Although the news came as no surprise, it was still a bit of a downbuzz. Tyler Boyd has officially changed his allegiance through FIFA to the United States, which is a card they only let you play once as a senior international… thus his chances of ever playing for the All Whites again are officially 0.00%. Boyd hasn’t actually played for New Zealand for four years (and the All Whites haven’t played fullstop for the most recent of those years), and even then he only played non-binding youth internationals and senior friendlies. But watching him dazzle in the Turkish Super Lig these last few months did really make you wonder what might have been.
Boyd can do whatever he feels is best, no dramas there. He might have been born in Aotearoa but he grew up in California until he was ten, some pretty formative years there, and he’s a dual citizen of both. His mother is American, his father is from New Zealand, and the story goes that they met in California but moved to NZL for the kid to be born, then moved back once he was old enough. Kinda romantic, that. And shout out to his dad or else maybe he never woulda been able to play for New Zealand at all. But yeah, morale of the story there is that he has an equal affiliation to both and he has to choose one, so just gotta roll with it.
This was what he had to say to American Soccer Now back in December: “It's tricky. It's kind of like choosing between your mother and your father, which is impossible” Boyd said with a chuckle. “I actually have spent 10 years in each country before moving to Portugal. Every offseason I go back to America for at least two weeks. I still have a lot of friends and family over there and I love it. I spend half my offseason in New Zealand and half in America. I have a parent from each country and I feel loyalty to each country. I'd be proud to represent either. At this stage I've only played non-competitive games for New Zealand. It's still a possibility for either nation. The U.S. team is looking to rebuild and qualify - that is an interesting process. The same goes to New Zealand.”
When you really think about it, this seems like a pretty simple choice. He’s equally endeared to both countries so you can’t chuck out anything about pride in the jersey/flag/fern or whatever because that’s cancelled out by the inverse. So all you can really look at is which option is better for him as a footballer. Now, Boyd has been a dude to prioritise his club career in the past (fair enough, it pays the bills) so his ultimate priority is probably winning trophies and getting to the Champions League one day. But the international stage is still one that all players want to perform on. Neither New Zealand nor USA qualified for the last World Cup however the USA are way more likely to make the next one… plus their confederational tournament is a lot more competitive and they get much better friendly action. In fact the timing of this announcement suggests that he’s a very good bet to be named their Gold Cup squad in the coming days.
Tyler Boyd played six friendly games for the All Whites. The most recent was in a 1-0 defeat to South Korea under Anthony Hudson back on the 31st of March 2014. At that time Boyd was 20 years old and struggling to get a game for the Wellington Phoenix (he played just 62 mins in his final season). In the four years since then the All Whites have played 27 games, including 16 games which would have tied him permanently to the NZers, and they don’t have another one scheduled until November.
Meanwhile the United States have played 70 games in that space of time including friendlies against the likes of Germany, England, Mexico, Netherlands, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Portugal, Italy, France, Colombia… and even New Zealand. Remember that time Monty Patterson scored off the bench and we drew 1-1 with them? Along with the first leg draw with Peru, it was one of only two non-defeats that Anthony Hudson managed against teams from outside Asia or Oceania.
The flipside of course is that the American team is way harder to get into with better players and more competition for places. But he’s popping up at a convenient time of rebuilding, when the reliance upon players from the MLS looks to be shrinking. Guys like Christian Pulisic are changing the perception of American players based overseas… and that’s American players too, not the European dudes with sneaky eligibility that Jurgen Klinsmann targeted.
Let’s also not get dumb about this and forget how often this situation has worked out in NZ’s favour. Winston Reid played for Denmark as a youth international. Tommy Smith and Mike McGlinchey played at the World Cup after switching allegiances. More recently there have been fellas like Deklan Wynne, Tzemi Tzimopoulos, Storm Roux, Dane and Jai Ingham, Henry Cameron…. all unique cases, sure. But it helps to always keep a wider perspective on things. Oh and let’s not forget the whole eligibility scandal of 2015 – we were definitely due some karmic restitution from that one.
On a more subtle plane of thinking, I do wonder if there could be a little lingering frustration on Boyd’s part from feeling undervalued during his time at the Nix and within the realms of NZ Football. Back when he signed in Portugal, the chat had been that here was a young player too big for his boots, a huge talent but not a team player, and despite tearing it up at NZ Prem level that last season he could hardly get a look in for Ernie Merrick’s first team.
Whether that’s in any way accurate or not, who is to say? But after what he’s achieved in Europe the last four years, if he did have a high opinion of his ability then that’s been rather convincingly vindicated since. Compared to Marco Rojas who was a superstar of the A-League you could argue that Boyd has already had a more successful time of it in Europe… which makes you wonder what he could have achieved at the Nix. But it also shows you why leaving at that time was the best thing for him. Boyd’s an ambitious player doing excellent things. Can’t hold him back.
It’s also unfair to say that NZ Footy shoulda locked him in earlier. He debuted as a 19 year old in the first game of the 2018 qualifying cycle in a friendly away to Japan, so the first chance they had was the OFC Nations Cup in 2016… which Boyd made himself unavailable for. Anthony Hudson didn’t take that one too kindly and basically ignored him from that point on (and vice versa), which meant that by the time he was performing wonders in Portugal on loan at CD Tondela and getting hype from All Whites fans he’d already gotten accustomed to focussing on his club career and didn’t wanna break that rhythm. Plus, of course, that way he wouldn’t have to make a decision on his international future before the USA even had a chance to have a peek.
And it’s rough to think that Boyd owed anyone an explanation during that time. It’s professional football, this is nothing out of the ordinary. Anything he said would only upset people and I reckon he kept it safe by avoiding the subject. You’d hope he does offer some conciliatory words to New Zealand fans in the coming days now that it’s all cleared up though. That wouldn’t be too much, surely.
Big question then: is Tyler Boyd still eligible for Flying Kiwis coverage? Yeah, might as well. Perhaps not as often but he’s still a product of Aotearoa football doing quality things and it’ll be pretty enjoyable to see how he goes with the USMNT (urgh) – hopefully he gets a genuine crack and isn’t just discarded or ignored after a few games. By the sounds of their fans online there’s a real need for a pacey and skilful winger of his calibre. So whether it’s for Ankers in Turkey on a permanent deal or back at Guimaraes in Portugal with one more season still on his contract there then we’ll still cover it if old mate happens to score a goal or do something crazy. No need for the week in and week out necessarily, but a retired international would still get the same coverage and this isn’t too far removed from that. Best of luck to the lad. Hopefully USA and New Zealand draw each other in the 2022 World Cup group stages.
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