HANOVER, N.J. – The US national team can never have too many players with poise, flair and daring on the field.
Players like New York Red Bulls winger Mike Grella.
ESPN analyst and former US international Brian Dunseth has called for Grella to get a look with the USMNT and last week his club manager Jesse Marsch, who served as an assistant coach for the USA under Bob Bradley, concurred.
"He has all the attributes I think to be effective, I think, at the next level,” Marsch told BigAppleSoccer.com. "Now it’s Jurgen’s decision to see how it fits.”
Grella’s story is an improbable one. The Red Bulls winger was thinking about quitting soccer before a trial with the Red Bulls opened the door for him to sparkle in his first season in MLS in 2015.
A journeyman in Europe following a standout college career at Duke, Grella became a human highlight reel during RBNY’s Supporters’ Shield run, his audacious skill moves earning him nicknames like “Grelladinho" and "Magic Mike" among Red Bulls fans.
Grella gets another national-TV stage to prove his worth on Sunday against the defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers (6 pm ET, ESPN2 in USA; MLS LIVE in Canada), going head-to-head in a way with Timbers playmaker Darlington Nagbe, a skilful MLS player just beginning to emerge on the national team.
“I think everyone who is playing professionally believes in himself at the highest level. Certainly I believe in myself at the highest level with any group of players,” Grella said on Friday following training.
“Saying that, they’re fantastic players, fantastic group of guys. They’ve accomplished so much, especially Darlington Nagbe. I’ve watched him over the past year-and-a-half. They’re all excellent players, but certainly I believe in myself.”
Grella, who has six goals and three assists in 16 appearances this year, has never been called up to a senior US camp, but he was part of the Under-18 and Under-20 national team at a younger age.
Now at 29 years old, Grella is in his prime and perhaps primed for a look at the international level. It would be quite the rise for a player who as recently as 2014 was playing in the lower divisions of American soccer.
“It would be an absolute dream come true, a great little turnaround. Great little story for me and my family,” Grella said. “It’s something I always dreamed about as a kid my entire life. It would be amazing. For now, all I can do is focus on the games at hand and win as many games as we can in MLS and make sure we work as hard as we can to win something this year.”