May 23, 2014, 4:51 PM EDT
It wasn’t long ago that US fans watched USMNT right-back Timmy Chandler wither in the Honduran heat as the US fell to Honduras 2-1 in the beginning of World Cup qualifying.
Thanks to that performance, it was a big surprise that Chandler made the US World Cup roster ahead of the favorite right-back Brad Evans.
The 24-year old hasn’t made an appearances for the United States since that time, but according to head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, he’s reinvented himself as a player, and the shriveled defender we saw in February of 2013 is gone for good.
But it didn’t happen without complete dedication and commitment from the player.
“I told him, ‘Listen, you get that chance to come into the 30-man roster, but you have to prove that to everyone here,’” Klinsmann said from USMNT camp at Stanford University. “And from Day 1, he took over. He did that. He’s a different Timmy now than he was a year-and-a-half ago.”
That’s good news for US fans, as Chandler happens to play right-back, a position that has an enormous task ahead of it.
With Portugal drawn into the same World Cup group as the United States, it means Ballon d’Or winner and left-wing specialist Cristiano Ronaldo will step onto the pitch looking to chew up and spit out any defenders he comes across.
As far as Ronaldo goes, it’s likely that nobody will be able to stop him. It will take a full team effort to track his movements across the pitch and limit the damage he can cause the back of the net. His runs from the touchline into the middle often cause communication havoc for opposing defenses when it comes to man marking.
But as the defender on that side, Chandler would be responsible for covering one of the most electric players in the world should he get the start at right-back against Portugal. It was something Klinsmann thought about when he brought Chandler in for camp.
“Coming in here, that was one of the question marks,” Klinsmann said. “Could he show it right away? Is he behind or is he right away up for 50-50 battles?”
But according to the skipper, he’s known all along that Chandler was capable of making it this far, even after the disappointment in Honduras.
“I always talked with him, ‘I want you whenever you come. I need you to be 1,000 percent committed to everything here,’ even if he said that before,” Klinsmann said. “I said, ‘Your team, everybody, needs to see that.’”
It came as a surprise to Chandler, who said he “thought my chance was gone” after what happened in World Cup qualifying.
However, the job isn’t done yet, it’s only just begun. And despite showing his coach he’s past that match 16 months ago, he has to show the world, and he’ll have to do it in similar if not worse conditions.
The Honduran heat, which Chandler referred to as “unbelievable,” will likely be nothing compared to the temperature and humidity of the Amazonian rainforest city of Manaus where the US will take on Portugal.
“I think I worked very hard and that’s why [I got called back in],” Chandler said. It’s time for him to prove to his country he’s ready.
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