Jersey kid Giuseppe Rossi makes Italian national team

ESPNsoccernet has a great profile of Giuseppe Rossi, a soccer player who grew up in New Jersey who landed a spot on Italy’s National Team for the 2010 World Cup. Many fans of USA soccer refer to him as “the one that got away,” since he would be a huge asset to the American team.

All that was left from a U.S. perspective was to wait and see how Rossi’s Italian dream played out. He didn’t make a single misstep. In the summer of 2007, Rossi was called in to play for Italy’s U21 team at the European championship. In the summer of 2008, he was called in to play for Italy in the Olympics and ended up the leading scorer in that under-23 competition. By October, it was official. Named to the senior Italian team for a World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria, Giuseppe Rossi became a member of the Azzurri. He would never be allowed to play for the USA.

Whatever people might say about his patriotism, Rossi’s achievement can’t be overstated. Not only is he one of only two players on the Italian squad who weren’t born in Italy, but by playing for Villarreal, in Spain’s La Liga, he’s also one of only two players who don’t earn their living with an Italian club. (That could change soon, as it’s hotly rumored that Rossi is headed back to Serie A this summer.) He has broken into one of the most exclusive clubs in sports, against very serious odds. “Rossi is a little champion,” Italy manager Marcello Lippi said last summer. “He can play with his left foot or right foot. He can play anywhere on the front line, the way Lionel Messi plays for Barcelona.”

High praise, to be sure. But while a spot for Rossi on Italy’s 23-man World Cup roster seems likely, there are no guarantees. Plus, with talented strikers like Antonio Di Natale and Alberto Gilardino ahead of him on Lippi’s depth chart, any minutes he sees in South Africa will likely come off the bench. That might not have been the case had he chosen a different, safer path. Even before the car accident that severely injured U.S. striker Charlie Davies, a forward of Rossi’s quality would have been getting serious minutes for the U.S. “He’s a talented young player,” says Bradley, choosing his words carefully so as not to disparage any of the strikers in his player pool. But Arena can be more blunt. “He’s certainly good enough to play for the U.S.,” says the former coach. “I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

When asked to recall the goal that made him the player American fans love to hate, Rossi gets flustered. He grew up admiring Derek Jeter, and like the Yankees captain, Rossi is a perfectly polite interview who loathes talking about himself. “It was great to score, of course, but if I could have picked any team in the world to score against, the United States would have been my last choice,” he says. “I root hard for America — against anyone but Italy.”

Hopefully he makes the final roster. It will be another cool storyline in what could be a great World Cup. Most Americans will be focused on the early match between Team USA and England, but Rossi may provide some more drama is he gets some playing time.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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