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LA Galaxy 2021 Player Postmortem: Efrain Alvarez

The growth continued for the Mexico international.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote in 2020 in this feature that Efrain Alvarez was coming off a table-setting season that may pay dividends in the future. We saw some of the results in 2021.

Alvarez, the mercurial attacking midfielder and longtime crown jewel of LA Galaxy prospects, made a leap forward with his professionalism in 2020 and continued those gains this year, and under a new head coach at the Galaxy, showed he deserved regular minutes in a fluid squad.

The season started in a similar way to the last couple, with Alvarez needing to prove his fitness to get on the field. It appears to maybe be a work in progress still, but I also think Alvarez was considered the first midfielder to take off when he started and a change-of-pace option when he was coming off the bench for Greg Vanney. As a young player and with Vanney frequently chopping and changing to try and get the right formula on the field, it made sense to change things up with Alvarez over the course of the season.

Here are Alvarez’s club stats in 2021:

Efrain Alvarez 2021 LA Galaxy Statistics

2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS 26 16 1,253 2 3 36 9 1 0

Alvarez nearly doubled his minutes with the Galaxy this year compared to last year, and he doubled his attacking production as well. The highlight of the season was his game-winning goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps in Sandy, Utah midweek.

It was a peach of a goal, which demonstrated his touch and sense of timing in a high-crunch situation to win the game.

While I think it was a season of growth on the club front, the big story for Alvarez in 2021 was making his full debut for the Mexico national team and getting his debut under the bright lights at the Concacaf Gold Cup. He was capped in a competitive match in part to ensure he would not have a change of heart in a couple years and try to file a FIFA switch to the United States under the new dual-national rules, but I think in part also to show Alvarez the El Tri program truly values him and want to make sure he continues to be part of the set-up in the years to come...if he continues to develop his game, of course.

I think you can argue that Alvarez is higher rated in Mexico than in the United States — which is in part borne out by his decision to play for Mexico — and while the Galaxy have been ramping up his playing time little by little, they did a smart thing late in the season by signing him to a contract extension. That not only gives LA some security while they work to develop him into the best pro he can be, but it also increases his transfer value. If he ends up heading to Liga MX some day, which seems pretty likely, the Galaxy want to get a windfall in the process, so it is entirely logical.

Alvarez is still just 19, and it will be interesting to see what 2022 brings. I thought last year that this year was going to be pretty pivotal for him, and it came out pretty well. The task for 2022? Come out flying on the club front and see if he can play his way onto the squad for the World Cup (if Mexico qualifies, etc.). That would be an ideal season, but would also likely show that he had taken another step up with the Galaxy. He’s certainly not the finished article just yet but another step forward would be great, for him and the team. We’ll see if he can get to bigger heights in 2022.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.