The United States Men’s National Soccer Team will play the Mexican national team on Wednesday in a friendly, which means close to nothing for the casual observer. Head coach Juergen Klinsmann has stacked the roster with all Major League Soccer players to see who and who will not make this June’s World Cup Roster, with the exception of one: 18-year-old American-German Bayern Munich forward Julian Green.
Green, if you haven’t seen soccer Twitter, has been called a number of things, all of which you’d find associated with an 18-year-old LeBron James before the 2003 NBA Draft. From an objective standpoint, Green is a young, shifty forward who seems to have plenty of upside. He also just declared that he will play for the U.S. instead of Germany, locking him into the Stars And Stripes forever.
So those are the basics about Green, supposedly American soccer’s new hope–and hopefully not America’s new Freddy Adu. But there are a few more things you should know about Green, five of ‘em to get you up to speed for Wednesday’s game, and Green’s potential first minutes for the Americans.
But really: who the hell is he?
Green, besides being a soccer player and the same age as Chief Keef, is a German-American whose mother is German and father is American. Green’s dad, Jerry, is a retired service member who now lives in Tampa where Julian was born. His parents have been divorced since he was young, and unlike his older brother–who attended high school in the States–Julian spent most of his time in Germany, but frequently made trips back to the U.S.
A good piece by USA TODAY’s For The Win blog details more about Julian’s background, which you can read here. But one surprising fact about the young forward? He was also a prodigious hockey player.
Okay, so why is he special?
He’s an 18-year-old who holds a roster spot on the arguably the most talented club side in the world, defending UEFA Champions League winners Bayern Munich. Although he’s only played once for the first team–a several-minute appearance in a Champions League group stage match against CSKA Moscow–he has been a regular contributor to Bayern’s fourth-division reserve squad.
For the reserves, playing in a regional league, Green has netted 15 times. He’s also frequently played all 90 minutes, in a variety of roles–as a center forward, in the midfield and on the wings–and can utilize both feet.
Did you read that last line? He’s ambidextrous! But really, though, outside that, there aren’t many clips of him taking on, say, the Dortmund defense, which is why people are hesitant to really consider him American soccer’s chosen one. However, he’s no slouch. Bayern stars Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger sung his praises to SI, and it’s been no secret that Green’s manager Guardiola considers him special.
And with kudos like that, would you rather have Jozy Altidore’s rock feet up front or this guy?
I still don’t know how I feel about him.
You’re not alone. The American soccer media has already had a field day with Green’s decision to play for the Americans, with piping hot takes searing through social channels like bats out of hell.
Some have already expressed recalcitrance toward accepting Green’s potential inclusion in the World Cup roster, playing the “well I don’t know how American or good he really is, and just think if he takes a spot from poor Mike Magee of the MLS.”
Since we’re all Americans, we’ll accept these faux-patriotic views and then grill them on the internet for what they are: horsesh*t. The U.S. team should be a meritocracy: if Green performs better than Magee or another potential MLSer in camps, then Green deserves to go to the World Cup in June.
Wait, so there’s a chance he can place on the U.S.’ World Cup roster?
Supposedly. It all depends on how he plays in the remaining camps and exhibition games that lead up to June. Many have already seen Klinsmann’s courtship of Green as a wink-wink golden ticket onto the roster, especially following his expedited presence into the U.S. camps this spring, but Klinsmann says it’s only a possibility, not a given: “I think he has the confidence to come in and say, ‘If the coach gives me the chance to play there, I want to show him that I want to go to Brazil.’”
American fans will get a better idea about what that means on Wednesday.