On Wednesday an Englishman made history in Major League Soccer as Suffolk-born forward Dom Dwyer left Sporting Kansas City to join Orlando City in a deal which could eventually be worth $1.6million (£1.2million).
Dwyer was born in Cuckfield, coming through Norwich City’s academy before making the move to Texas eight years ago. He rose through the American college system and was drafted by Sporting KC in the 2012 SuperDraft as the number 16 pick. Listen to the striker for just a few seconds and his roots become abundantly clear, speaking with a thick English accent.
However, Dwyer received his American citizenship in March, scoring on his debut in a 2-1 win over Ghana at the beginning of July. He followed that up with a second goal against Panama on his second outing for the USMNT as Bruce Arena’s side drew 1-1 in their Gold Cup opener.
Indeed, it seemed inevitable Dwyer would one day play under the stars and stripes, with both parties keen to make it happen. Switching nationality made sense for the former Sporting KC striker, given that for all his Major League Soccer success he was unlikely to receive a call from England coach Gareth Southgate.
While the USA’s talent pool might be shallower than England’s their ceiling is just as high. At the 2014 World Cup the US outlasted England, making the last 16 while Roy Hodgson’s side crashed out in the group stage. The US also matched England’s progress at the 2010 World Cup, so opting for the former over the latter doesn’t appear so much of a step down.
From Arena’s perspective, bringing Dwyer into the national team fold made perfect sense. This is a player who has averaged almost a goal every other game in four seasons for Sporting KC, with the striker among the most reliable frontmen in MLS. Peter Vermes has built an entire team around Dwyer, offering something of a precedent to Arena.
It’s unlikely Dwyer will dislodge Jozy Altidore from the USA’s starting lineup, but he would certainly provide a solid back up alternative. The 2018 World Cup is looming and there is still time for Dwyer to make himself a part of Arena’s plans ahead of the journey to Russia next year, assuming the USA qualify.
Dwyer’s naturalisation would raise familiar questions over the USA’s recent recruitment policy, with a number of German-born Americans brought into the national team under Jurgen Klinsmann. Arena himself questioned his predecessor’s policy on foreign born players, with ex-Manchester United and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard also expressing a pointed opinion earlier this year.
“Jurgen Klinsmann had a project to unearth talent around the world that had American roots,” the Colorado and US goalkeeper said.
“But having American roots doesn’t mean you are passionate about playing for that country.”
Home from home
However, if Arena is solely charged with calling up the best players available to him Dwyer will quickly become an integral part of squads going forward.
The Orlando City striker is good enough to play at international level and having lived in the States for nine years, starting a family with USA World Cup winner Sydney Leroux, few could question his commitment to the star-spangled cause.
“It’s like my second home, if not my home,” he says. “This country has given a lot to me. If I could give something back, that’s something I would love.”
Switching England for the USA means Dwyer has inadvertently set a compelling precedent for others like him making the move over the Atlantic.
Englishman Jack Harrison, 20, who has become a first team figure at New York City FC over the past two seasons, will be observing with interest. He has already admitted his willingness to play for the USA, although with the winger is a long way from obtaining a green card, so that discussion is one for another day.
There are political factors for Dwyer to manoeuvre around, but there is little else standing in the way if he is to become an American national team star.