The Giuseppe Rossi Blues

Italy omits a certain Jersey boy from WC squad

In typical Italian style, Cesare Prandelli waited until the last moment to announce his 23-man roster. The big surprise is that Giuseppe Rossi, just getting his legs back after ACL surgery, did not make the team. You have to feel for him. Or not. The 27-year-old from Northern New Jersey—long a bastion of American soccer—still evokes the ire of many American fans for choosing to play for the nation of his parents rather than the land where he was born (whether New Jersey is a country all its own, I’ll leave to you, Dear Reader).

Some of that old bile was regurgitated after Prandelli’s announcement (see, you should’ve played for us, traitor!), but what these people conveniently forget is that the U.S. team has benefitted by more players choosing the U.S. over other potential national teams, Aron Johannsson being the most recent. But what Rossi did—Johannsson, too—was to take the hardest road. How do you not admire that? For a kid growing up loving the Azzurri—as many across the Italian diaspora do—it’s not the first time he’s had to deal with disappointment. In 2010, he was left off the final-23 due to fitness just months after he lost his father Fernando, a legendary, beloved youth soccer coach in Clifton, N.J.

Rossi remains an electrifying striker—a rarity in Italy and in the U.S.—who would have proved a handful alongside Mario Balotelli. It could have been the next chapter in the Azzurri’s big striker, little striker set-up. His 70 minutes against Ireland on Saturday in London wasn’t enough to convince Prandelli, a thoughtful man who surely must have been tortured over the decision. Instead, it will be Balotelli paired with either Ciro Immobille, Serie A’s capocannoniere, but who has only one cap; Immobile’s Torino teammate Alessio Cerci, who has 11 caps; the tiny, pyrotechnical Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli (four caps); or the oft-brilliant but tempestuous Antonio Cassano, never in the best of shape, even back when he was in his 20s, when he bragged in his autobiography about eating three pastries after sex.

They’re all talented players. Still, a certain Jersey boy will once again miss out on the World Cup, and once again the World Cup will miss out on him.