Giuseppe Rossi, Fiorentina, Italy, the USA and What Might Have Been

It’s been a good week for Fiorentina striker Giuseppe Rossi. He played in yesterday’s 2-0 away win against AC Milan. And, while his team lost midweek, he scored from the penalty spot Wednesday, giving his side its only goal in a 2-1 home loss to league leaders Napoli. The goal was Rossi’s ninth of the season and the New Jersey born striker is currently Serie A’s leading scorer, sitting atop a list that includes names like Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Balotelli.

Eleven match days in and Rossi is on the cusp of a breakout season with the Viola in Italy. The anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered at Villarreal in Spain now seems to be behind him and has more than justified the 10 million euros the Italian outfit splashed for him in the transfer market last January.

His recent hat trick against Juventus led a brilliant comeback against the reigning Serie A champions, inspiring his side to come from 2-0 down to win 4-2.

Of course as inspiring as his performances have been this season, the subject of Giuseppe Rossi will always remain a sore one for American soccer fans. In a nation where the at times still-struggling Jozy Altidore competes with a relative unknown quantity like Aron Johannsson to lead the line; watching a player whose Twitter bio reads, “Been around the world… Hometown is always NJ,” but still opted to play for Italy not the U.S., blossom into one of the deadliest strikers in Europe leaves a bittersweet taste in one’s mouth.

In 2006, Rossi was courted by then-USA coach Bruce Arena ahead of the World Cup. But by then the striker had made the decision to play for Italy.

While it remains a difficult pill for U.S. fans to swallow, it’s not impossible to see the player’s side of things. After all, Rossi was in his teens at the time, on the books at Manchester United and playing on loan at Newcastle United. By then he’d already represented Italy at just about every level from U16 to U21.

Most teenage players at that stage in their careers, if offered a chance to play for a team that had a pretty good chance of qualifying for the World Cup or a team that had a pretty good chance of winning it could hardly be blamed for choosing the latter.

Yet despite his 20 goals for Italy, Rossi has yet to feature for the Azzurri in a major tournament, apart from the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2009 Confederations Cup (where he scored against the United States).

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