Before US women's national team star Abby Wambach played her final game as a professional on Wednesday, a 1-0 loss in New Orleans to China, she had some parting words about the men's national team and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Wambach discussed the USMNT on Bill Simmons' podcast, saying she'd fire Klinsmann and taking a shot at his policy of bringing foreign-born players into the national team, telling the HBO host that "the way that [Klinsmann] has changed and brought in these foreign guys, it’s just not something that I believe in."
Those comments led to swift reaction on social media, and a pair of USMNT veterans weighed in on the matter.
New York City FC midfielder Mix Diskerud, who was born in Oslo, Norway and spent most of his childhood in the Scandinavian country, left a message on his Instagram profile criticizing Wambach's perceived slight at dual nationals.
Wow Abby, I guess there are pros and cons in limiting the base for selection. You have just singled out a few of us. But why? Why are we your single oddballs? Think about who you try to disenfranchise. Because if you see us as the group to disenfranchise, then at least let it be known who we are. Stats and history will show - "our group" has more than others produced volunteer and defending soldiers for what, by us, is willingly chosen and gathered to be worth protecting: Your nation. Wish you would accept it as ours too. I know we're not quite equal. From "your group of people" the country's Commander in Chief need to be selected. However, other than that - you and I share something not unique, but constitutionally earned, a birthright to defend this nation as an American. Wherever we go. Led by whoever has earned, by democratic process, his/her right to lead, on or off the field, in peace, in war, in practice, or in any other kind of pursuit of your happiness. Enjoy your retirement. But stay active. We all need you. Oddballs or not. Mix
Diskerud's former USMNT teammate and American soccer icon Landon Donovan didn't go quite as far as Wambach, but he did hit at some of the same themes as the USWNT star in an interview with SiriusXM FC's Eric Wynalda on Wednesday, even mentioning German-born US internationals Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones by name.
“I wouldn’t feel as good about it if we had a team full of players that didn’t really grow up or really identify as being American,” the former LA Galaxy star explained. “It’s nothing against them. I mean, Fabian Johnson is as good of a player as there is, maybe in the Bundesliga right now, and I love him and he’s a nice kid. I love Jermaine [Jones]…and they’re good teammates, I like having them on the team. But if we had a team full of players like that, it just wouldn’t feel the same as if we developed a team that then went on and won a World Cup.
"There’s just something more special about all of us being a part of it and growing it and building it. And if it’s win at all costs, that’s fine. But, in my opinion, it’s not win at all costs, it's win in a way that makes us feel proud."
Donovan, who was born and raised in Southern California, didn't question the professionalism or effort of any dual citizen members of the national team, but he did wonder if playing in an international match could mean as much to someone born abroad as it does to someone born in the US.
“I’ll share something that I shared with Jurgen, actually when I got left off the [2014 World Cup] team,” he said. “I said, ‘Jurgen, I understand, you’re allowed to make your choice and your decision, but there’s at least a few players that are on your World Cup roster that are going that don’t care in the same way I do. I mean, I grew up as a part of this whole system, and I feel like it is a part of me, and I think there’s players in that locker room who, if you go three-and-out in the World Cup, they’ll go back to their club teams and won’t even blink twice. Whereas, if we go three and out, I’ll be devastated.'
"And I think that’s a piece that’s important because that shows up in the way you play. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to try as hard and you’re not professional, but when you really feel it, when you hear the national anthem and you get goosebumps and your blood starts pumping because you’re proud to be an American and you love this country, that’s a much different feeling than ‘OK, I’m playing for a national team in a significant, exciting game.’"
"There’s so many talented players that have American connections that it’s hard not to want to pull some of these guys in to play for our national team, and you can understand why," he continued. "But at the end of the day, do they really feel it in the same way as Michael Bradley, or Clint Dempsey, or Matt Besler or guys like that? Do they really feel that in the same way? I don’t know, I’m not so sure. That’s not a knock against them, that’s just the reality. That’s the way it is and that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that."