Alex Zahavi
John Dorton/ISI

American Exports: US youth int'l Zahavi heads to Portugal

AMSTERDAM — Israeli champs Maccabi Haifa have extended the contract of US Olympic hopeful Alex Zahavi and loaned him to top-flight Portuguese outfit Vitória Setúbal for the 2011-12 season, MLSsoccer.com has learned.

The former Benfica and Sporting CP youth prospect moves back to Portugal temporarily after extending his Greens deal through 2015.

"He has signed for a new year on his contract and gone to Vitória for the season," Zahavi's rep and great uncle, transfer guru Pini Zahavi, told MLSsoccer.com. "He now has a contract with Maccabi Haifa for four years."

The agent confirmed that his client was making the loan move in order to obtain more playing time in a quality environment.

Zahavi dressed only a half-dozen times last term for Maccabi Haifa without ever making his Ligat Ha'al debut for the champions. He spent the back half of the 2010-11 schedule on loan to Hapoel Acre, where the Los Angeles native made his first 10 pro appearances, logging just 275 minutes without a goal.

Vitória Setúbal will open the new Primeira Liga season in Portugal when Paços de Ferreira come calling on August 14. Os Sadinos finished 12th last season as a promoted side.

The 20-year-old Zahavi, who also spent academy time at Arsenal and Barcelona, is currently cap-tied to Portugal due to appearing once with the Under-17s in UEFA qualifiers in 2007. Zahavi, though, is eligible to make a one-time FIFA switch to play for both the United States and Israel, and has suited up for both in friendlies.

Last November, the winger notched a goal and an equalizing assist in two friendly matches for the US Under-20s in Kennesaw, Ga. In February and March, Zahavi bagged a stunning goal in three outings for the Israel Under-21s.

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