Robbie Findley is training with the U.S. national team in Utah. Goal.com's Noah Davis says this is just the beginning for the youngster.By Noah Davis
Open this week's "NFL Preview" issue of Sports Illustrated and you'll see Robbie Findley's face sandwiched between Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin, and Detroit Lions cornerback Phillip Buchanon. Has the Real Salt Lake striker decided to switch sports?
No, he's just part of the weekly The Pop Culture Grid, a round-up where some of the sporting world's biggest stars answer hard-hitting questions of the moment, such as "Best breakup song ever?" (Findley's response: Kiss the Baby Sky by Tohoshinki.)
Does this honor mean the second-round pick in the 2007 Major League Soccer SuperDraft has made it?
He certainly doesn't think so.
"I still have a long way to go," Findley told Goal.com over the phone on Thursday afternoon.
Despite the striker's modestly, 2009 has been a breakout season for the former Oregon State star. After scoring eight goals in his first season -- split between the Los Angeles Galaxy and RSL -- and six last year, Findley reached double digits in his team's 4-0 defeat of Chivas USA on August 26. He currently sits tied for second-place in the MLS's Golden Boot race, one behind Colorado Rapids goal-scoring monster Conor Casey.
United States National Team manager Bob Bradley clearly noticed the 5'9 forward's good form, as he called Findley into camp before the Stars and Stripes' two crucial World cup qualifiers against El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago.
"This has been a year where he's had some really good moments," Bradley told the Salt Lake Tribune's Michael C. Lewis. "You see his athleticism, you see his ability to go at people -- to go by people. So it's a good chance for us this week to get him back in and see him up close and make sure he knows that the progress he's making, that we're on top of it."
It's been almost two years since Findley's played with the full USMNT. He earned his one and only cap after coming on in the 90th minute of the American's 1-0 defeat of Switzerland in an October 17, 2007 friendly.
The striker took this latest call-up in stride.
"I got called in and I'm here doing all the same things everybody else is doing," he said. "Going into practice and trying to show the coaches what I can do."
Although the 24-year-old hasn't figured in recent senior team camps, he appeared in all five of the U.S. Under-23 team's qualifying matches for the 2008 Olympics. Findley was selected as one of the four alternates for the Beijing squad, but he didn't get a chance to play during the USA's group stage exit.
"It was unfortunate, but I wasn't mad. I wished them the best," he said. "I helped them qualify so in a way I was a big part."
Now that he's no longer age eligible for youth teams, the striker is focusing on moving to the next level. Since his parents emigrated to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago, Findley has a personal stake in Wednesday's match against the Caribbean nation. He could have chosen to play for T&T, going so far as to attend one of the country's U-23 camps in 2006 after not getting any attention from the U.S. youth system. Ultimately, however, he decided to play for the nation where he was born.
Considering he hasn't suited up for the U.S. senior team as much as he would have liked, does the Phoenix, Arizona-born talent think he made a mistake in pledging his allegiance to the American team?
"No," he said assertively. "My family lives there and I love it but I thought about it for quite a while, and I think the decision I made was the right one for me."
Now that Findley's good work in the MLS has caught the eye of Bradley, the choice looks even better. All that's left is to perform on the international stage as he has at RSL, something the striker feels he's doing.
"I feel confident," Findlay said of his play three days into the week-long training camp. "I've done well. My touches have been pretty good and solid."
Assuming Findley's upward trajectory continues, when SI's "MLS Preview" issue comes out -- hey, futbol fans can dream, right? -- he'll be more than just another face in the crowd.
Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.
For more on the U.S. Men's National Team, check out the dedicated page on Goal.com