Among Notable Omissions
By BEN JACKEY
One Great Season
Death is inevitable. That said, even when that loved one is a shadow of his former self mentally, when he doesn't have command of his faculties, and we all know his goodbye to this world is actually a blessing, it's still tough to believe he's not here.
On Tuesday, football's grim reaper began to chisel a few of the most recognizable names into the headstones of their international careers, as World Cup provisional rosters were announced. Cue the music and the black-and-white photos a la Oscars night.
EXTRA: World Cup Rosters, Team Capsules
Luca Toni was the Azzurri's primary forward in 2006 and at the 2008 European Championship, but lost his place when he ran into problems at Bayern Munich to start this season, and he returned to Serie A. He was largely ineffective in Italy's disappointing showing in the 2008 European Championships. The writing was on the wall. Toni is 32 years old. Still it feels like a gaping blue hole.
When I think Dutch football, I think Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Then I think about horses, but physical aesthetics have no place in this article. Van Nistelrooy looked old even when he was in his early 20s. Yet, just three years ago, he bagged 33 goals for Real Madrid. Two years ago, he scored 20. Battling a knee injury for some time, however, he hasn't appeared for the Oranje since the 2008 Euros. He was a long shot for the squad, and we all know what happens to horses with leg injuries.
Then, there's Ronaldinho (speaking of horses). He's the guy who even the biggest soccer-ignorant Americans have heard of. If your adolescent soccer-interested child doesn't have a David Beckham jersey, chances are he owns a red-and-black-striped Ronaldinho kit (AC Milan) or an old blue- and red-striped one (Barcelona). This is the two-time FA Player of the Year. He's had a pretty successful year for Milan, but has struggled to wear the Brazilian colors. In fact, he hasn’t suited up in 13 months. Qualifying was not pleasant for Brazil. The Confederations Cup was almost a disaster. Most thought Ronaldinho was on the outside looking in, but as an American, for me it's still hard to grasp that a player like him (who would immediately be the USMNT’s best player upon defection), can't even get a sniff of the bench in South Africa.
Speaking of immense talent left off the roster, Freddy Adu will not rock the red, white and blue this summer. Once believed to be the Messiah of American soccer, Adu's professional career has been more Sebastian Telfair than LeBron James. He's become a journeyman since leaving the MLS, and his latest stint with Greek club Aris has produced little results. And, in a great piece by Grant Wahl, we learn that the knock on Adu in Europe is that he's greatly lacking the tactical knowledge of the game. One must still remember, he is only 20. However, his international dreams may be on life support.
Morbid sarcasm aside, it's also a shame that Charlie Davies couldn't get fit enough to make the provisional 30-man USMNT roster. I've been trying to tell my fellow Yanks that there was no way Davies would be back. I think when you really want something, you tend to throw reality out the door, and Charlie did the same, as did American fans. The man nearly died. He had fractures in his tibia and fibula. Seven months is not enough time to rehab and be ready to take on the best players in the world. Moreso than any of the aforementioned omissions, Davies' absence will be a huge blow to his team. His pure speed stretches the field, which provides Landon Donovan more room to create. It allows Clint Dempsey to push up from midfield, and leaves Jozy Altidore under-marked.
Rigor mortis has yet to set in on Davies' World Cup hopes. But to Ruud, Ronaldinho, Luca, your three international careers may be six feet under. Six glorious feet.
Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television reporter and international football enthusiast who lives in Louisville, Ky.