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6 players the US Men’s National Team missed out on

The United States Men’s National Team has a long-standing tradition of being a team comprised of multinational players. From the inaugural World Cup, the USMNT has called on multinational players to don the red, white, and blue kit. Here’s a list of notable players the USMNT missed out on.

Giuseppe Rossi – Italy

Rossi’s career can largely be defined by ‘what if.’ Had Rossi not suffered a series of major knee surgeries (five in total) he could’ve been one of Europe’s elite strikers. The New Jersey native moved to Parma, Italy when he was 12 before entering Manchester United’s academy at 17. A couple loans spells later, and Rossi was transferred to Villarreal for a fee of 10 million euros.

Rossi’s story actually parallels Jozy Altidore’s in many ways. Both are New Jersey natives that transferred to Villarreal as young starlets for around the same transfer fee. The stories diverge during their time at Villarreal together when Altidore appeared nine times netting one goal while Rossi stayed at the club for six years, appearing 136 times and scoring 54 goals. It’s not a stretch to say that had Rossi featured for the USMNT, he would’ve been the most successful outfield American player to play in Europe.

Neven Subotić – Serbia

In a 2006 interview, a U-17 US defender was quoted as saying, “I’ve worn the crest, and that’s also a thing that you have to respect. If you wear it once, you’re not going to wear another crest. That would kind of be like backstabbing, I would say. I’m an American ‘til the end.” That same player would go on to become a Borussia Dortmund legend, and earn 36 caps for Serbia.

Despite his emphatic comments, it’d be wrong to paint Neven Subotić as the bad guy. The 6’4” defender only decided to switch allegiances after US U-20 coach Thomas Rongen allegedly told him that he would never play for the U-20 USMNT. Naturally after being rejected by his adopted country, Neven’s abilities were solicited by his birth nation, Serbia. The former Utah and Florida resident has spent his entire professional career in Europe, winning the Bundesliga title twice and finishing runner up in the Champions League with Dortmund.

Andy Najar – Honduras

As we’ve seen with the first two Americans profiled, when a player misses out on representing the US they generally opt to suit up for a national team of higher caliber. That was not the case with Andy Najar who after being named the MLS Rookie of the Year at age 17 chose to pledge his allegiance to CONCACAF rivals Honduras.

As just a teenager, Najar was garnering attention from Europe’s top clubs. After a few quality seasons with D.C. United, Najar packed his bags and set sail for Anderlecht in Belgium. Despite a quiet past couple seasons, Najar is still only 25 and has ample time to turn his career around.

Brede Hangeland – Norway

It’s not too far-fetched to have once envisioned Hangeland and Subotić towering over forwards in the US’ backline. Despite having been possibly the only Texas resident ever with the name Brede, Hangeland was in fact born in Houston and stayed there for the first two years of his life before moving to Stavanger, Norway.

It’s fair to say that if Brede had been called up to the US squad, he would’ve felt out of place. When asked about his spell in the US, he said, “We were there for a short period in 1980/81 which is when I was born and then we went back home, so obviously I don’t remember too much about my time there.” The 6’6” central defender notched 217 appearances for Fulham and tallied 91 caps for Norway before retiring in 2014.

Vedad Ibišević – Bosnia & Herzegovina

Vedad Ibišević might just be the only St. Louis resident to have ever gone straight from college soccer to a powerhouse club like PSG. He and his family moved to the US as refugees when he was about 17 years old. In 2008 during an interview with the New York Times, Vedad was asked if he would have considered playing for the USMNT, to which he responded, “At the time I would have considered it, I really like the whole situation with St. Louis, and probably if someone would have approached me I probably would have played for the U.S. National Team … It would have been possible of course, after all that I got by moving to America, it was very nice, I would of course considered giving something back.”

Instead of starring on the US’ frontline, he played backup to Džeko for Bosnia & Herzegovina scoring 28 goals in 83 caps. At the club level, Vedad was most prolific at Hoffenheim scoring 48 goals in 123 games. Such a rate earned him a move to VfB Stuttgart in 2012. The 33-year-old now finds himself employed by Hertha Berlin in the German Bundesliga.

Jonathan Gonzalez – México

After a season full of starts with one of Liga MX’s biggest clubs, Monterrey, Gonzalez was being pulled back and forth between the Mexican and the Unites States soccer federations. Despite playing with US youth teams throughout his childhood, Gonzalez decided to represent México at the senior level in the midst of his breakout season with Monterrey.

Even though Chief Scout for the USMNT Thomas Rongen – the same coach that allegedly told Subotić he’d never play for the U-20 side- reportedly visited his house three times in 2018 in attempts to persuade him to play for the red, white, and blue, Gonzalez still chose his father’s native country.

We don’t know if the midfielder will live up to the hype, but what’s certain is that the US would rather have him sitting on its bench than competing against them on the road to the 2022 World Cup.

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