World Cup Future Must Be Right Now for USMNT Prodigy Julian Green

Phil KeidelContributor IIOctober 16, 2016

Getty Images

The only thing that would be dumber than United States Men's National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann not taking Julian Green to Brazil for the World Cup would be taking Green along and never playing him.

Klinsmann risked some embarrassment in his early efforts to convince the 18-year-old Bayern Munich property, born to a German mother and an American father, to declare as an American for the purposes of international football. 

"Julian Green is a tremendous talent," Klinsmann swooned in October, per Jeff Carlisle of "We have been scouting him for more than two years...we believe we could help him grow into a special player."

Had Green opted to declare as a German instead, Klinsmann's speculative wooing of Green would have looked somewhat pathetic.

But Klinsmann's gambit looks bold and brilliant now that Green will wear the red, white and blue.

Presumably, at least part of Klinsmann's pitch to Green included a blithe observation that Green could come to America and be valuable right away or he could go to Germany and be a practice squad member for the foreseeable future.

Having landed Green, Klinsmann must now make him a much bigger part of his World Cup plans than conventional wisdom would suggest.

Having rolled the dice on Julian Green once already, USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann should keep rolling them while the table is hot.
Having rolled the dice on Julian Green once already, USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann should keep rolling them while the table is hot.Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

That Klinsmann may "owe" Green such a chance is far less relevant to Klinsmann's decision-making than the brutal truth about the USMNT, which is this: They are at once one of the best USMNT's ever and not nearly good enough to threaten the world's best nations at this World Cup.

Even as he was advocating to leave Green off the World Cup roster, Grantland's Noah Davis conceded that the Americans "won’t win the World Cup, but they can get out of the Group of Death and see what happens from there."

Davis gave two overarching reasons for excluding Green. The first is that Green might not be good enough by June. The second is that allowing Green to unseat a USMNT veteran would be bad for team chemistry.

To those two reasons, only one two-word reply is required. So what?

Green is not some kid Klinsmann plucked out of nowhere. He trains with Bayern Munich, a team that would probably decimate a side of Major League Soccer all-stars if the match had enough money on the line for the winner.

Having made the 30-man preliminary USMNT World Cup roster ahead of old standbys like Eddie Johnson, Klinsmann has already declared that Green is good enough to play in Brazil.

And if Klinsmann was willing to omit Johnson, there is no reason to think that solid but unspectacular players like Terrence Boyd and Herculez Gomez are promised anything. Or that they should be.

USMNT veteran Landon Donovan spoke skeptically of bringing 18-year-old Julian Green to Brazil for the World Cup.
USMNT veteran Landon Donovan spoke skeptically of bringing 18-year-old Julian Green to Brazil for the World Cup.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Naturally, USMNT veteran Landon Donovan is flinging cold water on Green's prospects to play in Brazil.

"As far as Julian goes, I’m always reluctant with young players to, one way or the other, to critique them, because they’re still young and they need time to develop," Donovan said recently, per Sporting News' Ives Galarcep.

"We’ve seen a lot of times in this country that we get a little too excited about a young player and it ends up affecting them one way or the other, good or bad," Donovan added.

Unsaid there was that, really, Donovan's USMNT career has been as uneven and ultimately disappointing as his professional career. And that Donovan has enough to worry about with his own game and fitness in Brazil without having to mentor Green in the process.

This sort of thinking is in large part why the USMNT is so workmanlike and, let's face it, hard to watch.

Perhaps undeservedly gifted a footballing wunderkind by the gods, the knee-jerk response of many analysts is that Klinsmann should proceed with caution to the point of paralysis.

Hopefully, Klinsmann is much smarter than the pundits who want to put Green in a glass case that says "Break in 2018."

In Green, the USMNT have a legitimately exciting prospect for the first time since, well, since Donovan and Clint Dempsey were young stars in waiting.

Donovan, Dempsey and Tim Howard are all now either cresting the hill or actually over it.

If the USMNT were one player or one bounce away from seriously contending for the World Cup, developing Green patiently might make sense. But they're not. They're a decade away at minimum.

So there is no point in having Green spend any part of that decade doing anything but learning what the World Cup demands from a player.

And if Klinsmann has to disappoint another veteran and risk team chemistry in the process, he must take that chance.

Because the chemistry of a mediocre side is not worth preserving when a catalyst could make a positive difference.