Kenny Saief is the latest dual-international waiting by his phone, hoping for a the life-changing call from Jurgen Klinsmann inviting him to join the U.S. national team.
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If you’ve never heard of Saief, don’t worry, you’re surely not alone. Just 21 years old, Saief is a versatile midfielder who plays his club soccer for Belgian side Gent, who last week qualified for the knockout stage of the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League. Saief, who was born to a Druze family in Panama City, Florida, and moved to Israel at the age of three, played 304 of 540 minutes for Gent during their just-completed group stage campaign.
Speaking to American Soccer Now, Saief recently indicated that, amid frustrations over not receiving a call-up to the Israeli national team despite being a regular starter for the reigning Belgian champions and Champions League round of 16 competitors, he would seriously consider a call-up to the USMNT, thus permanently tying him to the U.S., given his many appearances for Israel at various youth levels.
“I knew from someone that the United States was scouting me. If I get a call from the United States, I think I would probably play for them. Which team is better at football? I think the United States is better. They play almost every four years in the World Cup. As a footballer they are better, I think.”
“At the end it’s my decision. If I would say that the best for me would be to go to the United States, for sure I would decide to go to the United States. I respect everything from my father and I loved him. Maybe he had his own plans for the future to be on the Israeli national team, but maybe I feel that I really can do it and be a national team player for the United States.”
As relayed by ASN, Saief is a left-footed midfielder who prefers to play wide on either the left or right side, but has also frequently played centrally and occasionally at left back. A U.S. Soccer spokesman recently confirmed that the federation is aware of and has been scouting Saief.
Given that the Belgian domestic league plays through the winter months, Saief is unlikely to be called into, or allowed to attend, the USMNT’s upcoming January training camp, despite the annual practice typically serving as an introduction to the program and a springboard for younger players to the first team. Instead, Saief will perhaps have to hope a string of strong performances earns him a call-up to the first team during a FIFA international window — either for World Cup qualifying or the 2016 Copa America Centenario — or to the U-23 national team for Olympic qualifying playoff in March.