21915_isi_heleyadam_bpi_pg_240115_blackburn_v_swansea_46.3034922 Paul Greenwood/isiphotos.com
U.S. Men's National Team

Who Will Be the Next Dual-National to Join U.S. Soccer?

From Earnie Stewart to Mix Diskerud to Aron Johannsson, dual nationals have played a key role for the U.S. men's national team. Here, Brian Sciaretta looks at some players who may follow suit.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 19, 2015
4:06 PM
IT MIGHT SEEM LIKE the increased use of dual-national players on the U.S. men’s national team is a recent phenomenon spurred by Jurgen Klinsmann but the truth is that dual nationals have played an important role for more than two decades.

Former coach Bob Gansler brought Earnie Stewart into the mix in 1990 and then Bora Milutinovic added Thomas Dooley to the national team in 1992. Steve Sampson made an aggressive effort with Michael Mason, David Wagner, and David Regis although none of them ever brought significant success on the field.

Bruce Arena has been critical of the practice in recent years but when he was the coach of the national team he capped both Pablo Mastroeni and Carlos Llamosa shortly after they became U.S. citizens and brought both to the 2002 World Cup. Mastroeni played an important role on the U.S. team that advanced to the quarterfinals in South Korea and went on to become one of Arena’s go-to guys.

Bob Bradley introduced Jermaine Jones, Timothy Chandler, Mix Diskerud, David Yelldell, Jose Torres, and Edgar Castillo to the team. At the U-20 level during Bradley’s tenure, John Brooks, Alfredo Morales, Terrence Boyd, and others were brought into U.S. Soccer for the first time.

Klinsmann, of course, made headlines when he convinced Julian Green, Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams, and Aron Johannsson to play for the Stars and Stripes.

So who could be next on this list? Here is a look at potential dual nationals who have had little to no interaction with U.S. Soccer so far.

Ventura Alvarado

Ventura Alvarado, 22, has seen his stock soar since last November when he broke into Club America’s starting lineup and helped the club win the Liga MX title. He has picked up right where he left off during the 2015 Clausura, featuring in Club America’s starting lineup both in central defense and right back.

Club America is Mexico’s most successful and prestigious club, and starting for this championship-winning team is no small achievement. In fact, it probably makes Alvarado the top dual-national target for the U.S. national team right now. It is therefore no surprise that U.S. Soccer is in hot pursuit of Alvarado and has sent scouts to watch him play recently.

Alvarado was born in Phoenix to Mexican parents but left the U.S. to play in Mexico at age 16. In January he told American Soccer Now that his next goal is to play international soccer. Now he is likely to have options with both Mexico and the United States. Anything can happen, but the most likely scenario is that Alvarado is called up by Klinsmann for the March in friendlies Europe—and Alvarado accepts.

Adam Henley

Tennessee-born right back Adam Henley, 20, has long been considered a top dual-national recruiting prospect for the United States. In 2012, there was hope that U.S. Soccer could lure him away from the youth national teams of Wales. That year, while playing for Blackburn, he was the youngest player in the Premier League and at the age of 17 Henley went a full 90 for Blackburn in a 3-2 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The problem for Henley is that Blackburn has been out of the Premier League for a few years and Henley has suffered several injuries, forcing him to miss considerable time. The good news is that it looks like he is back to being the starting right back with Blackburn after impressing during FA Cup games—including one recent win over Geoff Cameron and Stoke City.

Internationally, Henley is still on the radar for Wales but if he continues to play for Blackburn, he could be an intriguing option for the U.S. U-23 team as it builds toward the Olympics. If Henley played right back, that would allow DeAndre Yedlin to be pushed up the field into a wing position. Left back is not Henley's best position, but he can play that role in a pinch.

My guess is that if Andi Herzog approached Henley about filing a one-time switch and committing to the United States, there's a better-than-even chance the Blackburn fullback would sign on with Uncle Sam.

Kenny Saief

There were no guarantees of success when Kenny Saief made the huge leap from the Israeli league to Belgium’s top flight. So far the attacker has done well for Gent, seeing time as an attacking midfielder, winger, and forward.

Saief, 21, has started a large percentage of Gent’s games this season and has played well and should continue to be part of the club’s plans in the years ahead.

Born in Florida but raised in Israel, Saief has played for Israeli youth national teams and would need to file his one-time switch to play for the United States. Last year Saief told ASN that he’d strongly consider a U.S. national team call-up but the reality is that Israel probably needs him more than the U.S. right now.

