Yura Movsisyan wanted to play for the U.S. national team, and under a different set of circumstances, he could be wearing a United States uniform tonight for the U.S. team's friendly against Brazil.
Instead, Movsisyan has given up his quest to play for the United States and is preparing to make his debut for Armenia against Iran on Wednesday. Why? Sources close to Movsisyan told SBI that the former Real Salt Lake striker ultimately decided that he did not want to pass on a chance to begin an international playing career while he waited for the chance to be eligible for the United States.
Currently enjoying success with Danish club Randers after winning the 2009 MLS Cup with RSL, Movsisyan is a young striker with potential who U.S. coach Bob Bradley is a known admirer of. Unfortunately for Movsisyan, he isn't eligible to play for the United States.
Movsisyan is married to an American woman, and has secured a green card, but he is still at least three years away from being a U.S. citizen, meaning he would have had to wait three years to even be eligible to play for the United States. After initially planning to wait to quality for the United States before deciding on his international future, Movsisyan chose to accept the call when Armenia courted him.
Movsisyan isn't the first player to choose another country rather than waiting for USA eligibility.
Two years ago, former Chicago Fire central defender Bakary Soumare had hopes of eventually playing for the United States, but when he was faced with the prospects of waiting two or three more years before starting his international career, Soumare decided he was better off starting his international career immediately with Mali. Since then, Soumare has moved to French club Boulogne via transfer and has represented Mali in World Cup qualifying and at the African Cup of Nations.
Can you blame either play for their decisions? Not really, not when faced with possibility of waiting years for a chance that may not even come. In Movsisyan's case, he is a player who U.S. coach Bob Bradley has long admired. It was Bradley who was desperate to draft Movsisyan when he was Chivas USA head coach in 2006 only to have the Kansas City draft him one place earlier (Bradley consolation prize wound up being U.S. national team midfielder Sacha Kljestan).
Ultimately, Movsisyan's decision is a career move. He has enjoyed success since moving to Danish club Randers last winter, and playing for Armenia will mean a chance to play in European Championship qualifiers against teams like Russia, Ireland and Slovakia. That means more chances to be seen by European scouts, and a better chance to advance his career.
If U.S. fans want to blame somebody for the national team missing out on another player, it can really only point to the U.S. government and its process for citizenship. At a time when politicians seem to be looking for new ways to keep people from becoming U.S. citizens there is little chance that U.S. Soccer will be in position to pull strings and secure expedite citizenship for top prospects such as Movsisyan and Soumare, or other potential U.S. prospects such as Andy Najar and Rodney Wallace.
It's a frustrating situation for American soccer fans, especially when you consider that both Movsisyan and Soumare could be in uniform for tonight's USA-Brazil friendly, but it's the reality U.S. Soccer is faced with.