LOS ANGELES – Efrain Alvarez is a lot like many 16-year-olds.
He worries about pimples and spends time with friends and family, but unlike others his age, he also boasts a natural game-changing ability that was on full display when he made his MLS debut on Saturday and helped his side earn a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire.
With the Galaxy trailing by one midway through the second half, head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto looked to the 16-year-old to turn the tide. Unfazed by the gravity of the situation, Alvarez answered the call, providing an assist on the equalizer, and then later starting the buildup to Zlatan Ibrahimović’s game-winner.
“He told me to get the ball with confidence and attack. I just wanted to give my all for the team. This just prepares me for the rest of the games going forward,” the youngster, who became the youngster player to ever appear for the Galaxy, said postgame.
Alvarez wasted no time making an impact as just eight minutes after coming into the match; he delivered a pinpoint cross to the head of Daniel Steres for the equalizer.
As impressive as the assist was, the 16-year-old’s maturity was on full display in the 80th minute. Off a Rolf Feltscher throw-in, the teenager was able to outmaneuver Bastian Schweinsteiger and play a clever flick onto the path of Chris Pontius leading to Ibrahimović’s winning goal.
“We are going to work throughout the week and every day to give Efrain the possibility to grow and to give the team the possibility to have a player like Efrain,” Schelotto said postgame, reaffirming Alvarez’s role in his plans for the 2019 campaign.
But the strongest praise came from Ibrahimović who hailed the youngster for his performance but stressed that plenty of hard work laid ahead for Alvarez to reach his full potential.
“Efra, he had a good game. He’s full of confidence. But, he’s only 16-years-old, you forget his age. I said yesterday when I was talking to the media; I think he’s the best talent in MLS by far. The club, the team, the coach have to take care of him in the right way,” Ibrahimović said. “He needs to work hard. He needs to focus and don’t lose the focus because of the hype, just continue to work. The [club] can help him a lot just like the team because he’s young, he’s talented, and it’s easy to lose focus. He’s a good kid. He works hard, and he listens.”