BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, November 7, 2011
With the US U23 team set to open their first camp this week in the build-up to Olympic qualifying in March, the most surprising player on the roster is Stuttgart Kicker defender Royal Dominique Fennell.
Fennell, 22, is currently a starter on the Stuttgart Kickers who have just taken over first place Germany's Regionalliga Sud division.
Entering into the season Stuttgart Kickers were expected to challenge for promotion to the 3.Bundesliga and so far, things have gone according to plan. Fennell has been a major player for the club this season as he has started in 15 of the team's 16 games and has scored three goals.
"This year everything is working great for my team and for me," Fennel told YA from Germany. "Before the season started our goal was it to get promoted to the 3rd Bundesliga. Last week we reached the head of the table and are now in a good position and have to defend it."
Fennell is expected to help the US U23 team because of his versatility. In most of the games, Fennell has played in central defense but he can also play in central midfield as well.
"I am listed as a defender but i also can play as a midfielder, it doesn`t matter to me," Fennell explained. "My favorite position is in the middle."
Fennell is part of a US roster that is heavily loaded with players currently based in Germany. Of the 31 players on the roster, 12 are playing for German clubs.
Fennell holds citizenship with both the United States and Germany. His father served in the US military and was stationed in Göppingen, Germany. While in Germany, he met Royal's mother and the two returned to the United States to get married.
Fennell was born in Fort Irwin, California and lived the first four years of his life there before returning to Germany permanently.
When Fennell received the callup to the US U23 team, it took him by surprise. It was a dream come true for him to represent the country of his birth and the country where his father served.
"I was very happy and surprised," Fennell recalled of the experience. "This was a moment I always dreamed of. It would be an honor for me to play for the US 23 National Team at the Olympics. First of all, I told my mom, family and friends about the training camp in Duisburg. Everybody was happy and wished me lot of luck."
Despite being raised primarily in Germany, Fennell does not feel it is a problem that so many of the players on the Olympic team could have background that come from outside the US.
With only Olympic roster limited to 18 spots, German-born players such as Danny Williams, Timothy Chandler, Terrence Boyd, John Anthony Brooks, Andrew Wooten, and Alfredo Morales are all in contention to make the final team.
For Fennell, he doesn't believe that it is problem for the US team that so many players were either born or lived a majority of their lives abroad. Instead he insists that the team is simply determined to succeed and this common goal will serve as a bond.
"No I don`t think that this is a problem," Fennell concluded. "I am also born in the US. It doesn`t matter where people are born or come from, important is that we all get along each other. I am quite sure that everybody is trying their best to make our country proud."