FIFA World Cup

Why Julian Green Must Be Handed a World Cup Starting Spot for USA Against Ghana

Green's time should be now.
Green's time should be now.Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
Phil KeidelContributor IIJune 14, 2014

The United States men's national soccer team is a group of pluggers. Capped pluggers, to be sure, but pluggers all the same.

That is why Jurgen Klinsmann has to start Julian Green against Ghana on Monday.

Be honest. Other than 19-year-old wunderkind Green, does any other member of the 23-man American roster really intrigue you as a player?

For that matter, does any other member of the American World Cup team cause real concern for Ghana, Portugal or Germany in Group G?

The coaches of those opponents will surely pay lip service to the dogged skills of Clint Dempsey, the "serious, professional, hard working, competitive" style of Michael Bradley and the potent threat of Jozy Altidore.

Then, when they are off the record, those same coaches might point to the inability of any of those players to distinguish himself while wearing anything but a Major League Soccer kit or the United States colors.

Dempsey is dominant as a Sounder, but his time as a difference-maker internationally may be ending.
Dempsey is dominant as a Sounder, but his time as a difference-maker internationally may be ending.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Green's selection to the team spawned dozens of headlines. Per Brandon Wright of the Tampa Bay Times, "Green, who recently turned 19, will be the third youngest player in the World Cup when the United States takes on Ghana."

Wright's recent profile of Green hit all the necessary marks: Green's current affiliation with super-club Bayern Munich, his dilemma over whether to declare as German or American for international football purposes and his ultimate choice to wear the red, white and blue.

"Green played sparingly during the United States' recent sendoff series and it's not clear how much he'll play in Brazil," Wright observed.

How much Green will ultimately play in Brazil is surely unknown, but Green should at least be in the American starting XI against Ghana.

If the Americans are to have any reasonable chance to survive Group G, they must beat Ghana. A draw will not nearly be good enough; a loss would effectively end the Americans' tournament after one match.

And if the Americans really believe that they are better than Ghana, they must take the play right to the Black Stars. There will be plenty of time for the Americans to put nine men behind the ball against Portugal and Germany, particularly if the Americans beat Ghana.

Few players on the United States roster possess the raw talent that Green does. Yes, Green is inexperienced. But the Americans have a dozen or so players on this roster with plenty of caps and no transcendent footballing gift.

Klinsmann needs to put all of his chips in the center of the table with Green.
Klinsmann needs to put all of his chips in the center of the table with Green.USA TODAY Sports

Playing Green in the match against Ghana paves the way for him to play against Portugal or Germany, too.

If Green plays well against Ghana and the Americans win, it may be hard to take him out of the XI against the Portuguese. Or Klinsmann might save him for the match with Germany if a result will put the Americans through to the knockout stage.

Conversely, if the Americans lose to Ghana, Green should play against Portugal and Germany regardless of his display against Ghana. Those two matches will become glorified friendlies if the Americans do not take all three points from Ghana.

Regardless, Klinsmann's lot is cast with Green. Klinsmann did not explicitly take Green in Landon Donovan's place, but he might as well have. With Donovan's goal-scoring threat gone, Klinsmann must find that pace and skill somewhere else on this roster.

And with all due respect to the likes of Graham Zusi, Mix Diskerud and Brad Davis, none of them have what Green brings from a skills standpoint.

Having come this far with Green, Klinsmann must now take that last fateful step and start him against Ghana.

Klinsmann has little to lose and a lot to gain in doing so.

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