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As if the soccer rivalry between the United States and Mexico needed any more tension.

Enter Jonathan Gonzalez, an 18-year-old midfielder from Santa Rosa who is eligible to suit up for both squads — a guy of such prodigious talent he may just set off an international fracas over which country gets his services.

But let’s back up just a bit and see how we got to this point. Gonzalez’s soccer path has always been bright — he has been playing on the U.S. national team since he was 13 — but his near-meteorite rise in recent months is breathtaking.

Gonzalez who grew up in Santa Rosa and played for the Atletico Santa Rosa soccer club, became a hot property after dazzling scouts at a showcase aimed at Liga MX teams when he was 14.

“When we took him to the tryout, out of 18 clubs, 13 offered him a contract,” said Adolfo Mendoza, president of Atletico. “That’s how much he stood out.”

Gonzalez chose Monterrey, but also continued to shine on the international stage for the United States youth teams.

When he was picked for the U14 national team, he was one of the two youngest players on the squad.

In February, when U.S. coach Tab Ramos picked the U20 national team for World Cup qualifiers, he pulled Gonzalez and Tyler Adams from younger squads. Gonzalez was the youngest guy on the team.

“I try to pick the best group I can pick,” Ramos said at the time. “Those two guys happen to be two years younger, but I think they’re ready to contribute just like everybody else.”

With Monterrey this summer, Gonzalez was more than ready to contribute. He was put into the starting lineup July 21 for veteran Jesus Molina, who was playing with the Mexican national team. He took the defensive midfield spot and hasn’t relinquished it.

He’s played in eight of Rayados’ nine games since his debut with the first team and started seven of those. Well worthy of note: Monterrey sits alone atop Liga MX.

“If I’m the coach and I’m (7-2) and I’m winning and I’m in first place I’m not going to change anything,” Mendoza said. “As a coach you are looking for chemistry, where the team functions the best with personality and style and backgrounds. Don’t fix something that is not broken.”

Gonzalez’s performance on Mexico’s grandest stage has not gone unnoticed.

ESPN is reporting that U.S. national team Bruce Arena wants his digits. American Soccer Now reported in August that Gonzalez is committed to playing for the United States, while Mexican soccer publication The Record is saying officials from Mexico’s national team are trying to take advantage of Gonzalez’s dual citizenship (his parents were born in Mexico) so he can suit up for El Tri.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, Gonzalez is the hottest teenage soccer property on the men’s side since Christian Pulisic.

So far, Gonzalez has expressed an allegiance to the U.S. team.

“It’s amazing,” said Jonathan’s dad, Alonso Gonzalez of Santa Rosa. “It’s something we never expected this fast. It just happened so fast. He sacrificed a lot; he showed he can do it. We are just trying to enjoy the moments.”

There have been a lot of moments to enjoy. And, of course, it hasn’t happened in a blink of an eye.

ALL-EMPIRE GIRLS WRESTLING

ALL-EMPIRE GIRLS WRESTLING

WRESTLER OF THE YEAR

Victoria Espinoza, Sr., Rancho Cotate

(235 pound weight class)

FIRST TEAM

101: Krystal Lockwood, Jr., Lower Lake

106: Adriana Lopez, Fr., Upper Lake

111: Felicity Bernardo, Fr., Casa Grande

116: Abebrean Gonzales, Soph., Lower Lake

121: Brigitte Mihalca, Soph., Casa Grande

126: Kim Juarez, Jr., Analy

131: Nicole Karkar, Soph., Willits

137: Dana Johnson, Jr., Santa Rosa

143: Kayla Harrison, Fr., Ukiah

150: Mari Mendoza, Fr., Analy

160: Alexus Tavares, Sr., Piner

170: Kenya Henderson, Sr., Ukiah

189: Gabby Agenbroad, Sr., Willits

235: Michelle Larsen, Sr., Petaluma

SECOND TEAM

101: Cindy Diaz, Soph., Petaluma

106: Samantha Hayman, Sr., Windsor

111: Citalalie Calderon, Soph., Petaluma

116: Alyssa Archer, Soph., Petaluma

121: Christin Wilson, Soph., Upper Lake

126: Selina Medrano, Sr., Casa Grande

131: Mikelynn Row, Fr., Lower Lake

137: Charlene Sanza, Jr., Rancho Cotate

143: Sarah Cook, Fr., Petaluma

150: Azucena Montesinos, Jr., Windsor

160: Raquel Mancilla, Soph., Rancho Cotate

170: Emma Desvaux, Soph., Rancho Cotate

189: Jasmin Clarke, Fr., Kelseyville

235: Kimberly Carrillo, Sr., Windsor

COACH OF THE YEAR

Shane Roberts, Ukiah

Gonzalez has spent the past four years living on his own in Mexico, gaining a raft of experience but also giving up a lot in pursuit of his dream.

Mendoza remembers those early conversations when the young player was considering his options.

“He had a level head, he was mature. He knew what he wanted,” he said. “He consulted with his parents and family and club. He said, ‘I’m going to leave my friends and family; I’m not going to go to high school in America. I’m going to fight for a position and follow my dream.’”

That’s the same guy Mendoza sees now, starting in a key role for the best team in Mexico.

“He plays defensive midfield and his accuracy in passing is in the 90 percent range,” he said. “He very seldom makes mistakes.”

Mendoza said Gonzalez has the intelligence and equilibrium to play a position that can go unnoticed when you do it well but can lead to an opponent’s goal when you err.

“This position, you are not the glorified goal scorer, you are not the guy taking set pieces,” he said. “You are the guy that does a lot of the dirtier work but people and scouts and coaches know these players are hard to find.”

Well, consider Gonzalez officially found. By Monterrey. By El Tri. By the U.S. Men’s national team. And the arms race for his services has already begun.

“He’s basically killing it,” Alonso Gonzalez said. “This is just the beginning.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”