They have Mexican nationality and shine for top clubs in Mexico’s first division, but goalkeeper William Yarbrough and defender Ventura Alvarado chose their other nation, the United States, for the Gold Cup.
While more and more Mexican-Americans are playing Liga MX, with 15 dual nationals in the Clausura-2015 tournament, only three have played for Mexico.
The 12 others have preferred the Stars and Stripes, with three playing for the US youth national squad and nine others having donned the senior team jersey at some point in their careers.
For the Gold Cup, which starts on Tuesday, USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann brought two of those dual nationals: Yarbrough of Leon and Alvarado of Mexico City’s Club America.
While most of these dual nationals are US-born sons of Mexican migrants, Yarbrough is the opposite: the Mexico-born son of US migrants.
Singing two anthems
Yarbrough’s parents came to Mexico three decades ago to work as missionaries in several states.
Their blond, blue-eyed son was born on March 20, 1989, in the central state of Aguascalientes.
“I’m proud of my two nationalities,” Yarbrough, 26, told AFP in an interview in flawless Spanish with a typical Mexican accent.
At home, the goalkeeper speaks English and celebrates American customs like Thanksgiving.
“For this sort of this thing, I feel American, but on the other hand, I like Mexican food and culture a lot,” he said. “My best friends are Mexican.”
The goalkeeper marks the independence days of both nations and sings the two national anthems with equal passion.
“I’ve had goosebumps singing the national anthem of either Mexico or the United States in football stadiums,” said Yarbrough, whose Leon club won the Apertura-2013 and Clausura-2014 championships.
But this year, he had to make a choice when Klinsmann came calling.
“I love both countries very much, but the decision was never complicated because one side showed interest and the other didn’t,” Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough made his debut in a friendly against Switzerland on March 31, but he goes into the Gold Cup as the third choice keeper for the defending champions behind Nick Rimando and Brad Guzan.
While he has two passports, he wants one team to win the cup: The United States.
“The two teams will be in the final. We have to take it step by step and, if it happens, I want to win,” he said.
Pride on his skin
Such Mexican league infiltrators are strategically important to Klinsmann, who keeps track of dual citizens playing south of the border.
The German manager said he picked Yarbrough because of his determination and leadership skills, while Alvarado showed how to win a spot in a competitive team like Club America.
Alvarado, 22, has a tattoo of Arizona’s flag on one arm and on the other an image of a phoenix, referring to the southwestern US city where he was born.
He was named after his father, a migrant who left his native central Mexico state of Puebla to become a gardener in the United States.
Alvarado learned to play in the United states and traveled to Mexico at the age of 15 to find a club.
After failing to join Pachuca, he managed to join Club America, one of the country’s most popular teams, and played for Miguel Herrera, who now coaches Mexico’s national squad.
After winning two national titles with America as well as thee 2014-2015 CONCACAF champions league, Alvarado was recruited by Klinsmann.
Choosing sides was simple for Alvarado. “I’ll go to the first one that calls me,” he said.
He started for the United States in a March 25 friendly against Denmark, and three weeks later in a 2-0 victory against Mexico.
Before that game, he told Mexico forward and Club America teammate Oribe Peralta: “We are going to beat you.”