Don’t Tread On Me….Personified

Update 01/15: Add Jozy Altidore and his quake-stricken homeland of Haiti to the adversity…..

TSG contributor Kurt emailed us in December pondering that we do a piece on the personal struggles for the USMNT.

Will we see CD9 sooner than we think?

Kurt’s thesis? That the American team has faced quite a deal of personal adversity that is then exemplified by their never-say-die attitude.

As we ruminated back and forth on email, the piece resonated with us more, specifically a theme of “resilency.” In fact we had no idea the amount of adversity that many of the players faced in getting to where they are in their careers.

These achievements may pale in comparison to say, playing for the Iraqi National Team or making the trip from North Korea to South Africa, but on an individual-by-individual basis, they are no less impressive.

While all of face adversity in our life, the players on the USMNT may didn’t lead the charmed life to national team caps that might seem apparent.

Let’s take a look at what the team members individually overcame to get where they are today.

The You Can’ts

• The first player no doubt here is USMNT stalwart and top 10 international goalie Tim Howard. Tim Howard has only overcome his bout with Tourette’s syndrome, he’s exploded the stereotype. Think about it, a soccer goalie with Tourette’s–probably the fodder for cruel jokes (as did happen for Howard upon his introduction into the EPL.)

JDM: Perserverance, personified.

Mr. Jay DeMerit: DeMerit’s recently bout with eye surgery pales in comparison to the defender slinging a sack over his shoulder and taking off for Europe without a clue as to how to get on a team or get playing time. DeMerit as well all know went undrafted out of college soccer and promptly took off for Europe in search of a career. According to Wikipedia: due to his Danish grandfather) and moved to England in 2003 with only $1,800, in an attempt to find a club to play for. He started off playing in the ninth tier of English football for Southall Town F.C., earning only £40 a week

The Comebacks

Truth be told we’re not sure how this set of players shakes out — we’ll say 2 out of 3 are there in South Africa.

Maurice Edu most recent challenges have been fans of his own team shouting racial epithets at him as he took in a game for his Glasgow Rangers. However Edu has bigger nuisances and that is a nagging injury that’s not letting him get on the pitch. After forecasting earlier this year that he would be back in September, the star in central defense of the Beijing Olmypics is still searching for his number to called for the first time this year.

During the end of the holiday season, Edu got his first start in a reserve game and came out of the game without further injury and excited by his play.

Oguchi Onyewu has been told he faces a sprint against the clock in order to achieve top fitness prior to South Africa. Gooch went down in a heap October 14 at the Kennedy and has been rehabbing furiously in attempt to beat that timer. While this is Onweyu’s first major injury comeback, it’s not his first time overcoming adversity. The powerful big man was dropped in 2007 by Newcastle who thought the big man was too green and too clumsy. After fighting back at Liege, Gooch earned his way after a solid Confederation Cup to Serie A powerhouse Milan.

Meanwhile Newcastle United found their way out of Premiership. Nice job, Mr. Gooch.

• Potential starting striker Conor Casey knows a thing or two about Gooch’s rehab. Once a promising striker with

Casey Never-Say-Dyin'

both the heft and the pace, the bald master of Honduras kept having a promising career in Germany’s top two divisions hijacked by various knee injuries. Casey we know has battled back at home in the MLS and fought his way to the top of the front line depth chart.

• Stand up DaMarcus Beasley. Back to the starting line-up on Ranger and the USMNT roster pool you go. Good work.

• Join the comeback club Charlie Davies. Prove everyone wrong.

The This Ain’t A Long Road To Me(s)

Clint Dempsey’s impoverished upbringing has long been documented. The Texas-born nattie parents worked to make ends meet so that Clint’s sister could attempt a tennis career, unfortunately making those worked relegated Clint’s career at the time to second fiddle. Friends of Dempsey’s parents had to chip in so Clint could join a traveling soccer team. The arduous road upward wasn’t the only challenge Dempsey had. A brain aneurysm proved fatal for Dempsey’s sister–to which Dempsey dedicated his famous rap video.

Landon Donovan encountered a similar challenge growing up in Ontario California in a single parent household. Money challenged as well, it was the generosity of others that footed Landon’s soccer fees that allowed him to become the class of the MLS and the USMNT.


Benny Feilhaber battled back from a series of injuries and a trip to Bob Bradley’s doghouse and now finds himself virtually assured of a spot in South Africa.

Stu Holden has lost his father this year….a career year nonetheless.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kevin on 2009/12/27 at 10:04 AM

    Don’t forget that Stu originally was signed by sunderland but after a bar fight he broke/fractured his eye socket. Stu overcame the highest high to the lowest low and ultimately ended up as a promising young star on the national team. He went from Sunderland to back up at Houston over a bar fight (well attack). That seems a little depressing for anyone to experience.


  2. Posted by bw on 2009/12/27 at 7:21 PM

    didn’t stu’s dad also pass away – months before his career really took off in the gold cup?


  3. Posted by bw on 2009/12/27 at 7:23 PM

    hearing that landon and dempsey both barely made it through club ball because of costs should reveal a major flaw in our youth development system. i wonder how many other potential world class footballers we have that never got a chance to develop or ended up in other sports b/c of the costs of youth soccer!? scary to hear we ALMOST didn’t have either one of the guys!


    • Posted by Kevin on 2009/12/29 at 2:47 PM

      sounds like Santiago Munez to me.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/12/29 at 2:52 PM

        I need to confer with Mark, but I believe you’ve just made an excellent case for inclusion in the Jimmy Conrad wing of our Hall of Fame….wow…we need to update that thing.


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