SAN JOSE -- If he dons an Earthquakes jersey this season, Alexandre Gonzalez Emerson will be living out a special kind of homegrown soccer dream.
He was a burgeoning pro in the tough leagues of Mexico before returning to his native San Jose several weeks ago to knock on the team's door sight unseen.
At first, the 2012 regular-season champion shooed away the unknown 20-year-old seeking a tryout. When the Earthquakes ultimately relented to a one-day audition, Gonzalez Emerson so impressed coach Frank Yallop that he invited him on a preseason trip to Arizona the next day. Gonzalez Emerson responded by scoring the team's only two goals in his debut.
But making it in America's top soccer league won't be easy. A 5-foot-8 striker, Gonzalez Emerson is one of hundreds of new faces in MLS training camps and one of 15 hoping to secure a final roster spot with the Earthquakes as the March 3 opener approaches.
"It's incredible how many people contact us looking for a trial," Earthquakes president Dave Kaval said. "It's from South Africa, it's from Brazil, it's from Israel and Norway."
And sometimes it's from your own backyard, via Jalisco, Mexico.
Gonzalez Emerson kicked around a football since infancy, said mother Eunisha Emerson, a Lincoln High alum who met the player's father at the Valley Fair mall. "When he was a baby he told me he wanted to be 'un gran futbolista.' "
A great soccer player.
"I have a love for
Jesus Gonzalez moved his family to his birthplace in Mexico when his son was 3. Eunisha Emerson returned to the U.S. three years later and said that Mexican law made it complicated to take Alex with her.
"Truthfully it was very difficult," said Gonzalez Emerson, who regularly talks to his mom, who now lives in St. Louis. "I can't be thankful enough for the relationship with my father, who was my father and mother."
A veterinarian and local merchant, Gonzalez is a descendant of one of his town's settlers. Most of his family excelled at soccer, but none pursued it professionally because they had to help earn a living in their rustic community.
Jesus had a different aspiration for his son, who at age 8 joined a local team in the highland town of Yahulica, in the state of Jalisco. Gonzalez Emerson showed so much promise at age 12 that his father had him try out at Club Necaxa in Aguascalientes, about 90 minutes away.
"I saw this is going to be something big," his father said in Spanish. "He was very smart playing with the ball."
Alex got accepted into the club's youth academy. For the next two years, the family shuttled him to practices three times a week. By age 14, Gonzales Emerson moved to the academy to train and attend school full time.
He remained with Club Necaxa, a second-tier Mexican league team, until this year. Gonzalez Emerson advanced through the ranks, reaching the first team in 2012. He appeared in three preseason games with the Rayos, then the situation changed.
"The Mexican League is very good, it's true," Gonzalez Emerson said. "But I thought I could develop more in the States. They are more advanced technically than in Mexico."
Francisco Ramos, a relative in San Jose who is hosting the family, called the situation the politics of Mexican soccer.
"You have to know somebody," he said. "Otherwise, you need a miracle."
The same might be said for Gonzalez Emerson's chances of landing with the Quakes.
Realistically, the team has few roster spots available for players trying out this winter. It has looked at talent from England, the Netherlands, Sierra Leone and Sweden. Players such as Gonzalez Emerson receive a per diem of $85 while in camp. All of them are trying to impress Yallop, who described the young Mexican striker as "bright, sharp and dangerous around the goal."
Added Yallop: "It's good to do well for two or three days, but you've got to do it for two or three weeks, then two or three months and then two or three years. He did well in his first training, so he will get an opportunity to keep going."
Two weeks shy of 21, Gonzalez Emerson understands the message.
"I know I must be at 100 percent for every training, every exhibition match," he said. "It's one of the greatest challenges of my life."
The player is staying in San Jose with his father and sister Briana, 19, a college student. He is letting them worry about the future for now.
"There is no plan B," said Gonzales Emerson, who spoke English until moving to Mexico. "It's not even in my mind that I am not going to make this team."
Whether he makes it or not, his timing could not have been better. The Earthquakes are heading into the eight-month season with many of their top-line players nursing injuries. The situation has forced management to take longer looks than usual at the newcomers.
"It has given us time to make really fair and informed decisions on them," general manager John Doyle said.
If the player and team part ways, Quakes officials won't stop searching for the next big discovery.
"You're foolish if you're not always looking for players," Doyle said.
Even those who just show up one day sight unseen.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.