Efrain Alvarez opens up on Zlatan Ibrahimovic's mentorship, first red card

ORLANDO – As one of the brightest young talents in all of MLS, Efrain Alvarez has many supporters, though perhaps none bigger than LA Galaxy teammate and global superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic has been vociferous in his praise for the 17-year-old, calling him the best talent in MLS by far. He has taken Alvarez under his wing, as the pair have developed a connection and understanding. Ibrahimovic was in his position once upon a time, with great promise and potential. 

It's not a bad mentor to have. 

“We have a good relationship, on and off the field,” Alvarez said after training ahead of the MLS Homegrown Game presented by Energizer on Tuesday (5 pm ET | TUDN, Twitter). “He’s such a good guy to me, but not just to me, to everyone. It’s good to have a guy who helps you day in, day out. He teaches me. He tells me the good and bad things. We joke around about a lot of stuff, so it's good.”

There was a teaching moment this weekend.

Alvarez, amid the Galaxy’s 4-0 loss to the Portland Timbers, came off the bench and after 15 minutes, received his first career red card. The rising star got his marching orders for violent conduct, blasting a loose ball that hit Timbers' attacker Marvin Loria in the face from close range after a foul. 

“I thought the guy was going to come in hard, so I just went in hard to protect myself," Alvarez said. "I hope MLS takes it away, because I didn’t mean to do that.”

The teenager is set to be suspended for the Galaxy's next match, a marquee encounter against Atlanta United (Saturday 5 pm ET | FOX in US, MLS LIVE n DAZN in Canada). He'll be joined on the unavailable list by Ibrahimovic, who picked a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. 

Alvarez has made nine appearances this season, starting twice and grabbing two assists. Alvarez is a sought-after youngster in the international game, eligible to represent both the United States and Mexico. He had been in the youth set-up with the US, though has been representing Mexico recently. 

Alvarez won't close the door on either. 

“Right now I’m happy where I am," Alvarez said. "But anything can happen.”

As for right now, he's focused on playing with the league's other top young talents in the Homegrown game. 

“It feels amazing," Alvarez said. "I just want to be playing, hopefully one day I can switch on to the full All-Star team. We’re just here having a good time right now."