Where Does Julian Green Fit in USMNT World Cup Plans?

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Where Does Julian Green Fit in USMNT World Cup Plans?
Osama Faisal/Associated Press

On Tuesday, it was announced by U.S. Soccer that Bayern Munich starlet and German-American Julian Green had committed his international future to the United States men’s national team.

Because Green has represented Germany in official youth competitions in the past, he was required to file his one-time international switch which means that he can never return to play for Germany and can only represent the United States in future competitions.

American fan reaction to the news ran the gamut, from ecstasy to those who were quick to remind others that Green is only 18 years old, has never played in a Bundesliga match and who currently plays in the fourth division of German football.

So, with just three months to go until the USMNT heads to the World Cup in Brazil, just where, if at all, does Green fit into the team’s plans?

Looking at the current U.S. player pool, there are likely six spots still up for grabs (assuming Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, DaMarcus Beasley, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Mix Diskerud, Graham Zusi, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson and Eddie Johnson are part of the squad).

Without looking at specific names, it is likely that Klinsmann will bring at least one additional center-back, at least one additional right-back and at least one additional holding/central midfielder. That would knock down the number of available spots to three, but would only put seven defenders on the roster. Considering that Klinsmann is likely to bring eight defenders, especially because he has shown a tendency to use Fabian Johnson in the midfield, it is likely there will only be two remaining spots for attacking players left.

That’s where Julian Green would come in, and he’d be facing a host of competition from players like Terrence Boyd, Juan Agudelo, Chris Wondolowski, Mike Magee, Herculez Gomez, Brad Davis, Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona and Brek Shea. Considering how often Bedoya has been getting starts for the U.S. in recent months, he’s a likely inclusion to be with the team headed to Brazil.

That leaves one spot left.

Many of the U.S. players are versatile enough to play several positions, which is a definitive plus for the team, but which makes it very difficult to predict what Klinsmann will do with the final roster spot. Out of the remaining players, only three—Boyd, Corona and Shea—seem to have a realistic shot at making the World Cup team.

Boyd often gets international call-ups and Klinsmann clearly sees something in the Rapid Vienna forward, but Boyd rarely plays when called in. Joe Corona is a dark-horse favorite and has been, by all accounts, playing well recently for Tijuana. However, Corona seemed to fall out of favor with Klinsmann after this summer’s Gold Cup.

That leaves Brek Shea as the remaining, realistic candidate for the team.

Shea remains an enigma for many U.S. fans and opinions of the winger vary widely. His performances for the U.S. have also been all over the map, ranging from shockingly bad to being a difference-maker off the bench late in matches.

And it’s all taken place in the face of multiple scandals Shea has been involved in at club level, from kicking a ball at a referee, to a public bust-up with former FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman to his most recent incident, flipping off a fan, while on loan with Barnsley in the English Championship.

Still, the battle for the final World Cup roster spot could likely come down to a battle between Shea and Green.

Who wins that battle is anyone’s guess—especially considering how many chances Klinsmann has given Shea—but considering Shea’s antics and inconsistent form, few USMNT fans would shed a tear if he were left at home.

And even if Green does make the World Cup squad, he could easily go the entire tournament without seeing a minute of playing time. It’s much more likely Klinsmann would trust the players he has stuck with during this qualifying cycle rather than risk the U.S.’s tournament life on an unproven youngster.

That being said, Green does offer the one thing the U.S. will likely be in desperate need of in Brazil—flair off the bench. Obviously, no one can get inside the mind of Klinsmann, but the one thing Shea has often offered the U.S. is the ability and willingness to run at defenders late in the game. And while few U.S. fans—and pundits—have seen Green play to any extent, there is anecdotal evidence that Green could provide the U.S. with a spark off the bench.

U.S. fans got a taste of Green’s potential in a video shot during U.S. training for the match against Ukraine, where Green toasted Bedoya in a one-versus-one drill.

Green also recently received praise from teammates and international superstars Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger, both of whom spoke about Green's quickness.

New York Times reporter Graham Ruthven also tweeted last night that someone on the U.S. staff, during the U.S.’s last camp in Germany, told him “Believe the hype.”

It’s impossible to say how the next three months will play out for Green and the USMNT, but at least one thing is for certain. The U.S. and Klinsmann just landed a major prospect.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran

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