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Trust in Jurgen Klinsmann on display in U.S. soccer’s Julian Green fever

Mar 18, 2014, 8:09 PM EDT

Klinsmann Getty Images

Search Julian Green’s name on Twitter, add a “USMNT” hashtag, and after Tuesday’s announcement from U.S. Soccer, you’ll see a level of excitement that can only be contained by a 140-character limit. If you’re already ensconced in this world, the energy’s probably also hit your Facebook, with corresponding coverage spreading like wild-fire throughout American soccer media. To both U.S. Soccer and national team fans, this is big news; even if, on first blush, it’s not obvious why.

Green is attached to the Bayern Munich brand, though – to the extend somebody who has yet to play a league game can be attached to a team. He’s also bee tearing it up for Bayern Munich II, where he’s scored 15 goals in 21 games this season. Said to have impressed after being invited to March’s national team camp, the now aspiring U.S. international carries enough mystery to tickle both optimism and cynicism.

Right now, with only two minutes of play above the German fourth division, Green is what you want him to be. If you want to see that Bayern pedigree as a sign he deserves special attention, there’s enough product there to do so. Never mind that most of the people generating that excitement haven’t seen enough of his games. There has to be a reason why Bayern not only signed him but are featuring him in their second team. And with Green also seeing time with various German U-level teams, the feeling was not exclusive to München.

But don’t begrudge people their cynicism. In fact, a more cautious approach seems to make sense. The raw numbers look great, and the prospect of fast, dynamic wide presence is tantalizing, yet we have no real idea how performance in Germany’s fourth division translates to the international stage. We don’t know if Green’s goal totals are a result of individual brilliance or his team’s collective talent. Does his 2013-14 reflect a natural ascent, or is blip in his development curve? Ask most fans and writers, they wouldn’t be able to tell you if he’s right- or left-footed.source: AP

The one thing U.S. soccer fans can rely on is Jurgen Klinsmann. On the surface, Green may seem like the latest manifestation of Klinsmann’s fetish: A German player the former Nationalmannscraft star wants to bring into the fold. And ultimately, that may be all Green (right) is, but if he does turn into a player who can made Fabian Johnson or Jermaine Jones-esque contributions, some of that hype will be worth it. Both players switched from Germany to the U.S. Both are sure to start in Brazil.

Green, however, has nowhere near the track record of Jones or Johnson. Or Danny Williams. Or Timmy Chandler. The closest comparison we have to Green is Terrence Boyd, whose acclaim among U.S. soccer’s followers has diminished slightly since his move to Rapid Wien. When he was playing with Borussia Dortmund II, people used that cache to entertain greatness. Now, he’s a valuable squad player on the bubble for Brazil.

The big difference between then two (besides Boyd being much older): Klinsmann seems much higher on Green …

… an optimism has translated to the U.S. fan base. After seeing Klinsmann sift through the U.S. talent pool, bring new players in while casting others aside, the program’s new technical director has built huge credibility with a fan base that was once highly skeptical. It’s not only the success of Johnson or the cultivation of players like Graham Zusi and Eddie Johnson. It’s the results, too. In what many thought would be a transition cycle for the U.S., Klinsmann’s team easily won their final qualifying group, and accomplishment that’s won supporter’s trust.

If Klinsmann had looked at Green, saw nothing, and didn’t pursue him, fans would have said “15 goals in the fourth division obviously aren’t worth that much.” Instead, Green has Klinsmann’s stamp of approach. And in Klinsmann, U.S. Soccer has come to trust.

Green’s inside track to Brazil

When U.S. Soccer distributed their announcement today, they didn’t cut Green’s feelings about this summer. “I hope to do everything I can to earn a spot on the World Cup roster,” he said. Somewhere along the way, he’s been given the impression he has a chance.

Some are already speculating that Green’s been guaranteed a spot. That’s possible, but it’s also not Klinsmann’s style. As much as the coach values competition, he’s unlikely to guarantee Clint Dempsey‘s spot, let alone a player who has yet to put on the uniform.

But it’s also likely Green is very close, close enough that Klinsmann convinced him to switch. Three months from Brazil, Klinsmann already has a full depth chart laid out, one he wouldn’t disrupt without reason. If Green wasn’t going to be a meaningful part of that picture, Klinsmann could have put off his full court press until the fall.

From the player’s point of view, this change could have happened at any time. The only reason to rush a decision is if a delay would cost him a spot at the World Cup. That’s likely the picture Klinsmann painted ahead of this filing.

