WASHINGTON - JULY 18: Andy Najar  of D.C. United passes the ball against the Los Angeles Galaxy at RFK Stadium on July 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Galaxy won 2-1. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
Andy Najar

by Vlad Bouchouev

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about Andy Najar and which national team he will eventually join. Much of this attention can be seen as a result of what I like to call “post-Rossi syndrome”; after the USMNT lost out on Italian-American striker Giuseppi Rossi, the US media and US Soccer are trying to make sure no more young US talent slip through our fingers. Since the Rossi debacle (throw in Neven Subotic if you’d like), the US has most notably “captured” Edgar Castillo and Jose Torres, and now has its eyes set on a few other young talents, including the likes of Najar.

Poaching for talent by national sides is not new. This year’s multi-cultural Germany World Cup team is a prime example: Of the 23 guys on Germany’s roster, eleven could have at one point played for a different national federation. In the end, Germany successfully managed to bring them into die Mannschaft. Of those eleven players, every one but Brazil-native Cacau was either born in Germany or immigrated there at a very young age. All in all Germany maximized the size of their talent pool by holding on to a majority of their already eligible players, but also by adding Cacau, who became naturalized only after playing domestically for several years and building desire to represent Germany for quite some time.

So should the US become a little bit more aggressive and follow the footsteps of countries like Germany? I don’t see why not.

Although we may not yet produce the best talent domestically, players flood to the US from abroad because the country offers so many opportunities. Many that come here to attend college or that are just seeking a better lifestyle happen to also know a thing or two on how to kick a ball.

US Soccer has more talent at its fingerprints than many people realize. Yes, Andy Najar is a great prospect for the USMNT but let’s not forget about guys like Macoumba Kandji, Danny Mwanga, and Steve Zakuani, just to name a few. All were born abroad, went to high school and/or college in the US, and currently play in MLS. At this point both Kandji and Mwanga have expressed aspirations of playing for the USMNT and overall things look pretty positive in terms of getting them onboard – Kandji is in the process of becoming an American citizen and Mwanga may well be on his way. Zakuani’s case is a little bit trickier because of his personal attachments to the Democratic Republic of Congo and England; but that’s where the beauty of naturalization comes into play. Zakuani may never be good enough to play for England, but he may still dream of playing in the World Cup (something that his native country may not be able to offer him). With a little bit of luck and some persuasion, perhaps the tide could be turned on guys like Zakuani.

That being said, the whole process just feels unethical and sneaky. But it’s not cheating, nor are players being forced to pick a side. Federations are simply reaching out to the player and giving him the option; aside from immigrants, there are players in MLS that are from abroad but have played or lived in the US for enough time that they may be inclined to call this country their second home. These are players that US Soccer should focus on; because the USA is a pretty decent country of which to be a citizen, I’m sure some players will not hesitate in switching allegiances. It would be fantastic if we could use MLS not only as a league for developing homegrown talent, but making the absolute most of the foreigners that play here as well.

But would American fans fully accept naturalized players?

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