National Writer: Charles Boehm

Alejandro Zendejas “enjoying the moment” with USMNT, not committing permanently

Alejandro Zendejas USMNT

Alejandro Zendejas is happy to be back in the US men’s national team picture after years away. He’s enjoying being reunited with his old teammates from their US Under-15 and U-17 days. And he’s eager to show his quality in Wednesday’s friendly vs. Serbia at LAFC’s BMO Stadium, a match his club have surprisingly released him for in the midst of their Liga MX Clausura campaign.

“Reconnecting with the guys, it's been forever, probably like six years ever since I made the move to Mexico,” the Club América standout told reporters in a Tuesday press conference. “I kind of lost connection for a bit, but it's good to see the guys again, and we're all jokesters.“

One thing the dual-national winger is not, however, is ready to commit himself to either the United States or Mexico on a permanent basis.

“I'm enjoying the moment, taking the opportunity that I have this week,” Zendejas said when asked whether he considers himself a USMNT player going forward. “I have my mind focused on tomorrow's game. So that’s what I’m focusing on right now.”

Zendejas was repeatedly asked various permutations of that fundamental question, in both English and Spanish, and every time his answer was fundamentally the same.

“Hopefully tomorrow will be a great game for the whole team,” he said when asked if he’d accept future call-ups for competitive games that would cap-tie him to the US for good. “Hopefully, we'll get that win and then on a personal level, physical side, I hope it’s a great game for me. And then I'll probably be focused on the future once we get to that standpoint, you get me?

“I'm enjoying the moment, enjoying the present. I'd rather live day by day. And then once the moment comes to choose the future, I’ll decide on that later.”

USA or El Tri?

Because the FC Dallas academy product appeared in official FIFA competitions for the US youth national teams, including the 2015 U-17 World Cup alongside the likes of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Brandon Vazquez, he would need to file a one-time switch to play for Mexico, where he was born and has plied his trade with Chivas Guadalajara, Zacatepec, Necaxa and América since leaving FCD via $500,000 transfer deal with Chivas in 2016.

A U.S. Soccer official confirmed that Zendejas still retains the option to switch to Mexico, so any expressions of allegiance at this point would be personal statements only, including appearing in Wednesday’s match. Zendejas also spent time with El Tri’s youth teams, and Mexico leadership seemed to think he’d already made the switch when former manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino played him in two senior international friendlies in 2021 and 2022.

Yet it later turned out that he hadn’t, which led FIFA to slap the federation with a fine and several forfeits this month.

“To be honest, I don't really like to pay much attention to like, what's going on outside of the soccer standpoint. Because that's our job,” Zendejas said on Tuesday when asked about his star-crossed experience with El Tri. “I'm just focused on what I can do on the field, and how I can help out the team the best way possible.”

"An absolute baller"

As cautious as he was in front of the cameras, his coach and teammates sound thrilled to have him in camp, and beyond, they hope.

“We did play U-17 cycle together, played in the U-17 World Cup together, and Alex is an absolute baller,” said Vazquez on Monday. “He's so shifty, his velocity and speed is great and he's amazing on the ball. So playing with him is always really, really fun.”

América didn’t have to release Zendejas this week, and Hudson warmly praised the Mexico City giants for their flexibility.

“Back a while ago, Gregg [Berhalter] had started that process and had a conversation with Alejandro,” explained Hudson, a Berhalter assistant leading this camp while the federation conducts a post-World Cup review of the program. “I think it was really about timing, and I think this opportunity came up. When we put the list together, we put names on there and he was one of them where, I have to be honest, I didn't think there was any chance we were going to get him, because he's obviously playing in season right now.

“So when we made the call to the club, the club were amazing, really positive. Very supportive of him coming in, which again, I was shocked. They've been great. And then we spoke to Alejandro and the same thing: he was like, so excited to come in. What a nice guy he is, and yeah, we're lucky that we've got him in.”

Zendejas flew into Southern California after América’s Saturday night Liga MX match vs. Puebla, and will rejoin Las Aguilas in time for their weekend fixture after the Serbia game.

“I’ve got to be honest, the fact, the club have let him come in to play against Serbia and then go back to play for them on the 28th is amazing,” said Hudson. “I have a huge amount of respect for the club. And it's been great to see him, I think the players have really enjoyed being here, having him around the camp, so it's been good.”