Green is probably not a lock for Brazil, but he may now have to play his way out of a spot. With Brek Shea struggling in England, Green may be the player most likely to join Alejandro Bedoya as wide options off Klinsmann’s bench this summer.

  1. boscoesworld - Mar 18, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    You keep saying fourth division but isn’t Bayern II the second division?

    • Richard Farley - Mar 18, 2014 at 8:49 PM

      No, they’re not. I used to think so, too, but they’re in the Regionalliga, which is below both the 2. Liga and 3. Liga.

    • nappy25 - Mar 18, 2014 at 9:48 PM

      Bayern II were relegated from 3. Liga in 2010. Reserve teams can only play up to 2. Bundesliga.

      • Sgc - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:27 PM

        I think they can’t even do that. I think they’re limited to the third. And to be fair, there’s a big drop-off once it gets regionalized.

      • nappy25 - Mar 19, 2014 at 6:36 PM

        @ Sgc
        Noted.

  2. jimmycrackcorn99 - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    “Green is probably not a lock for Brazil…” No disrespect, but I am sure that the decision was based on a loose promise of being on the plane to Brazil. He will have to “earn” it, but I would rather have him on the bench than any #4 striker currently in discussion.

    But, let’s allow the cards to fall as they may. We will certainly see him in action very soon.

  3. mknow406a - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    Yeah, I get that it’s the fourth division. But what’s NOT the fourth division is training with Ribery, Schweinsteiger, Gotze, Muller and Robben and competing against Lahm and Van Busyten on the training pitch. No he’s not a starter, but he has made the game day bench and that doesn’t happen without training with the first team. Why is everybody excited? Name one other US 18 year-old that can step on to THAT practice pitch and hold is own? There are plenty of senior players, and MLS stars, that couldn’t do it and they’re in their ‘prime.’

  4. schmutzdeck - Mar 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    I see no downside here
    .
    If Shea had torn it up at Barnsley, If Agudelo had followed up on his initial goal at Utrecht with better play, if Gatt had not blown out his knee, Chandler and Dolo had not blown up their knees, if Castillo were not such a defensive liability, if Corona had not gone into a slump and had really been a true winger, if Magee had not gotten food poisoning and could have shown he could play the wing, then maybe the USMNT would have true width and speed on the wings but it does not at this time. .

    With Green in the picture maybe the US has that now.

    My first choice USMNT need is an experienced top notch center back to hold the back line together and accountable, a Cannavaro, a Rio Ferdinand or a John Terry in their primes. Gonzo, Besler and Cameron are comparatively inexperienced and they, particularly Gonzo and to a lesser extent Cameron, have been prone to the one fatal bonehead mistake

    But since that is not happening, I’ll take a speedy two footed, goal scoring winger who can play anywhere up front. If he can pull it off Green could add much needed depth, width and speed to the US attack and that just might take some pressure off the shaky US back line. Youth is always better in attackers since mistakes are not as consequential and youthful exuberance and brash overconfidence and sheer youthful aggression are more useful to attacking players.
    .

  5. dfstell - Mar 19, 2014 at 7:33 AM

    I’m excited. I just want to see the kid play in a setting where we fans are familiar with the quality. We’ve seen YouTube video of him with Bayern II, but I have no way of evaluating those performances because I don’t want 4th division German football. But, I’ve seen El Tri play enough that I know what a good performance against them means.

    Honestly, I think you can tell really fast in soccer (or basketball) whether someone belongs on the field. Just a few trips up and down and you can see the guys who want the ball, get open, have a decent touch, see the next pass, etc.

  6. dannyboy1313 - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    Sometimes it is not all it is cracked up to be. Green is quality, but he is a product of the Bayern system. That doesn’t automatically translate to The American national side. See: Messi/Argentina.

    • schmutzdeck - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:49 PM

      dannyboy,

      Wow, being compared to Leo already?

      Messi used to score at about half his Barca rate for Argentina, so saying he was NOT playing well for Argentina is true but mostly in a comparative sense since Barca have been so wildly successful.

      Basically Leo wasn’t getting as many opportunities with Argentina.

      This would also be true for Green when moving from Bayern to the USMNT but fortunately for Green he can also play well on the wing and therefore make opportunities for others. The reports have him as being almost as good at creating scoring opportunities as finishing them off and this is definitely an area of need for the USMNT.

    • bear06 - Mar 20, 2014 at 3:46 AM

      Lol Wut? Messi has been quality for Argentina (37 goals in 83 appearances).

