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Profile: Gabriel Ferrari
By Michael Lewis

Gabriel Ferrari
Gabriel Ferrari gets past Uruguay defender Martin Caceres during a match at the National Soccer Stadium at Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on July 11, 2007.
(Photo: Howard C. Smith/International Sports Images/NewsCom)
June 26, 2007

For Gabriel Ferrari, the decision was a no-brainer when it came time to choose a National Team.

Since his father was Italian, soccer officials from that country approached Ferrari about wearing the colors of the Azzurri.

"I chose the U.S. over Italy," he said. "I was born and raised here, so this is the country I want to represent."

And so will the 17-year-old Ferrari will represent the U.S. at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada. The U.S. kicks off its participation on Saturday.

Ferrari's most memorable moment with Sampdoria? Easy: when he played his first game in a Sampdoria uniform in the in Coppa Italia against Inter Milan at San Siro in April. He played the final 15 minutes of the match.

"It's the mecca of soccer in Italy," he said of San Siro.

"I was about to go in against A.C. Milan but the referee blew the whistle (to end the game). I was on the bench for how many times—a lot of times—too many times."

But the 6-foot-1-inch, 170-lb. Ferrari has not second-guessed his decision to forgo performing in Major League Soccer (he starred for a New York Red Bulls youth team) or attending college. He grew up in Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan and across the East River in Long Island City.

"I think my family [and I] made the best decision," he said. "I'm having a great time over there. I'm learning so much every day from a soccer standpoint. I'm by myself there and I'm learning as well living by myself. I'm really happy I made that decision."

In the U.S.'s 2-1 international friendly win over Chile on June 23, Ferrari came on as late-match substitute at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. But that didn't stop his family and friends from going wild to cheer on their favorite son.

"I don't know if you guys saw, but I had a lot of people here to support me," Ferrari said. "My whole family. I even had people from Sampdoria who were here. It was just a nice experience."

U.S. Under-20 coach Thomas Rongen praised Ferrari's performance and said that if the occasion arose that Ferrari could start for his team any time.

"He's done a good job for us as a wide guy in our system sometimes, and today as the high guy today with Andre [Akpan]," Rongen said after the Chile win. "We feel that Andre and Gabe give Jozy (Altidore) very good competition and we feel any given day we can look at any of those three guys and say 'you're a starter.'"

He would like to return to the U.S. someday, probably well into the future. For now, Ferrari wants to focus on the present.

"I want to start playing in Europe then see how it goes," he said. "I want my career to be in Europe because that's where soccer lives."