When the United States Men’s National Soccer Team gets ready to play Italy on Monday, their first opponent in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup tournament, they will have to prepare for someone that could’ve been one of them.
Giuseppe Rossi, a forward for the Azzuri, is the one that got away.
Rossi, 22, was born in Teaneck, New Jersey, the son of Italian immigrant parents.
At 13, Rossi joined the Parma F.C.(Italy) youth team. According to his bio on his website, Rossi was nicknamed by his teammates the “American”. Although he was an American and Italian duel citizen, Rossi always wanted to be a part of the Italian national team, his country of origin.
To prove this, Rossi suited up for the Italian youth-national teams. There was still hope for the U.S. though, as a player is not cap-tied until he plays at the U-20 level.
In July of 2003, Rossi transferred to EPL superpower Manchester United and scored in his debut with the club. He also spent time on loan with Newcastle and Parma.
Still, Rossi only made 13 appearances for the Red Devils, five in EPL play. Wanting more time with the first team, he was sold to Spanish Villarreal and signed a six-year contract.
Rossi has scored 23 goals and registered 10 assists in league play, as well as scoring three times in the UEFA Champions League.
The U.S. still tried to sway Rossi to play for his birth-country, inviting him to U-20 World Championships and a friendly against Scotland, but Rossi declined both times.
Instead, Rossi suited up for Italy in the 2008 Summer Olympics. He was the tournament’s top goal scorer, scoring four times, even though the team only reached the quarterfinals.
He scored his first goal with the senior side just five days ago, in a friendly against Northern Ireland.
Now Rossi is headed to South Africa for the Confederations Cup with Italy and will square away against his home nation.
With the matchup, fans of the United States are only left to wonder what could have been.
What would the, sometimes stagnant, U.S. offense be like if it could pair Rossi with another young American talent, and coincidentally property of Villarreal, Jozy Altidore?
If Rossi chose to play for America, would it have had any impact on other American-born players that chose to play for other countries, like Neven Subotic?
These questions are moot now. Rossi is a member of the Italian national team.
All the United States can do now is make Rossi second guess his decision with a good outing on Monday.