Subotic's choice (pt. 3)
Borussia Dortmund, which celebrates its centenary next year, last won the Bundesliga title in '02, its third to go with three pre-Bundesliga German titles and the '97 Champions League title.
Dortmund's 13th-place finish in '07 was its worst since '88. But it has started strong this season thanks largely to the 19-year-old Subotic. In his debut for the club, Subotic headed home the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen. In his third game, he provided the goal in a 1-0 win over Energie Cottbus. And in his fourth game, against archrival Schalke 04, he scored Dortmund's first goal as it overcame a 3-0 deficit to tie 3-3.
Dortmund lies in the Ruhr Valley, considered the heart and soul of the German game despite all the titles swept up by Bayern Munich. Borussia Dortmund's attendance average leads the league.
"I love the crowds at our home games," Subotic said. "We always get the stadium filled with 80,000 people and that can be a lot of fun with the fans. But the main reason why I play here is because I'm happy here. I have everything I need, a very good club with which I can grow, and great people to enjoy that with."
However, now that playing for Germany is off the table, Subotic is pondering his national-team choice. The U.S. has already seen two young talented players defect to foreign national teams -- New Jerseyan Giuseppe Rossi to Italy and New Mexico product Edgar Castillo to Mexico. So losing Subotic would be that much more disappointing.
For his part, Subotic says he is focusing on his club play and will "make an entirely professional decision" regarding which nation to represent. He had previously stated his disappointment at being criticized by U.S. U-20 national team Coach Thomas Rongen, who left him off the '07 U-20 World Cup squad, but Subotic said that will not enter into his decision-making.
Of course, Fulk, who first spotted the boy practicing at the park, hopes that the U.S. will once again benefit from his talents. In the meanwhile, he's happy -- but not that surprised -- at Subotic's success, because his talent and work ethic always had a professional edge to it.
"I was flicking through the channels when I came across the Borussia Dortmund-Bayern Munich game," Fulk said. "My wife was in the kitchen and I said, 'Mara, Mara! Holy cow, Neven Subotic is marking Luca Toni!' The reason I said Luca Toni is because she's Italian and that would get her attention. She said, 'Luca Toni's great.' I said, 'Sure, but that's Neven! He played with us in Bradenton!'"
This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of Soccer America magazine. Click here for a free three-month subscription.