TEMPE, AZ - Even as the U.S. sets to take on rival Mexico Wednesday evening, newcomer Julian Green continues to be at the forefront of the conversation at this week’s training camp.
While head coach Jurgen Klinsmann tried to contain expectation and excitement surrounding the striker’s arrival to the media, his name continued to be on everyone’s lips.
“We are excited to have him,” says team leader, Michael Bradley. “[A] very young player, but a guy that has shown even at a young age that he has good starting points and a lot of quality.
“We are all excited to get to know him a little bit the next few days and get the process going of showing him what it’s like to be in this team.”
That process began last month with his inclusion to the training squad ahead of the U.S. fixture against Ukraine. His experience in Frankfurt, along with his interaction with the technical staff, encouraged Green to make the one-time switch to the U.S. Now, at 18 years of age, he has the chance to impress Klinsmann against the United States’ greatest rival, Mexico, with an outside chance of making the World Cup roster.
While that possibility remains a reality, it is still a distant one.
“We maybe want to just see him being welcome by the group, which he already did,” said Klinsmann. “We want him to grow into that group and I think the players will help him tremendously doing that. It’s always been the strength of any American team to welcome new payers, young players into the group. We want to make him feel comfortable, and hopefully, we get the opportunity to see him on the field on Wednesday night as well.”
That opportunity comes with a warning. “We don’t want to put any type of pressure on him or set too high expectations,” he explained. “At the end of the day, he is a player to be developed; developed mainly in this club from one point to the next. We will help his development and how fast he can proceed is up to him. We take his pace, his development and have a very close eye on him.”
The veterans on the team understand that, and are ready to play their role in educating Green on the international game. “I know when I was a young player, there were players I looked up to,” Maurice Edu said. “If I can be that to some of the younger guys, hopefully they aspire to do the same thing. They will look and say ‘Mo is rewarded for his play and hopefully I will do the same thing.’ I welcome those responsibilities and leadership role and enjoyed it thus far.”
Even some of the young players found it difficult to contain their excitement over his arrival. “From what I’ve heard, Julian is a great player,” said Sounders fullback DeAndre Yedlin. “I haven’t seen him play yet, but he’s with Bayern Munich so he can’t be a bad player!
“I’m excited to see him play and I think he can be a huge guy for us in the future.”
This final integration is the culmination of a long process by Klinsmann and his technical staff. As has been the case with players like Danny Williams, Fabian Johnson and Tim Chandler, the U.S. boss has an eye for dual-citizen talent, and Green is just the latest conquest in a continuing program under the Klinsmann regime to acquire the best players possible.
“We were in contact with him for the last two and a half years,” Klinsmann revealed. “When I was in Bayern Munich, he was in the U-14 probably. I am not saying I watched the U-14 train everyday, but obviously we have a lot of valuable information about a lot of the players coming through dual citizenship and we want to start communicating with them as early as possible.
“His family on both sides really appreciated we were very open and honest about everything we did and we have the advantage now with Matthias Hamann as our European scout and Andy Hertzog, my assistant coach, being in Europe and being every week somewhere else, to have people close by.
“Over time, the relationship gets better and better and then, it’s down to the kid,” he concludes. “He has to make the choice, the emotional decision to go for whatever country he chooses then. We put ourselves in a good spot there and we are extremely happy [Green] chose to play for the U.S. going forward.”