  7. creek0512 - Mar 19, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    He can only be the savior of US soccer as long as he never appears in the game. As soon as he gets a cap, the same people evangelizing him will declare him incapable and move on to the next foreign born American. Note that I have no problem with foreign born players, just the way they are overhyped by many in the US soccer community. Eventually, maybe they will realize that our best players are all domestic products: Donovan, Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore, Howard, etc.

    • mknow406a - Mar 20, 2014 at 1:12 AM

      Minor footnote here…. Donovan actually spent several years in Germany… some of them before joining the MLS. Bradley bolted for Europe as soon as turned 18 and could sign a pro contract… I noticed you neglected to mention Rossi… Debatably the best American born striker in today. Of course the fact that he left to play in Italy at age 12 doesn’t really support your “domestic products” argument. I also couldn’t help but notice your admission of Johnnsson, you know, the one putting all sorts of pressure on Jozy to be the starting striker for the USMNT… again not domestically trained. If you think this is about foreign ‘born,” you are way off base. (Feilhaber is NOT intrinsically better than Bradley because he was born in Brazil… and nobody with any understanding of the sport will tell that he is.) This is about foreign “trained.” It has been traditionally harder for US youth players to get into the better foreign youth academy’s for a plethora of reasons. There are a few now in the Barcelona and Real Madrid systems. I don’t think that anybody can argue the success of either of those programs in consistently producing world class players. Those types of academies don’t currently exist in the US and hence, at this point, our only real access to them is via foreign born, or first generation, players. Hence, the indirect hoopla about foreign born. It’s not about where they are from, it’s about where they have played.

    • bear06 - Mar 20, 2014 at 3:47 AM

      Nobody is claiming him as the savior for U.S. soccer. Also the foreign born dual national players are good players who help the national team get better.

  8. jucam1 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Could not agree with you more Creek. Green wouldn’t smell time with the German team, but here he could be a starter and make millions in marketing hype. I congratulate the kid for making a great personal financial decision for himself.

    • mknow406a - Mar 20, 2014 at 12:52 AM

      Good point. A high school senior “wouldn’t smell time” with the number 2 team in the world. Hmmm…. let’s see…. at 18 that puts him way behind Ozil… no wait Ozil was 21 when he got first got a national senior team “sniff”… It’s not like Green has been a starter on the German U-19 team and training day-in and day-out at the strongest club team in the world… expect, of course, for the minor fact that he has been. But your right. Any player not ‘good’ enough to crack a stacked roster at that age will never be good enough. Sitting the bench for Ribery and Robben at 18 is like sitting the bench for Xavi and Inesta at Barcelona that age. It was SO obvious at that point that Cecs Fàbregas was never going to amount to anything. I have no clue why Arsenal would have signed him! And just because a player may not crack the top 23 on a powerhouse national team, doesn’t mean they are crap. For example, lowly Portugal picking up Deco since he wasn’t good enough to get a sniff with Brazil. What a waste of a roster spot that was! Or if that was too long ago, how about Diego Costa not getting a smell from Brazil until it was learned he might want to play for Spain… I mean Spain, there’s a desperate team that’s not going anywhere. How horrible, must a player be to 1) not be picked for Brazil and 2) be reduced to playing for Spain?!?!?! So Green ain’t Neymar or Gotze. Nobody said that he was I far as I can tell. But, that doesn’t mean he’s crap, nor does it mean he won’t be good enough in a couple of years.

      • bear06 - Mar 20, 2014 at 3:50 AM

        He’s probably already good enough compared to other U.S. player. The kid has huge talent and potential.

      • mknow406a - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:01 AM

        @bear.
        no doubt he has loads of potential… and in case it was not obvious, I was being highly sarcastic above. :-) i’m just amazed at how quickly some people dismiss an 18 yo that hasn’t managed to crack the German national team as ‘not good enough’…18 year-olds RARELY crack the national rosters anywhere, say nothing about on a top team. the ignorance in the country is beyond amazing sometimes. :-)

    • bear06 - Mar 20, 2014 at 3:49 AM

      You don’t know what you’re talking about. The German national team talked to him before filing his one time switch to play for the U.S. hoping that Green would stay with them.

  9. elgallo2001 - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    Let’s see him play in the Mexico friendly. We could badly use another attacking option, especially wide.

  10. kurttrail - Mar 19, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    As long as he gets his roster spot at Altidore’s expense, I’m all for it.

  11. el timo - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    Green is green, and will go to Brazil to watch and learn. Altidore will start, and score. He’s earned it, no matter what happens this spring in that weird world called Sunderland. Did you see Dempsey crank it up a notch on Saturday? He was good, but Michael Bradley was the Man!

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