U.S. Soccer released a video earlier this week with U.S. Men's National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann discussing dual nationals Tesho Akindele and Julio Morales, who have both received their first USMNT call-ups for the current January training camp and are now faced with the choice to choose the U.S. or their other country of eligibility.
Given that Akindele is the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year, he's getting the lion's share of the attention on the matter, and for good reason. His other citizenship is with Canada, and frankly, it seems like if he accepted a call-up to the Canadian Men's National Team, he would get into the senior side right away and would probably be cap-tied at the first opportunity.
But for former Chivas USA striker Morales? It's a little more murky.
Morales has been a Mexico U-20 international and played for El Tri in the U-20 World Cup in 2013. So he's got some real international experience, on the youth level anyway, and is clearly well-regarded as a potential senior international one day.
But that's the catch -- unlike Akindele, who would more or less walk into Canada's senior squad today, Morales is not ready to play at the senior level yet for either country.
He's a million miles away from Mexico's senior squad, seeing as he's never played for Chivas de Guadalajara and has never played in Liga MX. He has also barely played in Ascenso MX while on loan with Coras Tepic.
Morales did get a fair amount of playing time for the Goats in 2013, and started to come on at the end of the season, when he scored both of his goals after returning from the World Cup. Is there promise for the 21-year-old moving forward? Definitely. But does that mean he's truly international quality? Well, I see no evidence of that at this point.
Let's put it this way: It's obvious that Morales would not have been close to this USMNT camp if he had not played for Mexico's youth team. I could easily think of a dozen players who "deserved" this call-up more than Morales, based on club form.
On one hand, you can't blame Klinsmann for trying to cast the widest net in not only expanding the player pool but actively blocking other countries from capping dual nationals. Strategically, all's fair in international soccer, and this is not beyond the pale.
But while this call-up could expand Morales' opportunities on the club front, it just as easily could be a situation where Klinsmann gets him to switch, and then ignores him from there on out. It could be based on form, or it could be nakedly cynical.
Of course, if Morales really does find a club situation where he can play and starts scoring regularly, then he could potentially develop as a contributor to the USMNT. It's certainly not impossible. But in my view, he's very much one prospect among many at this point.
Klinsmann said he's willing to give Akindele and Morales time to decide on which national team they want to play for, and that's the right course, obviously. But while it's a risky proposition for both players, the risks involved with Morales are considerably larger, in my opinion. He doesn't have a settled club situation (and will probably be on the first train out of Guadalajara for good if he switches to the USMNT), and is still trying to establish himself as a professional, all while deciding which country to (potentially) play for, and both are the biggest powers in the region.
It's an enviable situation for a young player, perhaps, but here's hoping everything works out for Morales.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!