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Who is John Anthony Brooks? A primer on the USMNT’s 86th minute marvel

Jun 17, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT

Brazil Soccer WCup Ghana US AP

He was such an unknown entity in the United States’ World Cup plans that the best close-up shot we could find for John Anthony Brooks’ pre-tournament player profile was in his club uniform.

The 21-year-old has had an interesting year to say the least. Playing his entire career, youth to senior, in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin, the center back performed extremely well at times. He also enraged his coach by missing practice due to a major back tattoo, and previously caused his coach to describe him by saying, “We’re in the Bundesliga. Brooks needs to grow up.”

So perhaps that describes why Brooks’ celebration after boosting the States to a 2-1 win over Ghana was to flop face first on the ground; It’s been a crazy year for the youngster.

Born and raised in Berlin but eligible for the United States thanks to his father being an American serviceman, Brooks took his US bows with the U20 team in 2010. He progressed to the U23 team in 2011 but gave some consternation to US Soccer by playing with Germany’s U20 team in 2012.

At 6-foot-4, Brooks made his full US debut in summer 2013 against Bosnia and Herzegovina, but had played under 300 minutes for the States before his memorable Monday appearance.

Now Brooks may face the daunting task of stopping Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo, with the USMNT potentially losing Matt Besler after the Sporting KC man subbed off at halftime against Ghana. The honor could also go to Omar Gonzalez, but Brooks came on Monday to heroic results.

[MORE: After gritty win, can US morph its style to challenge Portugal?]

This was not supposed to be his World Cup, rather he’d be there for the experience. Well, through 45 minutes… it kinda is his World Cup (for at least the next six days).

What’s next for the youngster? Maybe more tattoos. Here’s a shot from that shows his elbow (ouch) ink of Berlin and Illinois.


  1. Scott Ludwig - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    So who is John Anthony Brooks??? He’s a German playing for the USMNT. Born and raised in Germany and the Germany football system at Hertha BSC.

    • nappy25 - Jun 17, 2014 at 5:20 PM

      So what is the United States??? It’s a melting pot of immigrants who are proud to be Americans once they get their citizenship. I guarantee your ancestry isn’t “American” enough , so you should just jump ship. We won’t miss you.

  2. bubbalynch - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Aren’t children of US servicemen also considered citizens of the United States? I mean his father was deployed in Berlin.

  3. jucam1 - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    I know this is the land of immigrants, but it’s funny to hear the “USA” chants for a team full of Germans and kids born in another countries. I love JK, he figured there wasn’t nearly enough native talent to win games, so he raided other countries. Makes a ton of sense. I guess there is still a longgggg way for domestic players to go, but I guess Bradley is an exception.

    • Nicholas Mendola - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      The US is not an exception to any rule here. See: Adnan Januzaj amongst others. Until FIFA changes the rule, there’s very little to criticize.

    • dylanesq - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      So think how ‘funny’ (not) it is for we Canadians listening to the U.S. national anthem when about 80+% of the Stanley Cup finalists are from Canada. Get your own players next time !

    • midtec2005 - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      Dude, two of the starters were German. Two.

      Everyone understands your point, but chill out. Our domestic players are the backbone for this team.

    • mikeevergreen - Jun 17, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      Germany itself has had “foreigners” (mainly Poles, Czechs, and Turks) on their team.

  4. dylanesq - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Awesome goal, but purleeeez… spare us the histrionics and religious display. As an atheist, person who lives in the real world, it’s supremely offensive to see this stuff paraded everywhere. Take credit for what you do.

    • Nicholas Mendola - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:43 AM

      How would you feel if he pulled up his shirt to reveal the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It’s a varied world, friend.

      • dylanesq - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:47 AM

        Varied ? No, it’s screwed up when fantasy is paraded as truth. Time to wake up and realize that we live in a cosmic shooting gallery and somewhere out there is a meteorite with our number…live in the moment and enjoy it without cluttering up life with all this nonsense.

      • Nicholas Mendola - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:47 AM

        You’re right.

        EDIT: I’m being sarcastic.

    • midtec2005 - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      Or you could just get your panties out of a bunch. If what someone else believes, that doesn’t harm you, is offensive to you, then you need to grow up.

    • ydj1120 - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      Your post is supremely offensive, but I 100% believe in your right to do so just like Brooks can do what he likes with his life and his celebrations. It is inherently hypocritical to say it’s offensive to parade one’s religion…and then go around parading your own beliefs.

      • dylanesq - Mar 28, 2015 at 11:21 PM

        Knowledge is not a belief.

