OT - US soccer players who play for foreign countries

Submitted by superstringer on June 19th, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Watching the Honduras game last night, I was reminded that one of Honduras's best young players is Andy Najar -- who not only played for DC United, but actually lived in Virginia a few years and played HS three miles down the road from me.  In other words -- he could have been a US national team player.  Apparently, green card or citizenship issued interfered, and he was pressured to play for Honduras before he had a chance to play for the US. 

I'm not sure Najar would even make our top 23, much less our starting XI, but it got me thinking about good soccer players who COULD HAVE played for the US national team because they lived in or were born in the US, but opted to play for other countries:

Andy Najar (Honduras) -- Plays for Belgium's top club team, Anderlecht.

Neven Subotić (Serbia) -- lived in FLA a few years, played on US U21 team before deciding to ditch us for his birth country of Serbia, allegedly based on negative public comments of a then-US coach (Tom Rongren, another guy with ties to DC United).  He's a starting defender for Borussia Dortmond, which was in the Champions League final and also won the Bundesliga last year (and #2 this year).  He'd instantly be our best defender.

and of course we can't leave off...

Giuseppe Rossi (Italy) -- aka TURNCOAT.  Dude was BORN in New Jersey, grew up in New Jersey, and... never played for the US, but instead plays for Italy, his dad's birth country.  Geebuz.  Well, used to play for Italy -- he wasn't good enough to make the top 23 in this year's WCQ's.  But he'd instantly be our #1 striker -- well, Jozy is playing pretty good right now, maybe our #2.  He and Jozy would probably cause us to do a 4-2-2-2, not the 4-2-3-1 that's all the rage.

Am I missing anyone else -- anyone know of any other current players who could be on this list?  Like, anyone on the German team who, similar to a bunch of guys in our national team pool (Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Terrence Boyd, Danny Williams), have an American parent?  Anyone play for Mexico who grew up in the US?  Etc.




June 19th, 2013 at 3:10 PM ^

Especially during the Confederations Cup when he scored a goal against the U.S., celebrated douche-tastically, and then claimed to be confused as to why that wasn't well received in the U.S.

I have no issue with him choosing to play for Italy, it was his dream team and his soccer formation was basically in Italy, also he never once played for the U.S. on a junior level.  Celebrating after scoring the goal against the U.S. was a little much.


Baceo Maston

June 19th, 2013 at 2:54 PM ^

That Rossi situation was messed up, we'd never play someone who was born in another country, never lived here and only has American citizenship because his dad was born in USA.  Signed, Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, Danny Williams, Alfredo Morales, Mikkel Diskerud, David Yelldell


June 19th, 2013 at 3:02 PM ^

Preki was born in Yugoslavia, moved here to play indoor soccer in his early 20's, became a U.S. citizen in his early 30's, and after that began playing for the U.S. national team, earning 28 caps and appearing in a World Cup.


June 19th, 2013 at 2:56 PM ^

Stuart Holden (19 caps, appeared in 2010 World Cup, hasn't played much recently for club or country due to a series of injuries) was born in Scotland and lived there until he was ten.  The Freddy Adu story is also pretty well known.

Just the nature of the contemporary international game.

His Dudeness

June 19th, 2013 at 3:04 PM ^

I don't get the outrage. It's a personal decision.

If there were clear cut definitions as to how many years a player lived in country /where player was born/ etc that would put him on one team or the other  - then there would be no controversy  -  if they wanted to do that they could put it in the international rule book.

Since they don't do that then it is completely a personal decision. So you can't really get mad about it.


June 19th, 2013 at 3:11 PM ^

I don't think everybody has the rule, but at least the UK and home nations countries allow folks to qualify just so long as a grandparent is from the country you want to play for.  Guys like James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady never lived in Ireland (both born/raised in Scotland) but play for them internationally.  James Morrison just captained Scotland despite living his whole life in England and playing for them up to U20 level.



June 19th, 2013 at 3:07 PM ^

... while I was upset he did not play for the US, the guy had two ACL injuries in the past 21 months that kept him out for 16 months.  I think it's a little petty to take satisfaction in his failure to make the Italian national team. 

State Street

June 19th, 2013 at 3:11 PM ^

Rossi would be in the Azzuri first team if it weren't for injury.  I believe he tore his ACL and has never been the same.  

Doesn't make him any less of a douche.  


June 19th, 2013 at 3:30 PM ^

Brede Hangeland - Captain of Fulham and the Norwegian national team was born in Texas.

Aron Jóhannsson - Young striker that just moved to Jozy Altidore's club was also born in the US, but has declared that he will play for the Icelandic team.

Neither of them grew up in the US though.

Darlington Nagbe could be the next one to slip through our fingers.  He's lived in the US since he was 11 but is a Liberian citizen and his father was the captain of the Liberian squad.  It'll be interesting to see how this one plays out if he keeps doing well in MLS.


June 19th, 2013 at 3:54 PM ^

The Nagbe situation is just a waiting out process:


Portland Timbers starlet Darlington Nagbe has received his United States green card, which puts him on the path to citizenship. Now that he has his green card, he must wait five years before he can apply for citizenship, but he is engaged to an American citizen, which would expedite the timeline to three years away from citizenship beginning on the day of his December wedding.


