11215_isi_moralesjulio_mlsmj090813128 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com; Alianza de Futbol
U.S. Men's National Team

Julio Morales Leaves El Tri, Pledges Allegiance to U.S.

The 21-year-old dual-national forward played for Mexico in the 2013 U-20 World Cup, but that didn't stop Jurgen Klinsmann and Tab Ramos from recruiting Morales to play for the U.S.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 12, 2015
5:19 PM
THE 28-MAN ROSTER Jurgen Klinsmann rolled out for U.S. Soccer's annual January camp featured more than a few surprises, but one name stood out among the mix of core players, aging veterans, and unheralded newcomers: Julio Morales.

Morales, 21, is a dual national from Glendale, California, whose parents hail from Mexico. The five-foot-eleven forward has never played for the United Staes at any level primarily because of his affiliation with Chivas de Guadalajara, which has a long-standing policy of only employing players who are eligible and willing to play for the Mexican national team. Morales says he has been invited to play for U.S. youth national teams in the past, but the Chivas policy forced him to decline.

In 2013, Morales accepted a call to play for Mexico’s U-20 national team and he played well enough to make the U-20 World Cup squad that competed in Turkey. He made two substitute appearances for El Tri, which was eliminated in the Round of 16 by Spain.

When Chivas loaned Morales to Deportivo Tepic F.C. (commonly known as Coras de Tepic) in 2014, the U.S. national team seized its opportunity and reached out to the talented attacker. Morales recalls receiving his first call from U.S. Soccer staff in November inquiring about his interest. When the call came in December inviting him to the January camp with the full national team, he had to make a decision.

Due to his history with Mexico's U-20 World Cup team, Morales could only play for the U.S. if he filed a one-time change of association with FIFA. Such a decision would close the door on playing for Mexico—and likely Chivas—ever again.

“I played for Mexico so it was hard,” Morales told American Soccer Now, referencing his decision to accept Klinsmann's invitation. “When they called, I had to make a decision. The U.S. wanted me and they wanted me a couple of years ago too for their youth team but I couldn’t go because I was playing for [Chivas]. Then Mexico called and I went to the U-20 World Cup. But this year I haven’t heard from them, but the U.S. wanted me.

"I am not going to skip this chance.”

“I was born in the U.S. but my family and friends are from Mexico,” he added. “I love both countries and I have respect for both. I have to make a decision now and it’s the U.S. who wants me to go. But I still have love for Mexico too. I was very happy when Jurgen called me and said he wanted me to come to the camp. It’s going to be a great experience and I hope that I do well.”

While growing up in the Los Angeles area, Morales was considered a talented youth player but it wasn’t until he took part in the Alianza de Futbol Hispano combines when his career began to take off.

Alianza is the largest organization in the United States with the goal of developing Hispanic soccer at the amateur level. Because it is free to all participants—and not part of any “pay-to-play” structure typically found in the United States—its influence has been growing and Liga MX clubs are now flocking to Alianza events to scout players. On the current national team roster, both Morales and Dennis Flores were discovered through Alianza and the program also boasts numerous other Mexican-American prospects on the youth teams of Liga MX clubs.

“I owe a lot to Alianza because they helped me out when I came to Mexico,” Morales added. “When I came here I was little but they always helped me out with anything. Right now they get a lot of good players and they bring them to Mexico and with the U.S. national team and the Mexican national team. They are going to get lot of good players this year too.”

From the start, however, Morales has been among the best players affiliated with Aliazna. Joaquin Escoto, a director with Alianza, recalls how there was heavy interest in Morales going back to when he was just 15 years old.

“Julio is a player that came out of our 2011 trials and is a kid that was heavily recruited by Chivas,” Escoto told ASN. “He signed with Chivas and he’s been there for three or four years. Being at Chivas, he couldn’t go to the U.S. He was born in Los Angeles and for him, he wants to play in the Olympics.

"Tab Ramos and Klinsmann convinced him. Mexico is not going to be happy. That’s the reality.”

Morales has not been out of the spotlight of American fans either. While he has been with Chivas since 2011, he made 17 appearances with Chivas USA in 2013, scoring two goals during the loan stint. Last season he returned to Mexico and played for Tepic, which advanced to the finals of the Ascenso MX (second tier) playoffs before falling to Necaxa on penalties.

This season he will return to Tepic, where more than half the team’s players are on loan from Chivas. This year Tepic will be coached by Mauro Camoranesi, the Argentina native who rose to fame as an Italian international, lifted the World Cup in 2006, and won three Serie A titles with Juventus.

“We have a really good team,” Morales said of Tepic. “Last season we went all the way to the final but didn’t win. But it was the first time this team was in this league. We did really well and I think this season we are going to do better.”

Morales will miss the start of Tepic’s season as he will report to camp with the national team in Carson, California—near where he grew up. It's unclear if he will be eligible to play for the United States in the two upcoming friendlies because his change of association must be completed by FIFA first. The status of his application is still unknown.

Regardless, Morales is eager to get to work with the United States and his goal is to be part of the Olympic team next year—even if he knows he faces stiff competition for a roster spot.

“Hopefully in this camp I will do my best and see if I can make the final roster for the Olympics,” Morales said. “I know it is going to be hard and that there are a lot of really good players. There is a lot of good competition.”

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

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