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U.S. soccer loses rising star Jonathan Gonzalez to Mexico

Jonathan Gonzalez, left, in action Saturday for Monterrey vs. Morelia. (Miguel Sierra/EPA-EFE-Rex/Shutterstock)

Billed as a “focus on the future,” the U.S. Soccer Federation on Monday announced the MLS-heavy roster for this month’s men’s national team training camp. It comes on a day, however, when news broke that one of the most promising young players in American soccer wants to play for archrival Mexico, instead.

Jonathan Gonzalez, 18, was not available for this camp, anyway, because if falls outside an official FIFA window. Like most Mexican- and European-based players, he is fully engaged in his club season. However, as first reported by Univision Deportes and confirmed by the Insider, the California-raised central midfielder for Mexican club Monterrey is seeking to switch his national team allegiance to Mexico.

If FIFA approves the move in time, he could debut for El Tri in a friendly against Bosnia on Jan. 31 in San Antonio and, in the coming months, contend for a roster spot on Mexico’s World Cup squad.

Gonzalez, who has played for U.S. youth national teams since the U-14 stage, is eligible to play for Mexico because his parents are from Mexico and he has dual citizenship. His profile rose this past fall in a starring role for Monterrey: 20 starts as the Rayados finished first in the Apertura season before losing to Tigres in the two-leg playoff finals.

He was not called into the U.S. national team for a November friendly against Portugal, though the circumstances are unclear. Monterrey apparently asked the USSF not to summon him, but because the match fell in a FIFA window, the power rested with the U.S. federation.

“Nobody came and talked to me and let me know about that friendly,” he told Soccer America last month. “I just wasn’t called in.”

The U.S. team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, one source said, figured into Gonzalez’s decision. A “lack of oversight” by the USSF, the same source said, also played a part.

As for the U.S. winter camp, which opens Thursday and culminates with a friendly vs. Bosnia on Jan. 28 in Carson, Calif., interim coach Dave Sarachan invited 15 players who have yet to play a senior national team match. The group includes D.C. United midfielders Ian Harkes and Russell Canouse. The other D.C. call-up is midfielder Paul Arriola.

Former United goalkeeper Bill Hamid is the only player on the squad employed by a European club. His new team, Midtjylland in Denmark, is on an extended winter break.

In an unusual move, FC Dallas denied the USSF’s request to call up midfielder Kellyn Acosta. Because the camp falls outside a FIFA window, the clubs have the right to turn down such requests. However, MLS clubs have almost always cooperated with national team camps. MLS will open training camps Jan. 22. Dallas is among five MLS teams preparing for the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16, starting Feb. 21, about two weeks before the regular season begins.

Twenty-one of the 30 players are age 24 or younger. Ten players will make their first appearance in a U.S. senior camp.

“It’s all about the future and opportunity,” Sarachan said in a written statement. “We clearly feel that we want to have a look at these players that have the chance to be a part of the national team for a number of years to come. It’s a long journey forward, but this is the first step starting in 2018 for the program and for these players to now get experience at this level.”

U.S. roster

Goalkeepers: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland), Cody Cropper (New England Revolution), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew)

Defenders: Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles FC).

Midfielders: Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Russell Canouse (D.C. United), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC), Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids), Ian Harkes (D.C. United), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Gyasi Zardes (L.A. Galaxy).

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Christian Ramirez (Minnesota United), Rubio Rubin (free agent), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union).