In the eyes and opinions of many of you, I am about to defend the indefensible: the decision of Guiseppe Rossi to play for the Italian National Team instead of the United States National Team. This issue came to head this week, with many calling Rossi a Judas or Benedict Arnold, because on Monday Rossi scored two of Italy’s 3 goals against the US at the Confederations Cup in South Africa.
Despite playing for the Italian National Team, Rossi was not born in Italy, he was born in lovely Teaneck, New Jersey on February 1, 1987. His parents, Ferdinando and Cleonilde Rossi; however, were born in Italy and had moved to New Jersey, where they taught at Clifton High School.
Rossi’s football skills were noticed by Parma, of Italy’s Serie A, when Rossi was only 13 years old. Parma offered Rossi a spot in its youth program, which he accepted, moving to Italy with his family. In 2004, after two years in Parma’s youth system, Manchester United bought Rossi’s contract and brought him over to England where he spent two years in Manchester United’s youth system. By this time, Rossi had already attracted attention from Italy’s National Team and had played for several of the National Team’s youth sides, including its U-16 squad.
Rossi ultimately made five appearances with Manchester United’s senior team, scoring a goal against Sunderland, but Manchester United also loaned him out to Newcastle United and Parma. In 2007, Rossi was sold to La Liga’s Villarreal, and there is currently speculation that he might return to Italy via a sale to Serie A’s Juventus this summer.
It was not until the build up to the 2006 World Cup, several years after Rossi first suited up for the Azzurri’s youth squads, that the U.S. National Team made an overt effort to pull Rossi into the USSF’s fold. However, Rossi turned down Bruce Arena’s offer and expressed his desire to play for Italy’s National Team.
Rossi’s dream to play for Italy’s Senior National Team came true in October 2008, when Marcello Lippi called him up for Italy’s match with Bulgaria. In less then a year, Rossi has made six appearances for the Italian National Team and has scored three goals. Baring the unforeseeable, Rossi will most likely be playing for the Azzurri when it defends its World Cup Title in South Africa next summer.
While Rossi was born in the United States, his football skills have been grown and nurtured not by the U.S.’s suburban club soccer, high school soccer, or college soccer, but by the youth systems established by Italy, Parma, and Manchester United. Rossi has developed his technical skills outside of the standard U.S. system, and, as such, is a foreign entity in terms of the USSF system. While Arena might have had an interest in Rossi, I find it hard to believe that Rossi would see serious playing time under the current Bradley regime, which seems to favor past personal relationships and toeing the line over technical ability and independence.