Jonathan Gonzalez has made his choice–and it does not appear to be a good one for U.S. Soccer.
Gonzalez, the 18-year-old, California-born midfielder, confirmed multiple reports, stating that he will file his one-time allegiance switch with FIFA and will represent Mexico instead of the USA at the international level. The news was first reported by Univision on Monday morning and came the day that the U.S. revealed its squad for the annual January camp.
The development is another blow to U.S. Soccer, which is still reeling from the men's national team's failure to qualify for the World Cup. Gonzalez emerged as a prominent player in Liga MX during the 2017 Apertura, earning Best XI honors. He was overlooked by the USA for November's otherwise-meaningless friendly against Portugal, and Mexico's recruitment, spearheaded by director of national teams Dennis Te Kloese, has paid off.
By filing for the one-time switch, Gonzalez will not even need to play for Mexico to be tied to El Tri for the remainder of his international career (much like goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, who completed the one-time switch from Mexico to the USA last year). Mexico, like the USA, has a friendly at the end of the month against Bosnia-Herzegovina, and depending on when the paperwork is approved, Jonathan Gonzalez could don the red, white and green as early as Jan. 31. Gonzalez's Monterrey teammate, Cesar Montes, wasted little time in welcoming him to El Tri prior to any official comment.
As to where the blame should fall for Gonzalez, who has played for U.S. youth teams, jumping ship, it remains to be seen. U.S. Soccer's chief scout, Thomas Rongen, says he put in the work to keep him in the red, white and blue. Gonzalez, in recent comments made to Soccer America, claimed that nobody from U.S. Soccer contacted him ahead of the Portugal friendly.
"I've been to his house three times in the last year as the chief scout for the U.S. men's national team," Rongen told CBS Sports. "He's as American as they come. He represented our Under-17 team at the World Cup, our Under-20 team at the World Cup as well. Not going to the World Cup ourselves, that has been tough. I knew going forward, that we might lose some battles."
Rongen went on to claim that Gonzalez's father wanted him to represent Mexico and that "I knew it was a losing battle, probably."
Gonzalez could have been a key part of the USA's 2022 World Cup cycle along with rising-star midfielder Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie. Now, he'll be defending against them, along with trying to carve out a role under Juan Carlos Osorio for this summer's El Tri World Cup squad in Russia.