BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, April 11, 2012
As FC Copenhagen heads towards another Danish title, starting midfielder Thomas Delaney discusses his American roots and recent discussions with US Soccer.
Delaney, 20, has long been regarded as one of the top young Danish players of his generation. He has been a regular with FC Copenhagen first team since 2009 and has earned experience in the UEFA Champions League. He is primarily a defensive midfielder but he can also play on the left due to his left-footed nature.
Earlier this month, however, Delaney's season was cut short due to a knee injury suffered in a game against Lyngby. Delaney underwent surgery last week and is expected to miss about four months.
Delaney has been part of Denmark's U-21 team in 2011 and has been a consistent member of their youth national teams at every age level.
Delaney has roots in several countries including Ireland and the United States. His father was born in Denmark but moved to the United States. Generations before that, his great grandfather fled Ireland to the United States due to the Irish potato famine. Delaney's grandfather and father were both born American citizens despite the fact his father was born in Denmark.
Delaney's father lived in the United States for awhile but he returned to Denmark because he was involved in an automobile accident and chose to recover in the country of his birth. Delaney himself has never lived or visited the United States but he indicates that he has always been eligible for a US passport through his father despite never having obtained one.
"I am a bit sad because I always tell my father that this is the year we go to America," Delaney told YA. "But every time it's always next year. I've played so much soccer and the summers are now so short. I'm going to go one of these years."
Since he has always been involved in Danish soccer his entire life, Delaney has never really thought about playing for the United States. That changed earlier this year when he received a call from US U-23 head coach Caleb Porter to discuss his international options.
"A couple of months ago I talked to Caleb Porter," Delaney revealed. "He called me along with [another person] from the US federation. He just wanted to talk to me about the team and how they work. He heard about me and saw some videos. He asked if I was eligible."
Delaney enjoyed his conversation with Porter and was appreciative that the United States showed interest in him. But with his Danish roots being so strong, Delaney declined the offer to play for the United States at that time. Such a move would be permanent because it would require him to file his one-time switch with FIFA.
Delaney, however, did leave the door open slightly for playing for the United States if he does not make progress in the near future of breaking into the Danish national team. He has been following the US national team in recent years and is impressed with the progress of the team - most notably he was aware of the 1-0 win over Italy in the team's most recent game.
"I guess yes," Delaney said when asked if the US would be an option in the future. "I'm convinced I want to give it a shot to make the national team for Denmark. I feel like I'm a Dane and that should be my priority. But I'm very impressed by the evolution [of the game] in the United States. Both from what I've heard from people I know and from Caleb Porter. It's a great development for them. When I read about them and see the players, it's a good team."
Delaney's primary focus these days revolves around his recovery and trying to get healthy so that he can contribute to FC Copenhagen at the start of the 2012/2013 season. Almost as soon as he could walk, he began playing soccer with Kjobenhavns Boldklub (also called KB) which is a youth affiliation for FC Copenhagen.
While the Danish league is often seen as a stepping stone for the most promising young Danish players, Delaney insists he still has goals he wants to achieve with the only club he has ever known.
"I have, of course like most other professional footballers, a dream of coming to a greater league," Delaney said. "But I'm not in a hurry. I'd like to maybe become captain for the team. I've been with the same club for almost 18 years now."
Delaney's youth and resume suggests that he will likely attract interest from clubs in top leagues in the world in the years ahead.
Despite the fact that Delaney has yet to come to the United States and he may never play for the US national team, he is interested one day later in his career to play in MLS. He has talked about the topic of soccer in the United States with friends and his interest continues to grow over time.
"I can also imagine myself later in my career coming to America," Delaney concluded. "I would not say that I'm not interested if an opportunity comes someday to play in MLS. I think a lot of people in Europe and Denmark are opening their eyes to American soccer."