SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Wednesday's friendly-in-name-only between the U.S. and Mexico is precisely the moment Ventura Alvarado and William Yarbrough have been waiting for.
Alvarado was born in Phoenix to Mexican parents, but has spent his entire club career on the books of Club America. That left him with something of a predicament as to who to represent internationally. But he recently made the decision to pledge his international future to the U.S., and is now poised to make the most pressure-packed appearance of his brief career.
"I'm really motivated," he said prior to Monday's training session at Trinity University. "I [was speaking earlier about it], and I was really emotional. I feel like it's Club America against Chivas. It's a Clasico, and that's how I feel. We've got to beat them."
Alvarado admitted he's been getting plenty of ribbing all week from the rest of his Club America cohorts as well, and he said there will be a little bit more on the line come Wednesday than just bragging rights.
"There are a lot of bets. I'm going to take them all," Alvarado said with a laugh. "I've got to win for that, too. I've been messing with them. Someone wanted to [buy me dinner], but I was like, 'You won't do it, you won't do it.' There's been all kinds of stuff like that. It was mostly with Oribe Peralta and Paul Aguilar."
It's been only in the past six months that Alvarado has carved out some steady playing time with Club America. He appeared in both legs of Las Aguilas' championship run in the 2014 Apertura, and he's appeared in 12 of the club's 13 games so far in the 2015 Clausura.
With the U.S., Alvarado has been thrown into the proverbial deep end, coming on as a sub in both the 3-2 loss to Denmark back on March 25, as well as the 1-1 tie with Switzerland five days later. Both matches saw Alvarado endure some moments of struggle, but U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has long prized the ability of central defenders to play out of the back, and for that reason, Alvarado remains undaunted.
It seems likely that Klinsmann will opt for the more experienced pairing of Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez in the center of defense, but the U.S. manager has been keen to take a look at as many prospects as possible as the Gold Cup approaches. For that reason, Alvarado will be ready.
He said, "I'm happy, but I want more. I want to have more minutes here and be a starter."
Yarborough's journey was in some ways the opposite of Alvarado's. The native of Aguascalientes was born to American parents, where he's lived all his life.
"I grew up watching both teams and when the U.S. or Mexico played, I wanted both to win," he told ESPN Mexico. "When they played each other, I never leant towards one or the other. I was born and grew up in Mexico, but I know where my family is from."
Originally signed by Pachuca, a loan stint with Leon was where he made his breakthrough, and was ultimately made permanent. At just 26 years of age, he's already a two-time Liga MX champion, and like Alvarado, recently made the commitment to play for the U.S. He performed well in a 45-minute stint against Switzerland, and is well prepared for what lies ahead against El Tri.
"All I can say is that I'll defend the U.S. colors with everything I have," he said. "I will do everything possible to defeat Mexico."
- The U.S. versus Mexico rivalry may not contain some of the off-the-ball nastiness that permeated the 1990s and 2000s, but U.S. defender Matt Besler hasn't sensed any drop-off in intensity.
"[U.S. vs. Mexico] is one of the biggest games that we can play, if not the biggest," he said. "We respect Mexico. We have respect for their players and the way that they play. And we enjoy battling them on the field."
- U.S. goalkeeper Bill Hamid said he is unfazed by the added competition provided by the likes of Yarbrough. Given that Yarbrough saw minutes in the aforementioned game against Switzerland, it appears he may have slid down the pecking order, but Hamid says he's not looking at it that way.
"It's everyone's dream to aspire to be a part of their country's team," he said. "I always watch what's going on, the new guys that are in, even if they're not in my position. But it's exciting, there's a lot of guys, there's a lot of competition. All you can do is come out here and embrace it and do the best that you can."
- U.S. Soccer announced earlier that defender Michael Orozco, who raised his stock considerably in the recent matches against Denmark and Switzerland, would not be released by his club Puebla due to their ongoing relegation battle. He has been replaced by D.C. United midfielder Perry Kitchen.
-- Wednesday's game is a sellout, with 65,000 tickets sold.