BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, August 9, 2012
After leading Club America's Under-20 team to prominence with a Mexican title in the 2011 U-20 Clausura, Ventura Alvarado is on the verge of breaking through to the prestigious club's first team at a young age.
Alvarado, 19, was on the bench for Club America's Liga MX season opening scoreless draw against Monterrey on July 21. Just four days later he made his first team debut in the Copa Mexico against Veracruz.
Club America lost 2-1 in the first leg against Veracruz when Alvarado started but they rebounded in the second leg at home 3-1 to advance.
"The night before the game I was really anxious," Alvarado told YA about his debut. "I was thinking about all the plays I would make and hoping to have a good game. I felt I could have done more. I messed up a few times [in the game] but I feel really ready to get more minutes. I want to get into the first team for the league."
Club America is one of the most recognizable teams in the Western Hemisphere. Founded in 1916, they have won 14 Mexican Primera titles and six Copa Mexico trophies. Their home stadium, Estadio Azteca, is one of the world's greatest soccer venues.
Alvarado knows he is close to earning minutes with Club America and he is confident this season will be a transformative year.
"I just need more experience," Alvarado explained. "I'm actually learning a lot from the first team players and I am fitting in well. I get along with the famous players and everything. It's fun."
"The coaches have given me a lot of confidence and it makes me feel better. The players support me a lot and they know I can help them out. I feel I could help the team out a lot as well. It's a big jump to the senior team. A lot of people are watching. You have to put in everything."
"First I want to get minutes and have more confidence in myself and from my coaches and teammates," he added. "I want to start playing in league games and then try to start some games - little by little."
The journey to Club America has not been an easy one for Alvarado. He was born in Phoenix, Arizona but when he was only 13 years old, he had an opportunity to leave the United States to play for Pachuca's youth teams.
The decision to leave his home and family at such a young age was a difficult one, but Alvarado did not believe he could pass on the opportunity.
"I left for Pachuca when I was 13," Alvarado recalled. "My parents thought I was too young. But it was a dream for me to play professionally. For me it was a chance that only comes around once and I took it. My parents didn't want to let me go but I was like 'I gotta go.'"
Alvarado only stayed with Pachuca briefly. When he was 15 he made the move to Club America and it is there where he has come into his own as a player. It wasn't long after he arrived in Mexico City when the Club America coaching staff changed his position which changes Alvarado's career for the better.
As a youth player, Alvarado was a central midfielder who was both very speedy and who had good aerial ability. Seizing on his defensive abilities and physical skills, he was moved to central defense and he has blossomed in the backline ever since.
"When I got here I was playing central midfield but they moved me to central back," Alvarado said. "That's all I'm playing right now and I really like it. I'm one of the fastest players here actually and I'm good in the air. I like to pass the ball. I don't like to play long ball. I'm having a lot of fun going up against the forwards."
If Alvarado continues to succeed with Club America and earns consistent minutes with the first team, it could raise questions about his international future. He was born in the United States but both of his parents are from Mexico and he could represent either country.
He has yet to play internationally at any youth level but he would love to be called up to the US national team.
"I want to check it out with the US," Alvarado said of his international ambitions. "I've never played for them but I really would like to. It would be a nice experience. I was born there and I was treated well there. It would mean a lot to me. I would really like that."
Despite having yet to appear for any US team, Alvarado is already enjoying the intense sporting rivalry that exists between the United States and Mexico. The current Olympic Games have given him a great opportunity to remind his teammates and friends where he is from.
"Most of the people here think I'm Mexican," Alvarado concluded. "But sometimes when the US plays in soccer I'll joke around with them. But right now in with the USA in London [at the Olympics] doing so well and winning all these medals, I mess with them and say things like 'the US is the best.'"