The United States could probably secure his services but it would need to act very quickly. The safest bet is that he stays with Israel for his international career.

Devante and Shawn Parker

The Parker brothers are well known to U.S. Soccer, dating back to when former U.S. U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen first approached Shawn, the elder of the two, about playing for his U.S. team in 2011. Both Parkers were born in Germany and both would need to file their one-time switch to play for the United States.

The bigger catch of the two is Devante Parker (pictured), 18, who played for Germany’s U-19 team as recently as October. He made his Bundesliga debut with Mainz earlier in the season but his numbers with Mainz’s U-23 team (which plays in the 3.Liga) are a bit modest: He has just one goal in 16 games (1,253 minutes). Still, he’s a talented player with lots of potential—precisely the kind of player U.S. Soccer has pursued in the past.

For Shawn Parker, who turns 22 next month, an international career with Germany seems less and less likely. He has scored just three Bundesliga goals at this point in his career—potential German internationals tend to be much further along and are already impact players. At this point, he probably even has to improve his performances to make the U.S. team moving forward.

He is returning to health and last Saturday he played the final 18 minutes of Augsburg’s 3-2 loss to Werder Bremen. It was just his third league appearance of the season and first since August. He has also played twice for Augsburg’s U-23 team.

Devante Parker will likely want to play out his opportunity with Germany a little longer but he will face stiff competition if he intends to establish himself as a German international. The odds are against him but he is not out of the picture.

Desevio Payne

The South Carolina-born right back has yet to make his professional debut in the Eredivisie with Groningen but he has made the matchday roster numerous times over the past three months.

Payne, 19, was born in the United States but was raised in the Netherlands. He has never played for either national team although in 2013 he was named as an alternate on a Dutch U-18 team. That year he told Yanks Abroad that he was interested in playing for the United States national team.

Payne is eligible for the U.S. U-20 team and Ramos confirmed to ASN earlier this month that he recently became aware of Payne and will be monitoring his progress. If Payne makes his Eredivisie debut soon and performs well, it is hard to see him not getting a U-20 call-up ahead of this summer’s World Cup. He could even join the team that travels to New Zealand.

Bjorn Maars Johnsen

Bjorn Maars Johnsen was born and raised in North Carolina and played high school soccer in the Raleigh area. But instead of taking his game to college, Johnsen decided to try his luck in the lower leagues of his father’s native Norway.

Johnson, 23, bounced around lower leagues in Norway, Spain, and Portugal, showing gradual improvement along the way. Now with Atletico CP in Portugal’s second tier, the six-foot-five striker has raised his game to a different level.

Atletico is a bad team but Johansen has 14 goals in 26 appearances. A source told ASN that during the January transfer window there was heavy interest from Portugal’s top teams but Atletico refused to sell him.

The Portuguese second tier is generally below the radar for the U.S. national team but if Johnsen ever secures a move to a big club, he will get noticed quickly. As an athletic attacker, Johansen is difficult to defend. Norway has taken notice and Johansen could end up playing with them. But if he continues to rise quickly, the U.S. team could be a stronger pull because that is where he was born and raised.

Ashton Gotz

The 21-year-old Hamburg SV right back is in his first season as a professional and has broken into the club’s starting lineup. At times there have been growing pains but in general he has played well.

Gotz, a German native, has an American father—but there are numerous obstacles standing between him and an American passport. He first must locate and get his father to participate in the process. That could be difficult because he has never met or spoken with him. In a recent interview with ASN, it did not sound as if Gotz had positive feelings toward his father. That said, Gotz did say the idea of playing for the United States was very interesting—probably aided by the fact that the odds of Germany being interested are extremely remote. Should Gotz obtain a U.S. passport, breaking into the senior U.S. team is probably difficult at the moment. Timothy Chandler at this point is having a much better Bundesliga season and there are other options such as Fabian Johnson, DeAndre Yedlin, Ventura Alvarado—just to name a few.

Gotz could be a nice pickup for the U-23 Olympic team because he, like Henley, would allow Herzog to push Yedlin up the field into the attack. For now, however, the big task ahead is to take the hard steps needed to obtain a U.S. passport.

Which of these players would you like to see playing for Klinsmann and co.? Tell us in the Comments section below.

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

Post a comment