The U.S. national soccer team beat Italy for the first time ever on Wednesday, 1-0 in Genoa. But the Italians can take solace that the US got a helping hand—or foot—from Germany.
That’s where America’s coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, is from. And since “Klinsi” took over last summer, he’s recruited a number of players for the U.S. who were born and and raised in his home country. Vice-captain Jermaine Jones grew up in Frankfurt and Danny Williams, who started last night, is from Karlsruhe. Then there’s wunderkind Fabian Johnson of Munich, a young defender/midfielder who helped set up the winning goal.
Johnson has spent his entire life in Germany, minus a few American vacations. He even won the Under-21 European championship with the German national youth squad in 2009. So how did he end up playing for the U. S. of A.?
It turns out Johnson has been a U.S. citizen since birth, thanks to his father, an American soldier who married a German woman while stationed in Munich. When Germany declined to put Johnson on their senior national team last August, Klinsmann called up and asked if he’d like to play for the U.S. Johnson, 24, said “jawohl!”
In total, five Germans play for the U.S. national team, all the sons of soldiers. Three of them, Johnson included, would not have been able play for the U.S. before 2009. That’s when FIFA, soccer’s governing body, eliminated a rule forbidding players who had already appeared for one country’s youth squads from playing with the senior national team of another.
Growing up in soccer-mad Europe has given players like Johnson a leg-up over their American-born counterparts. If the German connection continues to produce talent—and several Teutons are currently part of the American youth setup—will American players protest the outsourcing of their jobs? If they do, will the rest of us care? Probably not, at least if we keep beating teams like Italy. And don’t forget, the goal against Italy was scored by America’s star forward, Clint Dempsey, who’s from Texas.
Watch Dempsey score against Italy with help from Johnson (#3) and Jozy Altidore:
Any readers out there hold dual citizenship? Which country would you choose to represent?
And do you think it’s fair that American-born players are losing their places to competitors from overseas?