Alfred Koroma is latest foreign born American soccer wunderkind

Cameron Smith

Through two U.S. games at the U-17 World Cup, one thing is certain: Alfred Koroma is the best hope for American goals. The 17-year-old has scored two of the U.S.'s four goals -- one in the team's tournament-opening 3-0 belting of the Czech Republic and the team's lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Uzbekistan -- and has consistently proven to be a threat whenever he's near the penalty box.

U.S. U-17 striker Alfred Koroma
U.S. U-17 striker Alfred Koroma

The Dallas-area native is a versatile threat, and has become an even more stronger player since leaving Southlake (Texas) Carroll High before his junior spring season to return to the U.S. Soccer U-17 Development Program in Bradenton, Fla.

Some might point to that developmental effort as a key to his rise as the latest, greatest young American striker. Some might point to his overall athleticism. Yet, no matter what people feel is the most compelling reason behind Koroma's rise is, his development highlights another fascinating trend: The big American breakthrough of a soccer teen star often seems to be an American import from overseas.

Keeping in mind that there's absolutely nothing necessarily wrong with that, consider the following stars: Freddy Adu (originally from Ghana), Jozy Altidore (his family emigrated from Haiti before his birth), Juan Aguedelo (Colombia) and, now, Koroma (Sierra Leone). Of those four, only Altidore was born in the U.S.

There's no need to single these four athletes out, except for the fact that they each received a mountain of hype and hopes before the age of 18. Only one American of American descent -- Landon Donovan -- received similar acclaim by that age (though Damarcus Beasley was not too far behind).

That's a ratio of 3-to-2 in terms of U.S. to foreign born among most highly hyped offensive players in the American youth system across the past 12 years. Naturally, that can lead one to wonder whether the development of Adu, Aguedelo and Koroma is symptomatic of a larger trend in the upper echelon of American soccer development.

Certainly, there are more American-born members of the U.S. Soccer Develpoment program than there are promising children of recent American emigrants. That trend is magnified to an even higher degree in the general population. So, why is it that three uber-talented youngsters have come through the ranks to more acclaim than their homegrown counterparts, regardless of whether they eventually meet with the success predicted for them (it seems safe to proclaim that Adu certainly has not, recent heroics notwithstanding)?

It's a mystery that may not have an obvious answer. Perhaps they play harder, spurred on by the sacrifices of their forebears. Perhaps they just happen to be more athletic at a younger age than their counterparts.

Perhaps it doesn't matter. In fact, it really shouldn't. After all, the elevation of talent above all other considerations is the truest American way of all. In U.S. soccer, that strain of American culture is at the fore, right where it should be.

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