And so it begins.
One touch, one goal. Julian Green, the Bayern Munich reserve-team striker who turned 19-years-old less than a month ago, came off the bench for his first taste of World Cup action and just his third international appearance. Jurgen Klinsmann’s Americans had just surrendered a second added-time goal in the 105th minute when Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku scorched a ball from Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne past Everton teammate Tim Howard. ESPN’s Ian Darke commented, following Lukaku’s goal that it “was surely the end of the road for the United States.”
Green then made his entrance into the game. Two minutes later, the young German-American tracked a chipped pass from teammate Michael Bradley, sliced inside Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld from the left and took Bradley’s ball out of the air with his right foot while pivoting on his left to smash the Brazuca into the Belgian goal. It was Green’s first touch of the match.
Green’s wondrous goal lifted the Americans, who then took the remainder of the match to the Belgians. Despite being out-shot 38-14 over 120 minutes, both Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey had excellent chances to send the match to penalties in the game’s remaining thirteen minutes, but no fairy-tale ending materialized for the USA as they joined the players from Mexico, Ecuador, Switzerland, Nigeria, Algeria, Greece, Chile, and Uruguay in discovering that gallant efforts in the Round of 16 weren’t quite good enough.
Nevertheless, Green’s goal and the effort it triggered will long be remembered.
Green’s inclusion in the American World Cup squad by Klinsmann was controversial, especially when juxtaposed in the minds of many American supporters with the exclusion of American legend Landon Donovan. There was no causal relationship between the two roster decisions by Klinsmann, but contrasting Green’s limited international and senior-squad experience with Donovan’s well-deserved status as one of America’s true footballing greats created one in the minds of many American fans who howled about the roster designed by the USMNT’s German-born coach.
But Green proved that he was “in it to win it.” His goal provided the inspiration and ‘oomph’ to push his American teammates past exhaustion to an assault on the Belgian goal. He extended the lifeline provided throughout the match by Howard’s amazing goalkeeping that, with luck, could have taken the match to penalties and a possible American advance to the quarterfinals. After scoring, Green smiled, pointing a finger and immediately began running back towards the center line to restart the match with only precious minutes remaining, receiving his teammates’ congratulations while on the move. Green displayed the poise of a veteran, not a teenager. He also repaid the faith in him demonstrated by Klinsmann while becoming the youngest American to appear in a World Cup match.
And so it begins . . . The Ballad of Julian Green . . . future verses yet unwritten.
(Green’s only senior international experience prior to the announcement of Klinsmann’s final World Cup squad was as a half-hour substitute against archrivals Mexico in April, a performance in which he showed promise, but also looked sometimes overmatched, Green had only a few cameo minutes on Bayern’s senior squad, making his highest level of consistent club competition with Bayern’s reserve squad in the 4th division Regionalliga Bayern, where he faced reserve sides of other Bavarian professional teams, such as 1. FC Nurnberg, FC Augsburg, and 1860 Munich, along with thirteen amateur clubs based in Bavaria. On the other hand, Donovan has featured in three previous World Cups, is the all-time American leader in international goals and assists, and scored the dramatic late goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup that brought the USMNT to a first-place finish in their group, in addition to proving himself in the EPL on loan with Everton and as a multiple MLS champion).