Sciaretta's Scouting Report
Jeremy Toljan Is Earning Minutes at Hoffenheim
The German-American fullback is still just a teenager, but he has broken into the Bundesliga side's starting XI and is receiving positive reviews. ASN's Brian Sciaretta reports.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedGERMAN-AMERICAN PLAYERS have prospered in the Bundesliga for the better part of a decade. And, despite a limited population, these players have made major contributions to both U.S. and German national teams too. John Brooks, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, and Terrence Boyd all played for Jurgen Klinsmann in 2013, while Mainz's Shawn Parker, Bayern Munich's Julian Green, and Hoffenheim's Jeremy Toljan have all featured for German youth national teams this year. Who's Jeremy Toljan, you ask? He's a 19-year-old German-American fullback who is enjoying a breakthrough year with Hoffenheim. Toljan made his Bundesliga debut on October 8, playing 90 minutes in a 2-2 draw with Mainz, and he is receiving positive reviews for his performances. Although his best position is right back, Toljan has featured on the opposite side for Hoffenheim’s first team. To date, he has made four appearances with Hoffenheim's first team in league play and another in the German Cup. With the winter break now less than 10 days away, Toljan spoke with American Soccer Now about his emergence on the team and his international plans. “It was quite a conversion to make, but you get used to it,” Toljan said, referencing his ascension to Hoffenheim's first team. “I give it all in every training session and so could adapt in a fairly quick time. My goal now is to stay on the team and to have as much playing time as possible.” Hoffenheim have been home to many American players in recent years. U.S. U-20 midfielders Russell Cannouse and Zack Pfeffer have been involved with the club’s U-19 team this season. Former U.S. U-23 winger Joe Gyau, and German-American Fabian Hurzeler are presently involved in the club’s U-23 team. Danny Williams featured for the first team last year before signing with Reading in England's second tier. The first team currently features Toljan and U.S. international Fabian Johnson—players with similar skill sets and backgrounds. Like Toljan, Johnson was born in German and played for German youth teams, including Germany's U-21 European Champions. On the field, both players play on the left side of the field with Toljan playing in the backline and Johnson floating between defense and the midfield. Toljan says he looks up to Johnson at Hoffenheim and the team is overall a tight-knit group. “Fabian is a good teammate just as the others are,” Toljan said. “We get along fine and of course he is an experienced player, whom I can turn to if I have any questions. You can always learn from the other players that have been around for a longer time and have lived through different situations.” Unlike many of the other German-American players in the Bundesliga, Toljan's father was not a U.S. serviceman and his mother is not German. His mother is of Croatian descent and his late father, an American, was an artist. Toljan's parents lived in the United States for a time but he was born in Stuttgart, Germany. Toljan’s father passed away before he was born and he currently does not have any contact with his American family. He has, however, vacationed in the United States multiple times. On his mother’s side, he has continued to visit Croatia every summer during his off-season. Away from the game, Toljan is quite studious and in August was enrolled at a local business-focused high school and plans to earn a diploma in the spring. As Toljan has continued to blossom as professional, questions about his international future have started to come up. Presently he is playing for the German U-20 national team and he has represented the German U-17 team in the UEFA European Championships—an official competition that would require him to file a one-time switch with FIFA should he want to switch. Is he eligible to play for the United States? He has never applied for an American passport and since he is over the age of 18, it is unclear whether or not his family registered his birth certificate with the U.S. consulate after he was born. A source within U.S. Soccer confirmed to ASN that they are "aware" of Toljan and his progress. But for now any talk of him switching to play for the United States is moot since Toljan is happy playing for Germany. He did, however, leave the door slightly ajar in the future. “For me this question never occurred,” Toljan said. “I enjoy playing for the youth teams of the German federation. I guess the possibility is given, but I never heard anything of any other federation." Regardless of his international allegiance, the future is promising for Toljan, who plays a position which so many teams lack. Up next will be a big test for the teenager as Hoffenheim face off against a powerful Borussia Dortmund team on Saturday.
December 13, 2013
December 13, 2013