Drunk Uncle

June 20th, 2013 at 10:20 AM ^

Loosing Johannsson is a bummer, he's a very good player, I think he had around 18 goals in all competitions last year.  His chances of playing in a WC are far less now. However, his connection to the US is pretty slim as his parents were studying abroad in Alabama when he was born. 


June 19th, 2013 at 4:06 PM ^

Mali's was the same way, but it makes sense if there isn;t a particularly well developed youth setup or national league in those countries to import players of African nationality who were born/trained in France into your national team set-up.  You get better players and the national team players get more exposure.  Works out for everyone, especially when France's team only has so many spots.  

snarling wolverine

June 19th, 2013 at 9:58 PM ^

Well, it's not always win-win - the FFF has lost some players it wanted to keep, after the players had competed for France on the junior national teams.   This has been true not only for players of African descent but also some Europeans - Ludovic Obraniak and Damien Perquis chose to play for Poland, for instance.  But it's true that most of the time, the elite bi-national guys stick with France.



June 19th, 2013 at 4:07 PM ^

Don't get the hate for Rossi. Guy followed his dream and played in Italy. It's not like he told everyone he wanted to play for us and then bolted for Italy. He and his family never gave an indication they wanted him to play for the US. No beef with him


June 19th, 2013 at 6:13 PM ^

I get that we need help, but if he doesn't want to play for us, why would we want him? 

And part of the reason we fell so fast is because we had high earners coasting through the last two seasons. I'm somewhat excited about the future because I think we've now got a manager that will bring some pride back to Molineux and make the players earn the shirt. We'll see though. 


June 19th, 2013 at 5:42 PM ^

The difference between him and a lot of other guys that switch is that his home country desperately needed his services and he decided to play for someone else.  Totally his right to do so and I don't think anyone would dispute that, but it shows a  lack of committment to your home country.  That's over-stating it a bit, but in my mind, I think of him more as an Italian than an American for that reason.

For most (not all) other guys who play for different countries, it usually is because they were not good enough for their home team.  That feels less 'traitor-ish' to me.  

Other guys have home teams that are so bad that they will never make the world cup.  That feels more neutral to me, but I can see how someone might lump that in with the first situation.

Lastly, and this is not addressed to you specifically:  We as fans, do not have to be consistent.  We can cheer for the players who choose to play for our country and can dislike players who choose otherwise - regardless of reason.  We do not have to be accepting of all switchers or deride all switchers.


June 19th, 2013 at 6:11 PM ^

I don't think he ever really considered the US his home. Parents from Italy, lots of family back there I'm sure, grew up in an Italian household and probably had alot of Italian traditions growing up so I doubt he really ever held a sense of an American identity. And he moved to Italy when he was 12, and 12-18 are some pretty formative years in anyone's life. I applaud his decision if he truly felt Italy was his home (which I believe he did). 

Zvornik Bosna

June 19th, 2013 at 5:33 PM ^

Striker who plays for the Bosnian National team and VfB Stuttgart. He is currently second in goals scored in UEFA World Cup Qualiftying. Also Subotic is from Bosnia as well, not Serbia. 


June 19th, 2013 at 5:51 PM ^

Subotic is the big loss as he was probably in the First XI across the Premier this year. But, like others have said, we've benefitted just as much as we've lost over the years.


June 19th, 2013 at 7:20 PM ^

Also: Brede Hangeland. Born in the US while his parents worked here. Can you imagine a back line of Hangeland-Subotic? Crazy. We'd mark every man, intercept every pass, and win EVERY cross. 

Sidenote: Rossi is definitely talented enough to play for Italy this time around, more as a second striker playing in the hole than an out and out CF. (he and Jozy would make a dynamic counter-attacking pair, Jozy with his back to goal, holding the ball up for Gios finish) Injuries are keeping him from being selected. 


June 19th, 2013 at 7:44 PM ^

The hate for Rossi is overrated. He only lived in the US till he was 12, and there is no evidence that he ever wanted to play for anyone other than Italy. Subotic is more frustrating, because he only chose Serbia because Thomas Rongen disliked him. I believe he was eligible to play for Germany as well. 

Edit: Subotic was also eligible to play for Bosnia and Herzegovina, not Germany.


June 19th, 2013 at 7:59 PM ^

Najar's citizenship status played a big role in him choosing to represent Honduras. Specifically, I think he wouldn't have been able to play for the US until he was at least 24 because of his citizenship status. That is a long time to wait and possibly be passed up by other prospects. Honduras was a logical choice.

Rossi isn't on the Italian squad becuase, as has been noted, he tore his knee up while rehabbing from a torn up knee. The only reason he isn't on the Italian roster is because of the knee injuries.

I do wish that there were more standards for players choosing a country to represent. The 'gamesmanship' that goes on between countries to lock people up or make them eligible is ridiculous.


June 19th, 2013 at 8:03 PM ^

When our team was in diapers 20 years ago, we got second tier guys with dual options. Eventually we will keep the best talent in and on the US squad. With immigration the way it is, the US in the long run will have quite a bit of talent a generation or two from now.