BY MARC KUSANT
Contributing writer, Empire of Soccer
Red Bull Academy standout Ismar Tandir has certainly been making news recently. The 17 year old striker has not only reportedly signed a deal that will bring him to French side Sochaux by the summer transfer window, but he may also be the latest in a long list of American products to spur the USSF for other international opportunities.
Born in Germany in 1995, Ismar came to the United States when he was only 2 years old. His passion for soccer began when he started playing for local Hackettstown teams before moving onto Piscataway Chelsea where he led them to four state championships.
This caught the eye of the Red Bulls Academy, which he has been a part of since August 2011.
Scoring goals for Ismar is not a problem. At 6’5, 200 pounds, the Bosnian-American is a handful for 17 year old defenders. He is the leading scorer for the New York Red Bulls U-18 Academy, scoring 8 goals and 8 assists in 7 games. He is also ranked 7th in all of the USSF’s Development Academy in goals.
Though MLS is an enticing world for young, developing players, opportunities like Sochaux don’t come knocking often for unproven talents on this side of the hemisphere. Tandir will stay with the Red Bulls Academy until the summer, finish high school and then make the move to France.
The question then becomes if a team in France has seen the value in his talent, why hasn’t the USSF come knocking? His numbers and recent exposure surely represent a player with an international future. So why has the American been representing Bosnia and Herzegovina instead of the US?
“They came to us first,” Tandir told EoS. “I got a call in late August after the Youth MLS Cup from Bosnia.
“It shows they were watching and paying attention.”
When asked about a preference for national teams Ismar stated, “It doesn’t matter where I play, either team would help (achieve his dreams). Whoever called up first, I would play for them.”
America is no stranger to losing talent. Notable players such as Giuseppe Rossi of Villareal and Neven Subotic of German side Borussia Dortmund have both been bypassed by the side for various reasons. Rossi said to Jeff Bradley in a 2010 interview that off the field he was American but Italian on it and therefore could never play for the Red, White and Blue. Subotic’s story dates back to when his family moved from Germany to the Salt Lake City and eventually to Bradenton, Florida where his sister was training for a professional tennis career at the local academy. Subotic was seen training by himself at a park by one of the US coaches and the rest was history. He would go on to play for the US U-17 and U-20 sides but a muddled relationship with then U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen forced Subotic to consider a switch. He chose to play for his homeland, Serbia a year later.
But the biggest kicker is fellow Bosnia and Herzegovina international Vedad Ibisevic. At St. Louis Univeristy, Vedad scored 18 goals in 22 games and was named NCAA’s Top Freshman of the year as well as All American honors. He was spotted by Vahid Halilhodzic, Paris Saint-Germain’s manager and later made his Ligue 1 debut in 2004. It was only until 2007 that the United States called him into a camp. This provided to be too little too late as Vedad decided to represent the bold blue of Bosnia. He is now playing for Stuttgart of the German Bundesliga where he is joint leading scorer of the league.
The USSF has made some huge strides over the past 20 years; from consistently qualifying for World Cups to developing talents such as Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. But one has to wonder for all their heroics if there are ample shortcomings. An eye for keeping talent seems to be one of them.
Will Ismar be the next Vedad Ibisevic, a player waiting for the US call or a Giuseppe Rossi, only to spur the States when they need him most? Only time will tell. In the mean time it’d be wise for and U-18 coach Javier Perez and U-20 coach Tab Ramos to keep an eye out for what could be the next big thing in American soccer.