Gringo Report: Ocegueda chooses US over Mexico

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – It’s the ultimate ratification of performance and talent for a dual national player to have two nations fighting over you.

That’s exactly what happened recently to Tigres UANL’s young left back Juan Pablo Ocegueda, who received an invitation to Mexico’s Under-20 trip to the United States earlier this month and then was called up to Tab Ramos’ US U-20 camp on Friday.

Both camps coincide, with the US meeting on Monday and Mexico on Thursday.

Having been previously involved in national team camps with both countries, Ocegueda (above, right) had a difficult decision to make, but those north of the border will be happy to know he sided with the United States.

“Coming from a Mexican family, you can imagine how happy my parents were when I told them [about the Mexico call-up], but I feel comfortable being with the US,” Ocegueda told MLSsoccer.com from Monterrey on Saturday. “I enjoy being with the rest of the players and the coaches and wanted to stay loyal to the team since they gave me my first opportunity.”

“Staying loyal to the USA,” he had written on his Twitter account earlier in the week.

Ocegueda, who was born in Riverside, Calif., says his first goal in the US national team setup is to reach the 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey and he thinks the mix of college players, MLS youth teamers and players playing abroad puts the US in good stead for the future.

“Mixing in all the talent we have and the different styles of playing, helping each other and learning from one another, I think that would make the US a very competitive team,” Ocegueda said.

The 18 year old, who is more commonly known at his club by his nickname “el Pacquiao,” was part of Tigres UANL’s Copa Libertadores squad, and was on the bench for the team's game against Unión Española in Chile.

The talented Californian says that he is in the privileged position at Tigres of learning from left backs Carlos Salcido and Jorge Torres Nilo, widely considered Mexico's best two players in that position.

“Salcido is one of the best left backs and is very good offensively, while Nilo is a more defensive player,” explained Ocegueda, who says he tries to incorporate the best bits of both players into his game.

With Torres Nilo and Salcido ahead of him at Tigres, and possibly Jonathan Bornstein as well, Ocegueda knows the route to the first team looks difficult at present, but he is settled in Monterrey and working to reach the levels of those ahead of him in the pecking order.

“I’m very comfortable with the team and love the atmosphere here,” he said. “If I keep getting better, I can have a bright future here.”

Hindered by injuries at the back end of 2011, Ocegueda says he has started 2012 well and is relishing the rest of the year.

“The season is going good better than the last one, I'm seeing good playing time with the U-20s,” he said. “Hopefully things start to get a lot better, I’m feeling great about this year.”

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. Email him at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.