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Sciaretta's Scouting Report

Fernando Arce, Jr., 17, Chooses U.S. Over Mexico

Even though his father has 47 caps with the Mexican national team, the Club Tijuana midfielder accepted a callup to join the U.S. U-20 squad and said "the U.S. will be my national team."

BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 22, 2014
2:18 PM
DUAL-NATIONAL PLAYERS once again played a key role for the United States at the 2014 World Cup, with significant contributions coming from the likes of Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Julian Green, and Aron Johannsson.

While the tendency is to group all of these players into one category, the truth is that each has his own unique American story and pathway to the national team. And these narratives transcend the United States and the world of soccer; golfer Rory McIlroy's high-profile—and controversial—decision to represent Ireland over Great Britain at the 2016 Olympics demonstrates this.

This past week another dual-national soccer player, Fernando Arce, Jr., made his U.S. U-20 national team debut, helping the Americans win the NTC Invitational in Carson, Calif. The Club Tijuana midfielder's decision to choose the United States instead of Mexico is especially intriguing.

Arce Jr., 17, played in all three games for the U.S. at the NTC and he started in the two most difficult games—against Chile and Australia. Overall he is pleased with his debut.

“It’s my first with the national team and, for me, it’s an honor to represent this team,” Arce Jr. told American Soccer Now. “The team is doing well. There are a lot of players with European experience. We’re a team on and off the field.”

Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch, a regular for the U.S. U-20 team this cycle, came away impressed by his new teammate's quality and commitment.

“I thought he did very well in the camp,” Gooch said. “He came in and made a good impression straight away and you could tell he was comfortable on the ball and showed his quality. I thought he played well in the tournament and got forward a lot from his central midfield position which helped us create a lot of opportunities. [He] worked hard defensively as well.”

Seeing Arce Jr. playing for the United States may come as a surprise given his father’s prominence in Mexican soccer. Fernando Arce, Sr., 34, currently plays for Chivas de Guadalajara in Mexico and has won Mexican titles at the club level with both Club Tijuana and Santos Laguna. To date, he has 47 caps with the Mexican national team.

Arce Jr. was born in Chula Vista, Calif., on November 27, 1996 but grew up in Mexico, moving frequently due to his father’s circuitous career path. (Arce Sr. has suited up for seven different clubs over the course of his career.)

In case you're wondering whether Arce Jr. struggled with the decision to represent the United States instead of Mexico—he didn't.

“From the start, I said that whoever called me first I would join that team forever,” Arce Jr. said. “The U.S. called me first and showed a lot of interest in me so the U.S. will be my national team."

Simple, right?

Arce Jr. also said that his father both encouraged and understood his decision.

“First of all, he congratulated me that the U.S. national team had called me because being called by a national team is a great honor,” Arce Jr. said of his father’s reaction to the U.S. call-up. “So he told me that he was very happy. He also told me it was my decision for whom to play. As I had mentioned, I always said I would join whomever called me first whether the U.S. or Mexico. In this case it was the U.S., so he told me to write my own story and pick my own path and that hopefully it would be even better than his.”

The younger Arce has always been close with his father and for the past several seasons the two were also teammates at Club Tijuana, which the elder joined in 2011. Last December in a preseason friendly between Tijuana and Club America, Arce Sr. was substituted out and his son took his place.

It was an emotional moment for the family and one that made headlines in Mexico. Now the two are on different clubs but, for Arce Jr., it was the perfect way to start his professional career.

“It meant a lot because he always has been next to me, teaching me as my mentor,” Arce Jr. said. “He always told me what to do and how to keep myself calm. It’s always very important to have your father to guide you especially in a difficult career as is the case with football. It was a very beautiful experience having to substitute for him in a friendly.

"Now that we’re apart, I do miss him.”

It is not only his father who encouraged Arce Jr. to accept the call-up; his numerous American teammates on Club Tijuana chimed in as well. In particular, Paul Arriola’s encouragement put the U.S. program in a positive light for Arce Jr., who lives in Tijuana but frequently crosses the border to visit the United States.

“Yes, there have been Herculez Gomez, Joe Corona, Gregory Garza, Edgar Castillo—all players who have played with the U.S., and they always told me to join the U.S. as it was better [because] they treat players well and the team is developing,” Arce, Jr. said. “Also, Paul has told me that the U.S. treats players well, they take care of us. So yes, Paul has told me a lot of good things about the team... and now I’m playing with him."

Lynden Gooch agreed that it was not hard for Arce to integrate into the team due to his willingness to work hard for his teammates on the field. Gooch, who himself has three passports and even once played for Ireland’s youth national teams, believes that U.S. players are especially welcoming with dual nationals and players of difference backgrounds.This is due in large part because everyone on the team shares a vision to help the team progress next year at the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

“I think he definitely fit in with all of us quite quickly because we made him feel welcome and part of the group," Gooch said, "but also because he played well and worked hard for the team. That's always appreciated.”

For the upcoming Liga MX season, Arce, Jr. is optimistic he can play a bigger role with Club Tijuana. Competition will be tight and he is still very young but he is encouraged after making his league debut in March in a loss to Cruz Azul.

As a technical and intelligent midfielder, he can help a team with his ability both offensively and defensively. He has a good shot from distance and is strong in the air. These are just a few of the attributes that earned him a call-up from U.S. U-20 coach Tab Ramos.

“My ultimate goal is to play with team U.S. in the U-20 World Cup,” Arce, Jr. said. “I am glad to be a part of this call up with the team and will work hard at 100 percent to get to the World Cup and play well there.”

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter and share your thoughts below.

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