Reality Check: Julian Green And the U.S. National Team

We’ve seen this movie before: A talented teen wows the scouts, makes a name for himself, and U.S. soccer fans turn him into a savior. ASN's Brian Sciaretta tries to temper expectations.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 19, 2014
11:34 AM
THE SIGNPOSTS HAD BEEN pointing in this direction for a while now, so Jurgen Klinsmann’s Tuesday announcement that Julian Green would file his one-time switch with FIFA to represent the United States was not entirely surprising.

So now it’s time to ask: What does it all mean?

Everyone who cares about these sorts of things probably knows that Green has performed very well for Bayern Munich’s U-23 team, but beyond that not many people know much about him. The reality is that American fans are excited but probably haven’t yet seen him play a competitive minute.

Here are a few things you need to know about the Florida teenager and his place within the U.S. national team.

The 2014 World Cup is a reality

Julian Green has a legitimate chance to go to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. At this point, his inclusion may even qualify as likely. Klinsmann’s eagerness to bring Green into the U.S. national team program speaks volumes about the player’s talent and promise. While it is unlikely Klinsmann promised Green a spot on the World Cup team, Green probably feels good about his chances after discussions with the national team staff.

Green is indeed a genuine prospect, and you can see that in the way he has progressed seamlessly through Bayern Munich’s system. He has always played up an age group—he was often among the youngest players on the field during youth matches—and has never stagnated at any level. Green’s trajectory is more than a little promising.

So where will he play for the United States? A versatile attacking player who makes good use out of either foot, Green can be utilized in a number of different ways. Right now it’s likely that Klinsmann will deploy Green on the wing. Perhaps over time he shifts centrally to forward but right now there is more of a need on the wing.

The key will be how Green plays against Mexico (assuming his switch is approved by FIFA in time). It will be exceptionally important for him. Yes, he is under contract with Bayern Munich, but the five-foot-seven Green comes into the game with less than 10 minutes of professional experience. Now with all of the media hype, he will have to convince teammates and U.S. national team staff that he deserves a spot. The spotlight on him will be enormous in Arizona. If he handles it well, it will ease some of the pressure.

The pressure will also be on Klinsmann to ease Green’s transition into the locker room. Fast-tracking an 18-year-old (Green turns 19 one week before the World Cup begins) onto a World Cup roster full of veterans could be tricky. Klinsmann has been aggressive with dual nationals and now he will have another chance to prove he can integrate a newcomer into the team without harming team chemistry.

Managing expectations

Expectations need to be held in check a little bit. American soccer plans are desperately seeking We’ve their first-ever world-class player. Whether it’s Freddy Adu or Jozy Altidore or Julian Green, the truth of the matter is that the hype doesn’t benefit anyone.

There have been plenty of young American players affiliated with big clubs before—a teenage Frank Simek was the captain of Arsenal’s reserve team a decade ago at a time when the Gunners were the best team in England—but Green still has a ways to go to even establish himself as a professional soccer player. The 2014 World Cup might be within reach for him, but it is fair to question whether we are all guilty of hyping up a young player only to set him up for disappointment.

The 2016 Olympics

Even if Green goes to the World Cup, he is unlikely to start or see significant minutes. Yes, the 2015 Gold Cup could be another major tournament for him and theoretically he could play in next year’s U-20 World Cup. But its also possible that the 2016 Olympics (when he will be 20) could be his first major showcase for the United States.

If the United States qualifies, the young core of that team is intriguing. In addition to Green, the other standouts include Luis Gil, DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Will Packwood, Shane O’Neill, Wil Trapp, and Paul Arriola. That’s a pretty exciting group of players who have the potential to be part of the national team for years to come.

So tell us—either in the Comments section below or via the ASN Matrix—what your expectations are for young Mr. Green.

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

Post a comment