December 14, 2017

Catching Up with the Americans in Germany

Though the US still has a long way to go before being considered an elite competitor within international soccer, there are a few notable players taking a very unique route to better the country’s collective game. Following the advice of famous US manager Jürgen Klinsmann, who has encouraged, and much prefers, players who have been able to perform at a European level (a technique that proved worthwhile, since the US progressed further than anyone expected at the World Cup), many American soccer stars are upping their game by competing outside of the US. For obvious reasons, this strategy results in players used to and prepared for the skill level of European teams, but it also does the US a service, since it’s expected the returning players will have a better understanding of international expectations, level of play, and talent, and will assist in bringing the American soccer program up to world standards.

And what better place to gain notoriety and skill than Germany? Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler, John Anthony Brooks and Julian Green have all made names for themselves in Germany’s ranks, following in the footsteps of such American international stars as Brian McBride, Claudio Reyna, Steve Cherundolo, Eric Wynalda, Michael Bradley and Kasey Keller, among many others. There are quite a few more American Bundesliga players currently who have an excellent chance of building skill and upping their performance level enough to make an impression in the years to come. Their upcoming games can be watched Stateside through sports packages with worldwide coverage, through the increasingly hard-to-find GolTV (details here and here), or better yet the recently emerging streaming services, like KlowdTV that come with their own subscription service.

One American/German potential star is Michigan born Caleb Stanko, who went from the Vardar Soccer Club to SC Freiburg in 2010. Though he was expected to be a pillar of the U.S. U-23 national team and expected to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, that status is unclear as the athlete recovers from a September ACL injury. Typical ACL injuries can take anywhere from 6-9 months to heal. Stanko was also planning to make his pro debut this season, however his immediate future now remains unclear. Still, chances are Stanko will be back off his injury eventually, and the youth still has many years yet to make an impact in American and German soccer.

Striker Bobby Shou Wood, originally from Honolulu, began his soccer journey with Powder Edge SC, then the Irvine Strikers in California. He was recruited into Bundesliga’s renowned academy of 1860 Munich in 2006 at age 14. At 21 years old, with 13 matches playing for 2 Bundesliga teams, he’s shown great potential. Still, his goal scoring isn’t as high as it could be, which means the Hawaii-born player still has some growth yet before becoming a star.

Then there’s David Yelldell, the goalkeeper who joined the top German team Bayer Leverkusen. Although Yelldell was originally born in Stuttgart, he has been capped once for the United States national team — since he holds dual citizenship (born to a German mother and an American father) he was eligible to play for either country. Yelldell was originally a first choice goalkeeper for TuS Koblenz until he suffered a knee ligament injury which ended his 2009-2010 season. He gained a higher profile by being the regular goalkeeper for a MSV Duisburg side that made a run to the Pokal finals a few years back, and signed with Leverkusen in the offseason.  Having signed a contract extension with Die Werkself this summer, Yelldell will likely remain a backup to Bernd Leno for the forseeable future.

Shawn Parker, only 21 years old is another born to a German mother and American father. He has already represented Germany at every youth level, but still hasn’t made an international debut, leaving it unclear which country Parker will opt to represent. As early as 2012, US manager Jürgen Klinsmann had contacted Parker regarding possible representation of the United States. Of his decision, Parker has said, “I am playing for Germany now and this is my home base. Both sides are very interesting. I like Germany now, but I won’t rule out that I will play for the United States in the future.”  The Wiesbaden-born striker transferred to FC Augsburg from FSV Mainz this summer, and has started once thus far this season for his new team.

German-American Andrew Wooten, currently based in Germany’s second division, is on a tremendous scoring streak himself. Having found success starting for SV Sandhausen, Wooten has scored goals in every one of the club’s matches this past month; no one else has tallied since August 22nd. His four goals this season lead Sandhausen and provided the margin of victory in three consecutive 1-0 Sandhausen wins, their only wins of the season. Alois Schwartz, Wooten’s coach, has worked with him since his time at Kaiserslautern II where he first began to attract attention. His strong performance lately has led to speculation that there may be a spot for him on the upcoming U.S. national team roster, but he did not receive a callup, and thus earning a spot on the USMNT senior roster still remains another goal for Wooten to chase after.

Since his Bundesliga debut in 2011 at the age of 21,  Alfredo Morales has been on the apparent fast track to the World Cup team. Highly regarded at his boyhood club Hertha Berlin, Morales trained with the U.S. Olympic team before its ill-fated qualifying in 2012, but did not join the team to see the loss against Mexico. Morales is now a regular starter for Ingolstadt, where he isn’t shy to tackle. Morales is also a family man – married, with a baby and a home in Bavaria –  but for anyone who has been watching his recent development, there is reason to believe that he may be a force among the next generation of World Cup hopefuls. Having scored one goal this season for Ingolstadt and adding three spectacular assists, Morales’ performance is a big reason why Ingolstadt are undefeated and atop the 2. Bundesliga table, a very rare perch for the club to inhabit.

Borussia Dortmund’s 22-year-old Joseph Gyau made his Bundesliga debut for the club in a strong 2-2 match against Stuttgart last month and is still enjoying the moment. After swapping Hoffenheim for Dortmund this summer it looks like Gyau has at least temporarily made the leap from reserves to a BvB senior squad ravaged by injury, and now has the opportunity to work with Jurgen Klopp – a coach notorious for his ability to hone the talents of young attackers. As he moves forward, Gyau is trying to keep it all in perspective. Last month, Gyau was quoted in an interview last month saying, “I think I’ve started off pretty good. Klopp has been giving me advice. I think if I just keep putting head down, working hard, not getting too cocky and staying grounded, I think anything can happen.”  Both Gyau’s father and grandfather played international football for the U.S. and Ghana, respectively.

The continued efforts of veteran footballer Matt Taylor have been a fine acquisition for 1.FC Saarbrücken. The now-32-year-old has six goals under his belt so far and has proved himself to be a continually worthy investment for a club trying to rebound from a disastrous 2013/2014 season that saw them demoted from 3. Liga. Peter Rubeck, coach of Eintracht Trier, attested to Taylor’s prowess, going so far as to say that he offers “as much value as our full assault” on the pitch.  Taylor began playing his professional football in Germany in 2008, and has scored over 50 goals, and had a hat trick against first-division Werder Bremen in August, 2012 to knock the north-German side out of the DFB Pokal.  Regrettably, Taylor has never received a cap for the USMNT despite his proven ability to score frequently in Germany’s lower divisions.

Finally, there’s Terrence Boyd, who, following appearances with Hertha Berlin and Borussia Dortmund’s amateur sides, moved to Austrian outfit SK Rapid Wien in 2012, where he made 37 goals in 80 appearances. This past July, Boyd signed a three-year contract with Bundesliga 2 team RB Leipzig. The striker has already won 13 international caps, and was eyed for Klinsmann’s 2014 World Cup. After his recovery from a partially torn right ACL, he too will be back in the saddle, by mid- October at the latest.

Called up to Klinsmann’s roster for the Americans’ October matches with Ecuador and Honduras were Brooks, Chandler, Green, Gyau, Morales and Wood.

Header photo courtesy of tz.de

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