GUADALAJARA, Mexico — American-born defender Miguel Ángel Ponce looks increasingly likely to become a full Mexican international after any hopes he might one day play for the US national team took two blows on Monday.
Ponce scored the only goal in a closed-door scrimmage as Mexico finalized preparation for the Copa América against Bolivia and was officially named in Mexico’s 23-man squad for the tournament in Argentina.
“It is the dream of everyone, including me,” the 22-year-old recently told Guadalajara daily El Trén about his feelings of playing in the Copa América. “I feel more Mexican than ever.”
Born in Sacramento, Calif., the left back was raised in Tijuana but crossed the border daily to go to school in the US. He played for teams North of the Border before being discovered by Chivas de Guadalajara at age 14 during a tournament in the state of Aguascalientes.
“I was born in America, but in my case my family is Mexican, so I’m more Mexican than American,” Ponce told MLSsoccer.com last September.
Much like the US did in 2007, the Mexican federation elected to send its “A” squad to the recently completed Gold Cup and send a largely experimental youth side to the Copa América. The idea is that the squad headed to Argentina next month will gain some valuable experience before next summer's Olympic Games in London.
The bad news for the US is that a good young left back is on the brink of forfeiting his right to play for the Stars and Stripes. As Mexico is an invited guest to the Copa América, appearing for El Tri in the South American tournament wouldn't automatically cap-tie Ponce to Mexico as the matches officially would be deemed friendlies. But it would certainly put him on the road to future call-ups.
An added dilemma Ponce has faced when deciding on which national team to play for is that his club Chivas only fields Mexican nationals. Although Ponce fits into that category because of his Mexican parentage, one cap for the US national team and he would be considered a foreigner by the Rojiblancos and his future would be put in doubt.
The final ironic twist? Ponce could earn his first cap for El Tri in their Copa América opener against Chile — on July 4.