by GIANFRANCO PANIZO
Vincenzo Bernardo has a decision to make.
Despite comments earlier in his career about wanting to suit up for the U.S., and contrary to some reports, Bernardo has yet to decide if he wants to play for the United States or Italy at the senior level.
In an exclusive interview with SBI, Bernardo revealed that his decision is far from made.
"I wouldn't say that I declared anything really," Bernardo said, referring to comments he made in 2007 on choosing the U.S. over Italy. "I was asked an important question that came when I was very young in my career. However, I do not regret anything I said regarding wanting to represent USA."
Bernardo's latest comments are sure to worry some American fans, who are all too familiar with drawing the short end of the stick when it comes to talented young players with dual citizenship. In 2008 alone, the U.S. lost two talented prospects, Giuseppe Rossi (Italy) and Neven Subotic (Serbia), to European countries.
Unlike Rossi and Subotic though, Bernardo has come out publicly and stated that his choice still remains in the hands of the U.S. Soccer Federation and U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen.
"My decision lies heavily on the U-20 cycle with USA," Bernardo said in an interview via email with SBI.
That U-20 cycle has not started well for Bernardo in 2009. In January, reports surfaced that Bernardo and three other players had been dismissed by Rongen from a U.S. training camp held in Sunrise, Fl. due to disciplinary reasons.
However, the latest disappointment came earlier this week when Bernardo failed to get called into the U-20 national team camp in Bradenton, Fl., home of the U.S. residency program. The 20-player team is making its final preparations for the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament which starts in Trinidad and Tobago on March 6.
Bernardo would not disclose whether it was Napoli which prevented him from playing in the qualifying tournament or if Rongen decided to omit him from the team (A U.S. Soccer source told SBI that Bernardo was not chosen).
"I was told by the people around me not to comment on that question," Bernardo said.
Bernardo, who has his own website, also said that his ultimate short term goal is to play in the U-20 World Cup in Egypt in the fall.
"Today being almost three years older and more mature on and off the field, I've realized how important this decision is for me so I will take into serious consideration both options," Bernardo said.
"I do feel the same way as I did back in 2007, but I would say that I am more aware of the situation."
Bernardo is in no rush to make a decision. He has until his 21st birthday, May 22nd of 2011, to declare for a national team.
What do you think of Bernardo's comments? Shocked? Think the USSF/Rongen is letting another star-in-the-making get away? Do you see Bernardo suiting up for USA when everything is all said and done?
Share your thoughts below.