Giuseppe Rossi will always be the one who got away for U.S. Soccer fans. The New Jersey-born striker opted to play internationally for Italy, never giving much consideration about playing for the nation of his birth. Rossi, as you’d imagine, is persona non grata in most U.S. Soccer circles. Eventually that dislike ought to subside, even if Rossi did score a couple goals against the U.S. at the 2009 Confederations Cup.
Right behind Rossi, albeit without the vitriol, is Borussia Dortmund defender Neven Subotic who also had a chance to play for the U.S. at the senior international level but opted to play for Serbia. His case, unlike Rossi’s, is a little less clear-cut. Subotic was born in Yugoslavia and moved to Germany at a young age but immigrated to the United States in 1999. He was plucked out of a local park in Bradenton, Fla. and played for the U.S. at the U-17 World Cup in 2005.
Subotic also played for the U.S. at the U-20 level, but ultimately decided to play for Serbia at the senior international level, where he was also eligible to represent Bosnia. There was also strong talk Subotic’s first choice was to play for Germany, but he didn’t have the eligibility requirements.
With Dortmund set to host Arsenal Wednesday in the Champions League, the English media spoke with Subotic — likely since he speaks the same language — and the topic of his international decision game up. Subotic detailed the decision why he chose Serbia. From the Daily Mail:
“‘I know for some it is difficult to understand why I didn’t continue (with the US),’ he says. ‘In the end what really decided it was that my parents are Serbian and all my family – my cousins, my uncle, my aunt, my grandma – are all Serbs. They live in Bosnia but they cheer for Serbia and now they cheer for me when I play. It was a step back to my roots. It was the only real option.”
’That’s all well-and-good, but doesn’t quite jive with an earlier story about Subotic and his falling out with then U.S. U-20 coach Thomas Rongen who left him off the roster for the U-20 World Cup in 2007. Subotic told ESPN.com at the time:
“Well, Rongen certainly said some discouraging and false things about me,” said Subotic. “Never in my life have I heard that a high level coach publicly criticizes a player. Professional coaches do that one-on-one with the player.
Whatever the reasons, the U.S. missed out on a central defender who’s been a key member of a Bundesliga-winnings side, which also reached the Champions League Final in May. That said, Subotic chose to play for Serbia which didn’t qualify for the 2014 World Cup, whereas both the U.S. and Bosnia for that matter did.
On top of that, the U.S. policy has long since shifted away from the days of guys like Subotic and Rossi choosing to play elsewhere. Under Jurgen Klinsmann the U.S. has been proactive tying dual-nationals like Aron Johannsson, Joe Corona and Fabian Johnson to the American team.