The U.S. got burned in their game against Italy by a young striker born in New Jersey. A lot has been said about Giuseppe Rossi after Monday’s Confederations Cup game—some good, some bad, and some just downright hateful and despicable.
There are plenty of facts: Rossi was born in Teaneck, NJ to Italian immigrant parents. He left the States to go play for Parma of the Italian league’s youth system. He was asked to participate in a training camp with U.S. just prior to the 2006 World Cup, but declined; prompting then coach Bruce Arena to publicly state the U.S. would not chase players who didn’t want to play for the U.S.
Let’s face it, we’d all be better off today if the powers that be had at least attempted to chase this gifted player. The fact of the matter is the U.S is sorely lacking in player development and scouting. Rossi never should have been off the U.S. radar after he went to train with Parma’s youth academy, and he should have been on the U.S. radar well before that.
I don’t have any special inner knowledge of U.S. player scouting and multi-national player courting, but I do know that every effort should be made towards every single player that has potential to be just a contributor to the national team, let alone a starter or potential world superstar as in the case of Rossi.
While it is widely believed, and Rossi has even said himself, that his heart was always in it to play for Italy, it should not have stopped U.S. soccer from fighting for his services.
Case in point: Following the 2002 World Cup, the U.S. National Team was riding high. A quarterfinal appearance led to a homecoming for a team and sport that was never the topic of national conversation. After their return, members of the team were seen EVERYWHERE, from “Good Morning America” to the cover of Sports Illustrated.
I can’t think of a better time to reach out to the top young players, especially those with dual citizenships. In fact, the U.S. showing at the 2002 World Cup was better than that of the Italians, who crashed out in the round of 16. You can argue pedigree for the Italians, but in that moment, the U.S. was actually the more attractive choice.
Meanwhile, Freddy Adu, the tween phenom, was being touted as the Michael Jordan of soccer, and Rossi was spending his time playing day in and day out, working and getting better and better.
Imagine if the U.S. team had reached out to Rossi when he was 12-years-old, much like they did with Freddy Adu. Not with the hype and expectations, but something, some form of appreciation and guidance. Build a relationship, a good one, not one that ends with being called out to the press.
Maybe then, when Rossi was approaching his 21st birthday he would have had a real decision to make, maybe he still would have chosen Italy. Honestly, he most likely still would have chosen Italy, but I guarantee that he would have at least given the U.S. serious thought.
Regardless, the Giuseppe Rossi situation only highlights a massive problem facing the United States Soccer Federation. A decade of abrasive and arrogant treatment of young athletes, from utter dismissal to even worse, public humiliation, by calling a player out to the press (as happened with both Rossi and another dual citizen player, Serbian defender, and former U.S. Youth National Team product Neven Subotic).
I’m sorry, but coaches should never, EVER single out an individual player to the public. Unless that player is named Kobe Bryant or Cristiano Ronaldo and has already established themselves as a world great/team leader and they need a little fire lit under their asses. Not to a 16, 17, 18-year-old kid.
So we lost Rossi (and Subotic). A player that could have been a real difference maker for the U.S. against a team like Italy. Let’s hope this is a wake-up call to those in power at U.S. Soccer. A realization that we aren’t a world power in this sport, to lose the abrasiveness and arrogance they have displayed at times, and to reform their development and scouting methods in order to produce better quality players and to ensure those players don’t fly under the radar.
Until then, let’s just call Giuseppe Rossi a failed U.S. experiment.