While many US fans are still crestfallen over Neven Subotic's decision to play for Serbia, perhaps now is a good time to remember how we've benefited from similar decisions by players who chose to play for the Stars and Stripes. I can't think of a better example than Tom Dooley
I must admit that Dooley is still one of my favorite players ever to pull on a US jersey. He, along with the wave of Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda, John Harkes, and others carried the USA up the next level, setting the stage for much of what has followed.
His playing career included stints at FC FC Homburg (1983-1988), FC Kaiserslautern (1988-1993), Bayer Leverkusen (1994-1995), Schalke 04 (1995-1997), Columbus Crew (1997-2000), and the MetroStars (2001). He then went on to coach Second Bundesliga side Saarbrucken (2002-2003). At Kaiserslautern he led the team to the 1990 German Cup and 1991 Bundesliga title, In 1997, he won the UEFA Cup with Schalke 04.
Along the way the speedy defender earned 81 caps for the USA, scoring seven goals in the process. In 1993, he was named the US Soccer Athlete of the Year, and later he captained the US national team in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups .
But Dooley, the son of a German mother and an American serviceman, first longed to play for Germany. He had led the small club FC Homburg to win promotion to the Bundesliga, then moved to Kaiserslautern where he hoped to get noticed and called by the German national team - a call which never came.
"I was gutted," Dooley recalls. "Three times I was on the verge of being called in, but each time I suffered serious injuries and the chance went begging. I despaired that I would never play international football, but my wife assured me, ‘there must be a reason for it."
So Dooley dug in and focused on his club team, helping them to win the 1990 German Cup and 1991 Bundesliga championship.
Then, in 1993, US Soccer contacted Dooley when someone pointed out that he had an American father and may qualify for citizenship. Dooley remembered that "They came to ask more questions and eventually I was invited to join the US team. I had to run around like a mad man and get my passport in order and learn some basic English."
But Dooley was happy to have found his own soccer family; "It was a great time and so much fun. We were together for a year, and it was amazing. We brought the game of soccer into the public consciousness in America."
And anyone who watched how hard and focused Dooley played in the USA jersey would never guess that he was once a youngster who had longed to play for Germany.
One match that I'll always remember was in June 1993 when the US played Germany at Chicago's Soldier Field during the World Series of Soccer. Dooley played the game of his life, battling a powerful German attack while scoring two goals (in the 25th and 79th minutes). All the while, he seemed to have his teammates convinced they could beat the mighty German squad, which had won the World Cup just three years prior. The team lost 4-3 but not before Earnie Stewart scored a 72nd minute goal, and a few other US chances nearly tied the match.
That day Dooley finally achieved a boyhood dream of pulling on a German national team jersey, which he did after exchanging with another player after the match. But in the post-game interview on German TV, all he could do was gush about his US teammates and how proud he was to play for the Stars and Stripes. It was performances like these on and off the field that make it clear that of all the dual-citizen players the USA has brought into the side, none has had a greater impact than Dooley.
Today, Dooley lives in Laguna Niguel, California where he founded the Orange County Kings and Dooley Soccer University with the goal to "train young players like they do in Europe and prepare them for careers in the big leagues of the world."
He is also involved with Match Analysis, a cutting-edge provider of video and statistical analysis tools, archiving services, and value-added content for professional soccer.