The news that Jonathan Gonzalez will represent Mexico came as a surprise to many. After representing the U.S. on the youth level, Gonzalez seemed destined to be called into the United States Men’s National Team. With the Stars and Stripes re-building and focused on the future, it appeared like that call would happen sooner rather than later. Instead, the teenager decided to represent El Tri.
The U.S. has been fairly successful at attracting dual-nationals like Kenny Saief and Jesse Gonzalez to build for the future. While the team has missed out on players like Giuseppe Rossi in the past, he ended up playing for Italy. Gonzalez will represent Mexico and El Tri will get stronger while the USMNT gets weaker. Players’ motivations are often difficult to determine in situations like this, but Gonzalez wrote a letter detailing his decision that he posted to his Twitter account on Tuesday.
It is easy to overlook that soccer players are people who have lives that exist off of the pitch. Gonzalez’s letter expressed the personal reasons that he has to represent Mexico that have to do with his family which also motivated his decision. At the end of the day, Gonzalez could only represent one country and he chose the one of his roots and the one that asked him to.
While Gonzalez discussed why he chose to represent Mexico, it is also important to note that this is something that didn’t ‘just happen’ and he could as easily be playing for the U.S. The team certainly could have done more to persuade him to join the USMNT, it was reported that Gonzalez didn’t get a call explaining why he wasn’t on the roster for the recent game against Portugal. Mexico was actively pursuing him while the U.S. stood by, perhaps just assuming that because he had been in the youth set up he would choose the country of his birth whenever they got around to inviting him to play.
Meanwhile, some U.S. fans have reacted angrily with exclusionary rhetoric saying that Gonzalez isn’t an American because of his decision, the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol had a different, more inclusive take on his nationality:
Since 2016 the USMNT has had few bright spots. Christian Pulisic is a rising star in Germany, the team won an off year Gold Cup, that’s about it. On the flip side, the coach that was supposed to make the team into a World Cup contender was fired in 2016. It followed that up by failing to reach the World Cup in 2017, so far 2018 is starting off on a down note as the team is possibly missing out on a player that could anchor the midfield for a generation.