TAMPA — Ten years ago, Dom Dwyer wasn't thinking he'd one day be scoring for the U.S. national team in the Gold Cup.
He wasn't thinking about playing for the United States.
He wasn't American and had never lived here.
As an injury-prone forward in King's Lynn, England, a professional soccer career of any kind seemed unlikely. An international career, especially for the United States, appeared completely out of the question.
What changed that? USF played a big part. On Monday, Dwyer returned to the college where he was an All-American in 2011.
"This was the beginning," Dwyer said. "Obviously I went to junior college right before this and then I transferred here, but I loved my time here, every moment.
"It's really nice to be here. It brings back a lot of good memories. It's a really cool experience. It's really cool to be here. I didn't think I'd be here six years ago. If you'd told me, I wouldn't believe you. It's definitely very cool."
Dwyer was at USF's Corbett Stadium for training with the national team ahead of its second Gold Cup game, against Martinique in Tampa. In the team's opener against Panama, Dwyer slotted a shot through a defender's legs and into the bottom corner for the opening goal of the game, which ended 1-1. It was Dwyer's second goal in two games for the United States, after scoring a close-range volley in his debut against Ghana on July 1. At this pace, Dwyer is making up for his late start to international soccer, only becoming eligible to play for the U.S. in March of this year when he gained citizenship after living here for eight years.
"A couple years ago it became an option and it was something I started working very hard for since then," Dwyer said of his path to citizenship. "It wasn't something I was 100 percent sure it would happen, it took a while, but now I'm finally here and I'm enjoying this opportunity."
Those eight years began in Texas, where Dwyer played for Tyler Community College, winning two junior college national championships and the NJCAA Player of the Year award after scoring 52 goals in 41 games, including 37 his sophomore year. Then he arrived in Tampa, where he continued to show his ability in front of the net with a Big East-leading 16 goals. Dwyer left after his junior season, but said he deeply considered staying in Tampa with the Bulls.
"It was a tough decision to come out a year early from college," Dwyer said. "I was very tempted to stay another year; it was very fun. This is a place that brings back some really good memories."
Dwyer was selected No. 16 overall by Sporting Kansas City in the MLS SuperDraft, but it took time for the forward to break into the team's regular lineup. After making only one MLS appearance in 2012, Dwyer's career kicked into gear after a return to Florida. Spending the first half of the 2013 season on loan at Orlando City, he scored 15 goals in 13 games, enough to ensure regular playing time at Kansas City when he returned.
Dwyer never looked back, scoring 52 goals in 113 games for Sporting and earning a call-up from USMNT coach Bruce Arena for a major tournament just months after earning citizenship. That tournament has now taken him back to Tampa, with a chance to join an exclusive group of players to have scored in each of their first three international games.
"Three goals in three games, that would be nice," Dwyer said. "Or four."