U.S. youth keeper David Ochoa switches to Mexico: 'Personal, emotional decision'

Is Ricardo Pepi better suited for the USMNT or Mexico? (1:41)

Herculez Gomez breaks down whether Ricardo Pepi fits better with Mexico or the United States. (1:41)

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa has chosen to represent Mexico over the United States, calling it "a personal, emotional decision" to make the switch.

Although he had made appearances for the U.S. at various youth levels, he had yet to be capped for the USMNT. The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) confirmed on Thursday that Ochoa had filed the one-time switch with FIFA, allowing him to represent El Tri.

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In an essay for The Players Tribune explaining his choice, the 20-year-old Ochoa detailed the challenges and difficulties he confronted growing up as a Mexican-American.

"I'm choosing Mexico, and I really hope you understand. Even though it's a personal, emotional decision, I hope it makes sense. It definitely does to me," Ochoa wrote.

Born in Oxnard, California, Ochoa spent time in the Chivas academy as a youth before returning to the U.S. where he broke through RSL's ranks. He made his first-team debut in 2019, with 13 appearances this season for the Major League Soccer side.

Ochoa also revealed his struggles with depression and how the death of former U.S. Under-18 goalkeeping coach Des McAleenan affected him.

Ochoa was part of the 23-man squad for the USMNT at the CONCACAF Nations League in June, but did not make an appearance. During the summer, he also spent a week training with Mexico's senior side.

"My decision is nothing against the U.S. It's nothing against any teammate or any coach, or against American soccer. Honestly. I still play soccer here, and I owe so much of my career to the American youth system," Ochoa wrote.

With Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath, and Matt Turner ahead of him on Gregg Berhalter's depth chart, Ochoa found himself in an uphill battle for potential playing time in the near future, especially ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Ochoa's decision to represent El Tri will give Gerardo "Tata" Martino's side a youthful boost at the position. The 36-year-old Guillermo Ochoa remains Mexico's first-choice keeper and was most recently part of Mexico's Nations League and Olympic teams. The 38-year-old Alfredo Talavera started all games for Martino at this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.