Efrain Alvarez has been touted as the “Next Big Thing” in North American soccer for years, since he was a preteen, basically, and in 2020 we saw some tentative steps that he’s making progress on the professional front.
The LA Galaxy homegrown midfielder got some MLS playing time in 2019, and showed some real glimpses of promise in a limited number of minutes. Did he really build on it this year?
Yes, and no. When it comes to pure production, Alvarez did open his MLS scoring account this year, but his goal and two assists in 200 more minutes in 2020 are pretty much the same as his three assists in 2019. There wasn’t a full blossoming, in other words.
Still, the growth came in more intangible ways, I think. Alvarez turned 18, and he seemed to grow up over the course of the year. He worked to improve his physical fitness, and while I don’t want to body shame, I think it isn’t an exaggeration to say he had some baby fat to work off, which he’s done.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto made it pretty clear that Alvarez’s increased playing time came as a result of his being more professional and mature.
“I think he is a talented player. He has a lot of qualities, but he can’t use them if he’s unfit, or unfocused,” Schelotto said after a game. “I think in the last two to three months, he has changed. We were talking about that and he had to give the first step. And then he did. And now he is showing everything he has inside.”
Here are Alvarez’s stats in 2020:
Efrain Alvarez 2020 Statistics
The good news is that Alvarez seemed to grow up in several facets in 2020. At the same time, I think his star dimmed a bit overall. The Galaxy team was screaming out for game-changers, and with Chicharito out most of the time, the team missing an attacking right-sided player, and no playmaker to really pull the strings, Alvarez had a real opportunity. Given the circumstances, he showed some glimpses of why he’s such a highly touted prospect, but we also saw growing pains, examples where he passed when he should have shot in the box, or held the ball a little bit too long, things we hadn’t seen from him before when he was a prodigy just balling out.
So will he be sold for a huge transfer fee to Europe in the next six months? Probably not. Can he have a great 2021 season and take his stock right back up? Absolutely. Alvarez has raw talent that can probably find some real growth and progress if he’s focused and getting playing time. Having a new coach who may have more coherent tactics would likely help, too, so that is something to look forward to moving into the 2021 season.
I think Alvarez’s ceiling remains very high, and I think he could be a very special player. He took a few lumps in 2020, alongside nearly every Galaxy player, but the progress he made this year may have set the table for even bigger gains in the future. But it’s largely up to him to put it together.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.