Julian Green Makes U.S. Debut as World Cup Approaches

Bayern Munich wunderkind Julian Green made his debut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. men’s national team in a Wednesday night “friendly”against Mexico that ended in a 2-2 draw.  In earning his first senior squad international cap,  Green’s half hour performance off the U.S. bench in the second half was a mixed bag, showing the inexperience of an 18 year-old who regularly plays in Germany’s fourth division but also demonstrating flashes of the winger’s abundant skills and potential.  Despite his youth, there is a possibility that Green will be among the U.S. players making the trip to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup in June.

The Tampa-born Green, wearing # 9 on the back of the U.S.squad’s new Nike kit, entered the game in the 59th minute, a point at which Mexico had already established second half dominance with fluid and very confident play, scoring a goal after Klinsmann’s team had tallied twice in the first half.  The intensity of the rivalry between the two neighboring kingpins of the CONCACAF region is always present in their get-togethers, and Wednesday’s night friendly in Arizona was yet another example of how meaningful any match between the Americans and Mexicans is for the players and their respective fans, both well-represented at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Green’s Performance Against Mexico

Following his introduction into the match, Green spent most of the match on the left side of the American attack, with a few forays into the center of the pitch.  His most egregious errors came defensively.  Green was able to track down a diagonal ball carrying toward the touchline in his own third of the pitch, but instead of heading the ball to his left and safety, Green’s header went directly to Mexican defender Paul Aguilar.  The Club America player passed, received a return ball and fired a fine shot that hit the far post of the American goal, rebounding to Alan Pulido, who slotted the ball easily into the net to knot the score at 2-2.  On a similar play in the 79th minute, Green got into position but slipped on the turf, allowing Pulido to take the ball and streak towards goal, creating another scoring chance for the Mexicans that this time did not come to fruition.  Green also made a few errant passes in the final minutes of the game while in attack, widely missing open teammates.

But there were positives for the German-American youngster also.  The moment that had Americans on the edge of their seats came in the last ten minutes, when Green initially appeared to draw a penalty kick after being fouled while slipping into the Mexican box from the left.  However, no foul was given — replay showed that Green was touched a stride before entering the box, and also that Green was obviously fouled and should have a drawn a free kick for the Americans right outside the box, despite the official’s non-call.  Green also got himself free in the box earlier, in the 83rd minute, and received a pass from teammate Clint Dempsey, but the winger could not snap off an immediate shot and was effectively closed off by Mexican defenders.  Still earlier, shortly after entering the match, Green was on the providing end of a successful pass to Dempsey deep into Mexican territory, but nothing came of that threat.  Overall, Green played a role in restoring the American attack after Mexico had taken the edge in confidence, but his role was inconsistent as he connected on some passes but misfired on several.  His sense of positioning, though, was good, as he moved well without the ball to create space for himself in the box on several American shots from the right  — it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if he’d been found with a pass on those occasions or had a rebound come his way.

Green on the U.S. World Cup Roster?

It seems that the general consensus of American soccer writers concerning Green’s debut was that the 18 year-old had some good moments, but was basically overmatched at the international level and probably couldn’t contribute on the huge stage that is the World Cup.  He would certainly be a long shot to make the American World Cup roster in 2014. But does that mean that Klinsmann won’t have a plane ticket available for the German-American attacker?

The Americans were drawn into a very difficult group for the 2014 World Cup, facing an explosive German side, Portugal featuring the brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo and a Ghanian team that has eliminated the Americans from the last two World Cups.  It will be crucial that the Americans will be able to score goals to advance.

And hence, the possible case for Green.  During 2013, the most successful season for an American squad, the club was led in scoring by Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan, each with eight goals.  However, in club play this season, Jozy Altidore has only one goal in 19 league matches for Sunderland after a breakout club season for AZ Alkmaar the year before.  The iconic Donovan, 32, and his veteran counterpart, Clint Dempsey, 31,have been in inconsistent form while another option in attack, Herculez Gomez, has yet to score in 13 Clausura appearances for Liga MX side Club Tijuana despite his usual prolific form in Mexico.  Striker Eddie Johnson is certainly in the running for a roster spot, with five international goals in 2013 and a strike Wednesday that would have won Wednesday’s match for the Americans called off for offsides, while Rapid Wien American striker Terrence Boyd has scored nine league goals this season but has yet to score in his 13 appearances for the American squad.    Aron Jóhannsson has starred in the Eredivisie for AZ, scoring 20 times in 34 matches, but has only seven American appearances since debuting for Klinsmann last August.

Thus, there seems to be a possible opening for Green.  Is he too young and inexperienced?  Probably.  But he has 18 goals this season for Bayern’s reserve side in the Bavarian Regionalliga.   He is fast, has the ability to get open and can play out wide or in a more traditional striker role on an American side not currently stocked with in-form goal scorers.

Injuries and form will certainly play a large part in Klinsmann’s final World Cup roster, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see the German coach, who tends to think outside the box, include Green as the final roster choice, with an eye to him playing the ‘joker’ role, coming off the bench to perhaps change the flow of a game with his pace.  Some playing time for Bayern’s senior squad, who have clinched the Bundesliga title with six league games remaining, would enhance Green’s chances.  Bayern Coach Pep Guardiola is certainly a supporter of Green,  as Green made a very positive impression on the Spaniard during last summer’s training camp.  Whatever happens, Green’s possible inclusion on America’s World Cup squad will entail a fascinating upcoming decision for Klinsmann as he tries to fashion a roster that can get his team through a daunting group stage.

Klinsmann on Green

I think you saw in some moments what this kid is capable (of doing).  How he goes in the box and draws two guys. He should have gotten a penalty. The referee was five yards away from it, which was pretty ridiculous. But it is what it is.

Obviously he was nervous, too. He plays his first cap in front of 60,000 against Mexico, so here and there maybe you slip. You lose your balance, like it happened to him once there

Teammate and former Gladbach midfielder Michael Bradley also commented

I think it’s exciting, a young kid like that with so much talent, so much ability. For him, it was just about getting out there for the first time, enjoying himself, getting the first one done with and now we can really get him going

How the American Press Viewed Green’s International Debut

Brian Sciaretta, New York Times  All eyes were on Green, who was making his first appearance for the United States since switching his international affiliation from Germany last month. An 18-year-old who plays primarily for Bayern Munich’s Under-23 team, Green replaced Brad Davis on the left wing in the 59th minute. Eager to get involved on the counter at a time when Mexico was pressing, Green was aggressive but unable to create dangerous opportunities. He has talent but remains a little raw, even nervous

Jeff Carlisle, ESPN FC  Showed his lack of experience and strength, especially when he was caught ball-watching on Pulido’s goal. Recovered a bit more as time went on, but didn’t look like a player who could contribute at a World Cup.

Joe Tansey, Bleacher Report  At most times when he was on the ball, Green looked exactly like an 18-year-old who plays in the German fourth division. He still needs some work and didn’t show anything worth of earning a spot on the World Cup roster.

Ridge Mahoney, Soccer America  Gained confidence with some clean touches after coming on, barreled 1-v-2 courageously a few times, slipped and lost a ball in a bad spot, got his head to a goal kick to flick it forward.

Header photo courtesy of USA Today


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Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder of the Bundesliga Fanatic. Besides loving German football, he also enjoys the NBA, collecting jerseys and LPs, his pets and wishes he had more time for fishing, bicycling and learning the bass guitar.

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