BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, January 28, 2011
Thursday it was announced that US U-20 international forward Conor Doyle was called in to the U-21 national team for Ireland.
In a lengthy interview with the Herald of Ireland, Doyle admits that he is undecided about his international future and would like to play with Ireland's U-21 team before making his decision.
Doyle, 19, was born in Texas and lived there his whole life but he has an Irish passport through his father who was born in Dublin.
Last summer, Doyle unexpectedly signed with Derby County and immediately began seeing time for the English Championship team. Prior to that, he had never represented the US or Ireland at any level.
During the fall, US U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen repeatedly tried to call Doyle into U-20 camps only to have Derby deny his release. In December, Derby allowed Doyle to play for the US in a camp. In January, they would again release Doyle for the biggest US U-20 camp of the cycle.
So now after participating in two US U-20 camps, Doyle confesses that he is undecided even though Rongen has seemed to indicate that Doyle is likely part of his plans for the talented U-20 team moving forward.
This will present a difficult dilemma for Rongen and it will be interesting to see how he handles the situation.
One possible path for Rongen to take would simply allow Dolye to play for Ireland and trust that he will end up choosing the US after he compares the two camps.
The benefits to this would be that it would show the trust Rongen has in his players and the confidence he has that they will prefer him in the end.
The drawbacks to this approach are obvious. In a cycle where a significant percentage of the team are dual nationals, how can you let one player play the field when everyone else is committed to the team?
When it is important to build a team on and off the field, what happens when one player isn't there to integrate with the team but is there to compare it with another setup?
Another approach Rongen could take is to let Doyle know where he stands with the US U-20 team which probably leans toward being included on the World Cup qualifying roster.
He could then tell him that if he plays for Ireland, he won't be allowed back with the US U-20 team this cycle. It would be telling him he's on the World Cup qualifying team and then asking if he is in or out.
Doyle's US U-20 teammates probably don't appreciate him playing for the US while getting ready to suit up for another team. There is the famous story of Sonny Guadarrama several years ago who left the US U-20 program to play for Mexico.
After suiting up for El Tri, he tried to return to the US team and Rongen let the US team vote if he should be allowed. The team voted against allowing Guadarrama to return.
We could see the same scenario unfold here. At this late point in the cycle Rongen and the US players need to know they can count on each other and Doyle has had enough time to think about it.
This would benefit the team because it could demand commitment and reward those talented players that have made the choice to represent the US unwaveringly. Rongen has shown a lot of respect to Doyle and at what point does he demand respect in return?
Obviously a hardline stance like that could alienate Doyle and only increase the chances that he will play for Ireland for the rest of his international career.
Rongen clearly doesn't want to be in the business of developing other country's talent.
This US team is talented and many good players won't make the rosters for qualifying or the World Cup. A coveted roster spot should probably go to the good players who are firmly behind the Stars and Stripes.
Right now Doyle is battling Adrian Ruelas, Jack McInerney, Soony Saad, and Tristan Bowen for a roster spot and any of those players would accept a call up to World Cup qualifying without hesitation.
Are there other dual nationals conflicted on this team? Yes. Alexander Zahavi is in the final steps of deciding whether to file his one –time switch but he lived most of his whole life overseas and represented Portugal first. He's also not openly weighing offers to rejoin Portugal.
Doyle's situation is unique in that he's trying to suit up for two teams in a short period of time just to compare and make a decision on his international future.
But this doesn't make sense.
A single youth national team camp shouldn't tell you how comfortable you are representing that country. In other words, a positive experience at an Irish U-21 camp in February 2011 won't tell Doyle how he will feel in 2021 in playing for the senior team in World Cup qualifying.
Doyle's decision should be easy. What country does he want to help win the World Cup? He shouldn't be factoring in coaches and teammates because they come and go over the course of a career. With the one-time switch available to him, he can change his mind if he makes a mistake or if he falls out of favor with one program after a long period of time.
But making this whole process a long and drawn-out affair is unnecessary because he's been recruited by each team for several months now.
It will now be up to Rongen as to how long he wants this charade to continue.
On a side note, YA has a policy of only covering players that are committed to the US Soccer program. We are going take a hiatus on covering Doyle until he indicates he is done playing the field and plans to only play for the US. Fortunately we should know quickly as preparation for US U-20 World Cup qualifying will begin in less than two months.