately when he was dropped, Mexico came knocking at the door and has been there ever since.

"It had nothing to do with the Galaxy saying, 'Hey, don't go to the U.S., go to Mexico.' Of course not. We want what's best for our player, and unfortunately U.S. Soccer decided he wasn't the right guy at 14 years old, maybe because he was small, or maybe because he wasn't as athletic. I don't know.

"Those are questions you'll have to ask U.S. Soccer. It was definitely a decision by U.S. Soccer to not bring him back in, which opened the door to Mexico."

Alvarez signed a professional contract with the Galaxy's first team in March after becoming the youngest player to appear in a USL game last October.

Munoz said U.S. Soccer contacted the Galaxy after Alvarez chose to join Mexico, but the coach denied the club did anything to sway the player's decision.

"Mexico was very aggressive to come after Efra, to come to his house, to invite him into a camp," Munoz said. "We stay out of it, we want what's best for the player."

Alvarez, who could still choose to play for the U.S. in the future, posted a photo of himself on Wednesday at Mexico training camp alongside senior national team players Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos.

@lagalaxy 🇲🇽💪🏻 #lostresdelgalaxy #10 #8 #26

A post shared by Efrain Alvarez (@efrain_alvarez_10) on

Alvarez's choice to play for Mexico's youth teams came before former U.S. under-20 international Jonathan Gonzalez decided to permanently switch allegiances to Mexico.

U.S. Soccer was widely criticized for failing to properly communicate their plans to Gonzalez, and his switch lead to questions about how the Mexico and U.S. federations scout dual nationals.

And Munoz said Mexico -- despite using much more limited resources -- is aggressive in recruiting Mexican-Americans, while the U.S. "takes for granted" players' availability.

"Mexico's tactics have to be different because we're in U.S. Soccer's backyard. Mexico has one scout in southern California that we know of," Munoz said.

"So it's difficult for Mexico to be in constant communication, to be at all of our games. That's somewhere where U.S. Soccer sometimes takes for granted a little bit because there's really no threat from the outside, so when a player comes in like Efra, Mexico was aggressive. They made house calls, house visits, they sent their coaching staff from Mexico to come in and talk to him.

"Efra is Mexican as well, his parents were born and raised in Mexico. He's fluent in Spanish, so there's a comfort level there as well."

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