March 22, 2011

I Don’t Get This

The United States men’s national team is in camp getting ready for a pair of friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay.  With it being one of the FIFA-mandated international windows, the  roster is the closest it’s come since the World Cup last year to being our “A” team (injuries aside, dammit). 

But Bob Bradley is also pressing forward looking for new, young talent.  As a result, the roster includes two guys who, I admit, I’d never heard of until the roster was announced last week: David Yelldell and Timothy Chandler.  Both play in Germany: Yelldell, a goalkeeper, with second-division club MSV Duisburg, and Chandler, a midfielder/defender, with top-level FC Nürnberg.  Both have dual citizenship, meaning they can play for either Germany or the US.

The United States has a long and glorious history of taking players of foreign origin into the team.  Notables who started life as Yanks abroad include Jeff Agoos (born in Switzerland), Hugo Perez (El Salvador), Ernie Stewart (Holland), and Thomas Dooley (Germany).  In most instances, one of their parents was an American serviceman (or, in Goos’s case, a diplomat) and thus became citizens at birth.  Others, like Perez, became Americans the hard way.  Regardless, these guys are as American as a groan-inducing Lee Greenwood song.  Same goes for Yelldell and Chandler.

Which is why I don’t understand this argument over at Daily Soccer Fix at all.  It suggests that, somehow, we’ve outgrown the need for “passport players” or that their place on the roster is somehow an insult to “real” American players: 
And what if you’re name is Eric Lichaj, and you’re an American soccer player who grew up in Chicago, as American as Mickey Mantle. But now you must fight for your place on the team against a fellow who grew up in Frankfurt and wouldn’t know Mickey freakin’ Mantel [sic] from Mickey freakin’ Mouse?
Is this really a problem?  Is there a simmering rage among the native-born players that they’re missing out on some sort of birthright?  It’s close enough to the “they took ur jobbbs!” mentality to make me uncomfortable.

It’s also nonsense.  For one thing, as I said above, anybody who’s an American citizen, regardless of how they got that way, can play for the national team.  These new guys are a David Regis kind of case, being hustled through the citizenship process.  They’re already citizens.  They’re as eligible to play as I am! 

For another, it’s not as if other countries aren’t doing the same thing.  Star German striker Miroslav Klose?  Born in Poland.  Same with Lukas Podolski.  Chelsea defender Jose Bonsingwa plays nationally for Portugal, even though he was born in Zaire.  Hell, even the Italians have imported a forward, Giuseppe Rossi, from New Jersey!  Why should we be any different?

And finally, as much as it pains me to say it, we simply not good enough on the international level to turn away talent because they were born abroad.  We’ve produced several impressive home grown players (Donovan, Dempsey, etc.), but we’re not exactly awash in them yet.  Hell, the only country that can really be that selective is Brazil.  And we ain’t Brazil.

The bottom line is that even suggesting that guys like Yelldell and Chandler could be some kind of existential burden to the national team is silly.  Not only is it bad ethics, it’s bad soccer.  So welcome to the squad, gentleman – go kick some ass!

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