December 13, 2011

Rudy Gestede Jr has a dream to represent the U.S. men's national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. While his name is not a prominent one on the national team radar, that may be about to change. Neither born nor raised in the U.S., Gestede potentially qualifies via his grandfather, who was born in Atlanta, Georgia (it should be noted that qualification for U.S. citizenship via one's grandparents is not as straightforward as it is in some other countries).

At 6-foot-4 the striker born in Essey-les-Nancy possesses a considerable size and strength combination. Looking at him purely from a physical perspective, Gestede bares a striking resemblance to fellow Frenchman Guilherme Hoarau of Paris Saint Germain. While not blessed with exceptional technique, he does possess an aerial dominance that has seen him form promising partnerships with Cardiff's more diminutive strikers Kenny Miller and Rob Earnshaw.

Beginning his career with FC Metz in the north east region of France, the same club that produced Tottenham center back Sebastian Bassong, Gestede was far from prolific during the formative years of his career.

A loan move to AS Cannes in 2009 did little to change that. After scoring three goals in 11 games, he departed Metz at the end of the 2010-2011 season. Joining Cardiff City on a week's trial in the summer, he scored during the club's preseason tour of Spain in a friendly against Charlton Athletic. This display impressed Cardiff manager Malky Mackay enough to earn him permanent move to Wales.

Gestede made a good start to the season after coming on as a substitute for Cardiff City away to West Ham United. In the closing minutes of the game at Upton Park, he first dispossessed Hérita Ilunga before surging into the box and squaring for strike partner Miller to convert the game-winning goal.

That early promise was built on with a fantastic goal in the Carling Cup just over a month later. Down 2-1 to Leicester City, Gestede was played through by Filip Kiss before firing the ball home from 25 yards out to level the game late on. Cardiff would eventually go through 7-6 on penalties, with Gestede scoring the sixth penalty, in what was arguably his best performance to date.

Off the pitch, Gestede has already received backing from assistant manager David Kerslake -- a former teammate of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann at Tottenham -- as well as MacKay in his attempts to play for the U.S., with the latter telling, "We'll make sure the USA know about Rudy."

Having scored only two goals in 11 games for Cardiff, it would seem naive to suggest that Gestede is a potential source of goals for the U.S. However his aerial dominance and ability to be the focal point of attack is something that may interest Klinsmann. Recent performances liken Gestede to the departed Jay Bothroyd, but cite a much stronger work ethic than the QPR striker.

However, it's difficult to look at Gestede's situation without coming away with some slight cynicism. Formerly an international with France at U-19 level, Gestede has visited the U.S. on four occasions. However, one wonders how much of his talk is a genuine desire to represent the USMNT and how much is a player just wanting to sample a World Cup.

In the same interview with, Gestede sounded somewhat tentative when discussing a potential callup, "I was proud to play for France at U-19 level and it would be fantastic to play for my country at senior level." Gestede said. "But I also feel strong links with America and would like to explore what is possible for me."

Gestede would not be the first player to exploit family heritage in order to represent another country at international level. At 23, he still seems fairly raw, but some believe there is more to come from him. "The potential is definitely there," said Welsh journalist Mark Pitman. "He needs to play a full season first to fairly judge him. He has impressed me when he has featured in the Championship for a title challenging side in Cardiff. He's worth a squad place purely because he can change a game and inject some pace."

Having suffered an unfortunate hamstring injury recently, Gestede made his return for Cardiff on Saturday via the substitutes bench. A difficult 0-0 draw away to Millwall, saw him enter the match with 20 minutes remaining. In a game that had few chances, Gestede was as you might expect slightly rusty. His main contribution, a shot that was blazed over the bar provided little food for thought. Next up for Cardiff is Middlesbrough at home, a game that should see Gestede figure from the start, most likely alongside Kenny Miller.

There's no doubt that Gestede is a leftfield candidate to fill the U.S.' hole at striker. His announcement seems unprovoked, if not well timed. Having played so few games in England, it is difficult to truly judge whether he could be a genuine consideration for the U.S. One thing is for sure, the potential is certainly there. Whether Klinsmann is willing to take a risk on that potential is a different question entirely.

Kristan Heneage is a freelance sports writer who specializes in European soccer and MLS. You can find more of his work at

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