Julian Green's Much-Awaited Debut Only First Step in Long Process for USMNT

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2014

Julian Green (right) switched affiliations to USMNT, but expectations must be tempered.
Julian Green (right) switched affiliations to USMNT, but expectations must be tempered.Osama Faisal

Julian Green is the hottest name in U.S. men's soccer, but he has not even taken the field yet.

The 18-year-old German-American competes at the club level for Bayern Munich, though not on the top team in the organization. He has the potential to be a star for many years to come, but he will not make an immediate impact.

He recently switched national affiliations to the United States and is slated to play in the U.S. men's national soccer team's friendly against Mexico on Wednesday.

Though the new addition to the squad is a justifiable cause for excitement, expectations must be tempered in the short term due to Green's age and lack of familiarity with the new system.

U.S. soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann downplayed Green's presence when speaking to the media during Monday's practice, per USA Today's Kelly Whiteside, saying, "We don't want to put any type of pressure on him or too high expectations. At the end of the day, he's a player to be developed. How fast everything can proceed is up to him."

Green was born in Tampa, Fla., but his mother is German, and he was raised in Germany for the majority of his childhood. Most recently, Green netted 15 goals and assisted on eight more for Regionalliga Bayern, a lower-tier team under the Bayern Munich umbrella. 

Green practiced with the top team beginning last year, and in November, he appeared against CSKA Moscow in a Champions League clash.

Green's teammates from Bayern Munich sang his praises to Grant Wahl of SI.com at a training session on March 19. Dutch star Arjen Robben stated, "He’s a great talent. He already trained with (Bayern’s first team) several times, and you can see he has potential. He’s quick, he’s got very good dribbling and can score goals."

German Bastian Schweinsteiger was more concrete in his compliments for the youngster:

He’s very quick—without the ball and with the ball. He plays a little bit like me. I’m not as quick as him, but at the beginning of my career I was playing on the left side outside, like his position now, and would come in and shoot with the right foot. And he’s done that a lot of times. OK, he’s young, but he’s fresh and dynamic. It’s good for the United States now, absolutely.

There is no question that Green brings the raw talent and potential to be a game-changing presence on the American team, but it's unrealistic to expect him to play a major role this year. If he ever approaches the relentless effort and versatile skills that Schweinsteiger offers, the Americans will be extremely lucky.

As ESPN The Magazine on Twitter noted, only one teenager has made the United States Word Cup roster since 1934. Green is trying to be the second.

Jozy Altidore has been potent for the U.S. men with eight goals in his last 11 games, and he is only 24 years old. With established stars Landon Donovan recently turning 32 and Clint Dempsey now 31, Green could eventually become a reliable scorer at the international level and lead a new youth movement.

Green likely stands a better chance of earning national caps with the U.S. men than on the star-studded German team. But Steven Goff of The Washington Post notes that though Green's dual citizenship allowed him to switch allegiance, after FIFA confirmed his alignment with the U.S. team, he cannot switch again.

That means Green is on USMNT for good, and at 18, he's got plenty of time to develop. However, fans should follow Klinsmann's patient approach to Green's future.

Green could be in line for stardom at the 2018 World Cup, but getting significant production from the neophyte in time for this summer in Brazil is wishful thinking.