American Exports: Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda US XI
AMSTERDAM – Everybody loves making theme XIs, and I am no exception. With international teams taking the midweek spotlight for friendlies, it seemed a good time to compile the best US national team that never was.
Sure, we all celebrate when Edgar Castillo opts to play for America or Jermaine Jones switches over from Germany – but the United States have also lost out on a fair share of quality players that had or potentially could have had the chance to join up in time.
Though certainly no World Cup champion contender, the lineup for our squad of "what might have been" forlornness looks like it could give qualification an honest go in any confederation on the planet.
G - Boaz Myhill (Wales)
The California-born netminder, teammates with Jozy Altidore at Hull City last season, is now the back-up at promoted West Bromwich Albion. The daring shot-stopper spurned both the States and England (for whom he'd appeared at the Under-20 level) by accepting a second Welsh call in 2008. Myhill has nine caps, but is usually backing up Wayne Hennessey – who backs up Marcus Hahnemann at Wolves.
RB - Daniel Williams (TBD - Germany)
OK, technically this is cheating, but we needed a right back and Germany haven't called him up since the U-15s. The son of an American military dad, the agile 21-year-old has spoken of being open to playing for the United States. Williams made a bit of a splash late last season when injuries hit Freiburg, but has only started once thus far this season.
D - Neven Subotic (Serbia)
Despite coming up through the US youth ranks, the 21-year-old Borussia Dortmund center back got away. Subotic also could have suited up for Bosnia (or waited out a German passport until about now), but the budding hotshot opted to answer Serbia's call in late 2008. He now has 19 caps, including two from this past summer's World Cup in South Africa.
D - Brede Hangeland (Norway)
The Fulham back-line marshal and ever-present transfer gossip darling was born in Houston, but grew up in Norway. After a dozen U-21 caps, Hangeland debuted for the senior side in 2002 and has rung up 65 caps. He's never played in a major tournament for his country, but no stands as the captain and key man to the early surprise leaders in their Euro 2012 qualifying group.
LB - Simon Poulsen (Denmark)
A winger by trade, Poulsen was only converted to left back by AZ Alkmaar last season. The transition went smoothly enough that he played every minute for Denmark at World Cup 2010. A skillful player with an American pop, the 26-year-old never considered playing for the USMNT and eventually made his international debut against the Nats in Bradley's first game in charge back in January 2007.
RM - Will Johnson (Canada)
Once a forward and now a two-way midfielder for outgoing MLS champs Real Salt Lake, Johnson was largely ignored by the US youth national teams while growing up in Illinois. The Toronto native – who holds three passports, including a British one – twice appeared for Canada at the U-20 World Cup. He debuted for the senior side at 18 in 2005 and has amassed 13 caps.
M - Shalrie Joseph (Grenada)
Here we have one of those alternate-universe choices – Joseph debuted for Grenada back in 2002, long before he'd acquired US citizenship. The do-it-all New England Revolution stalwart faced the US twice in 2006 World Cup qualifying, as the Americans swept to the third round. A four-time MLS Best XI selection, the 32-year-old has played 30 matches for his country.
M - Dema Kovalenko (Ukraine)
The veteran hard man is the only player on our team to never have played a match for the "other country" at any level. He took part in one Ukraine training mini-camp back in 2004, about two years before gaining US citizenship. The manager, legendary Russia forward Oleg Blokhin, told Kovalenko he could only compete for the national side if he played domestically. The Kiev native signed for Metalurh Zaporizhzhya in 2006, but played just two games and was back in MLS with New York by year's end. And that was that.
LM - Steve Zakuani (Congo DR)
The most recent addition to our list is not yet even eligible for US citizenship, which is why the electric Seattle Sounders attacker has pledged his international services to his native Democratic Republic of Congo for Wednesday's friendly with Mali in France. Zakuani had been eligible to play for England, where he moved to at age four and spent time in Arsenal's youth academy.
F - Giuseppe Rossi (Italy)
Though born in New Jersey, Rossi began his climb through the Azzurri system with an U-15 call-up while in Parma's academy in 2003. He eventually debuted for Italy's senior side in 2008 and scored a decisive brace against the US at the following year's Confederations Cup. The 23-year-old Villarreal star was on Marcelo Lippi's 30-man provisional roster for World Cup 2010, but didn't make the final cut. He has fired three goals in 17 caps.
F - Vedad Ibisevic (Bosnia)
The 26-year-old Hoffenheim marksman moved to America in his teens and went on to earn first team All-America honors as a Saint Louis University freshman. In 2007, Ibisevic opted to play for his country of birth. He scored his first international goal in a Euro 2008 qualifying loss at Greece later that year and now has seven in 27 Bosnia caps.
Bench: Bakary Soumare (Mali), Michael Hoyos (TBD - Argentina), Ramón Núñez (Honduras), Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador), Yura Movsisyan (Armenia)