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U.S. Men's National Team

John Brooks: "Finally I Am Getting My Games Now"

The 22-year-old central defender has endured plenty of ups and downs over the past year, but thanks to hard work—and support from Jurgen Klinsmann—Brooks is playing better than ever.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 24, 2015
3:35 PM
AARHUS, Denmark—There is no question that Jurgen Klinsmann likes to see his young players test themselves in challenging environments. By doing so, the German coach believes, his athletes will emerge stronger and ultimately play better.

And Klinsmann has made it clear he will stand by these players as they inevitably encounter difficulties along the way. Julian Green is in a rut with Hamburg, but Klinsmann still called him to the latest U.S. national team camp. DeAndre Yedlin hasn't seen a minute of first-team action with Tottenham Hotspur, but he too is on the roster as the Americans prepare to play Denmark (3pm ET; ESPN2, UniMas, UDN).

Does the approach work? It has with John Brooks.

Just six months ago an under-performing Brooks was relegated to Hertha Berlin’s second team. His coach publicly admonished the 22-year-old central defender after a pair of poor performances.

Brooks didn't pout. Instead, he redoubled his efforts, played well on the reserve squad, and fought his way back to into the first team’s starting lineup. In recent weeks he has turned in a series of consistent performances that have helped pull Hertha out of the relegation zone.

“It was again a lot of ups and downs but finally I am getting my games now,” Brooks told American Soccer Now. “It has kept going and the team is doing pretty well now with the new coach. We are finally back to being where we want to be.

"The team is in a much better position now than it was a few weeks ago. We are on a good runs. We have eight games left—two wins would be pretty good then.”

On February 5, Hertha fired head coach Jos Luhukay, who had been Brooks’ head coach for almost all of his professional career. Like he is with many of his players, Klinsmann was in contact with both Brooks and the club during the coaching change and noted that Brooks seemed very focused through it all.

“We don’t want to expect too much too early from younger players,” Klinsmann said. “We are always there to help them especially if they go through a tough moment like Julian Green or Yedlin right now because they are not playing for their club teams. But at the same time we always have the hope that some break through stronger and start to take more responsibility in their club teams. It seems that’s the case with John.

“Some pick it up earlier than expected but every environment is different too,” the coach added. “Coming out of the World Cup where he had his 45 minutes and a goal, he matured. You see him more balanced, calmer, his timing is right. Hopefully it continues that way and it looks strong at the moment.”

While Brooks will forever be known by American fans for scoring one of the most dramatic goals in team history, his role on the 2014 World Cup team was limited to just one half of soccer. Expectations are now changing for him as a Bundesliga starter and one of the leaders of Hertha’s backline.

The Berlin-born Brooks, however, is reluctant to say that he should be more of a leader on the team. He still only has a total of eight caps for the United States. He only adds that his progress is simply due to the confidence of now playing consistently in the Bundesliga.

“Everything is pretty much the same [after scoring the goal,” he said. “Maybe a few more people know me but I am still the same person and I am hungry for more results.

“The only thing that has changed is that every weekend I get 90 minutes,” Brooks said. “Not only for me, but for every player that is really important. That’s the reason I am confident. I always want to give my best in every training session. Of course it gives me a lot of confidence when I am starting every weekend in the Bundesliga."

The 2015 Gold Cup could prove to be the first major international tournament where Brooks is a regular starter for the U.S. There is still plenty of competition among the defenders for playing time and the team needs to play better than it has been since the World Cup if it wants to win the Gold Cup and secure a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

Tomorrow’s game against Denmark will be important towards establishing that momentum.

“It’s always nice to be here, to see my teammates and the staff,” Brooks said. “It’s great to be back. We want to win every game and preparation is very important. For this first game it is only a short preparation time but I think we are doing well.

"We want to win the game against Denmark.”

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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