Neven Subotic’s decision to play for Serbia is a blow for the US National Team. Subotic the Bradenton Academy trained defender has been a superstar in the Bundesliga for Mainz and Borussia Dortmund. I was present for what I believe was Subotic last appearance for the United States, an U-20 match held at Florida Atlantic University in 2006. It was after this match that US U-20 manager Thomas Rongen felt the defender had no future with his national team which was gearing up for the 2007 U-20 World Cup.
Subotic’s meteoric rise in Germany did catch many observers myself included by surprise. Nonetheless, the bridge between the US and Subotic appeared to have been burned in 2006. Eligible to play for Serbia, Bosnia or the US, Subotic has selected Serbia according to a letter received by US Soccer earlier this week.
This defection cannot be sugarcoated. While Bob Bradley did everything he could do to bring Subotic into the US fold, the damage was done before Bradley took over the national team program. The handwriting was on the wall over a year ago that Subotic was not particularly interested in playing for the US if other options were present based on his reported rejection of several attempted call ups by Bradley.
Subotic could have provided important cover for the US on the backline, and would have certainly been a goal scoring threat going forward and off of set pieces. Bradley’s system relies on the US scoring on set pieces and absorbing pressure. Despite Subotic’s defection, 2008 was a banner year for the US National Team as year two of the 2010 World Cup cycle provided answers to many lingering questions about the team.
We’ll have a year in review feature in the upcoming days.