    • kryptock - Jun 17, 2014 at 5:02 PM

      get over yourself. He is celebrating his goal and showing his beliefs. When you score a goal, you can celebrate to Gaea, the Big Bang, the primordial ooze or whatever else you wish.

  5. jucam1 - Jun 17, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    First I’m not criticizing, just stating a fact and giving JK a ton of credit for realizing he had to find real talent that isn’t in the domestic players. And you can’t compare one or two players like Andjan to literally half the team being born abroad and most from Germany. Again I am not criticizing JK, I just find all this patriotism funny, or Wilbon telling JK to “go hone” when the absolute only reason why the US had a chance to win that game yesterday was because of foreigners. It’s the crazy hypocrisy of it that I find strange. I winder if the media will turn on him when the real German team dismantles the US or what if the Ronaldos come out with a vengeance and win?

  6. lyleoross - Jun 17, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    Wow! Brooks dumps in an easy header from square in the box, that came to him off a random bounce, and he is a great player? How low our standards are. If you go back and look at what his job is, lets see, he’s a defender, who is considered to be average, at best, on the world stage. His performance for the US has been poor, although, yesterday, he was almost average.

    If this is the way we are going to win games, it’s going to be a long, whoops, I mean short WC.

    As for all the foreigners comments, really? How many generations do we have to go back to be considered a citizen? cause for many, it doesn’t go back that far. Perhaps we should go down to the reservation to make sure we are pure enough? By legal definition, all the players are citizens. Otherwise, we’d of been looking down Balotelli’s guns yesterday, and me thinks we would have lost. JK’s job is to get the best players that he can. I suspect that he picks up players from Europe when he can, because they are integrated into the style he wants, more so than most of the talent developed in the US. He has been clear that part of his goal is to change how we develop players here. If environment matters, bringing players from Europe, and who play in Europe matters. I’d say he’s on target.

  7. rickwiese38 - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    A few points for you nitwits who are complaining that some of the U.S. players aren’t “real Americans.”:

    1. The U.S. squad has five players who were not born in the United States (all, however, were citizens from birth). Ghana also has five players who were not born in Ghana (hailing from France, Germany and Norway). Two non-U.S. born players started last night for the USA. Three non-Ghanaian born players started for Ghana. So why criticize the USA and not Ghana? In fact, many players play for countries other than the one of their birth. Diego Costa is a current example. John Barnes, the great Liverpool and England star of the 80s and 90s was born in Jamaica. This is just the way things are.

    2. Giuseppi Rossi, who has 30 caps for Italy, was born and raised in New Jersey. If you want to take away a few players from the U.S. team because they’re “not American enough,” then you have to give us him.

    3. The United States actually has more stringent rules for citizenship than just about any other country and they don’t “fast track” athletes for citizenship. That’s why if Gedion Zelalem wants to play for the USA instead of Germany, he still has to wait until 2018 even though he grew up here and both he and his father are not permanent residents. Just about any other country would have made a special provision for such a promising talent.

    • granadafan - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      Well said, rickwiese38. We’ve lost players to other nations as well, so the critics can just do some basic research before irrationally spouting off.

      • rickwiese38 - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        Thanks for the kind words.

        And for the record, I of course meant that Zelalem and his father are now permanent residents, not “not”! Sometimes my fingers have a mind of their own.

  8. jspencer78 - Jun 17, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    None of this matters. What matters is that we need to keep Brooks away from the tattoo parlors in the next couple of weeks so that he doesn’t go make himself unable to play.

    • midtec2005 - Jun 17, 2014 at 8:06 PM

      I used to think that was so stupid, then I heard what the tattoo was, pure awesome. It’s a giant bald eagle spreading it’s wings. He got that tattoo after choosing the U.S.

      Pretty cool.

      Still poor timing though.

  9. gwalk89502 - Jun 17, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    ^ I lol’d at that. Terrific point

  10. nappy25 - Jun 17, 2014 at 5:25 PM

    It’s nice to know that Xenophobia still runs strong in the good ol’ US of A.

  11. txnative65 - Jun 19, 2014 at 2:33 AM

    Facts are facts, and the fact is Germany has one of the world’s best youth soccer programs that attracts the country’s premier athletes, while the US loses most of the top athletes to football, basketball, baseball, and in some area’s hockey. Youth Soccer is heavy on fouls to protect from injuries, and thus doesn’t expose them to the rough play common in other countries. Clint Dempsey in fact honed his skills as a youth against adult Mexican-Americans playing a more rugged, creative style in his native Texas. With our large population base we are beginning to see some exceptional athletes choose soccer, but we simply are not “World Class” at this point, and need players like Brooks to bolster our efforts to escape this group. Anyone having one American parent can choose US citizenship no matter where they are born.

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