A matter of time: Will Bayern Munich wunderkind Julian Green wind up in USMNT colors?
Julian Green appears slightly exotic as he steps into the US soccer community's limelight with his invitation to participate in the US national team's November camp, a decision that coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced on Wednesday had been reconsidered in order “to give Julian an opportunity to breathe.”
Quick, technical, goal-happy, shifty on the ball and, of course, a pupil under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola at reigning European champions Bayern Munich, Green checks a range of boxes that few Yank prospects ever have and would appear to fit into the wider pattern of Klinsmann's long-running “Germerican” recruiting push.
The child of a German mother and American father, the 18-year-old is a longtime member of the German youth national team system and is approaching a highly anticipated, yet deeply personal choice about his allegiance at the international level.
But Green's birthplace is MacDill Air Force Base, home to the 6th Air Mobility Wing, a miniature city perched on the tropical spit of land that cleaves Tampa Bay in half, 10 miles or so south of where the long-departed Mutiny graced the first half-decade of MLS. Green has split most of his life between Bavaria and Southwest Florida, but there's no hesitation if you ask him where he's from, says his father Jerry.
“His feelings about America are very strong,” Jerry Green said in a recent conversation with MLSsoccer.com. “Because he had the opportunity to say what he wanted to be seen as. He always says he's from Tampa, because that's where he was born and that's where he considers home. He could've just as well said the town that he lives in, just south of Munich. But he didn't choose to say that because that's not where he feels home is for him.”
In that sense, the recent nod from Klinsmann is a call Julian has been waiting on for years – even though it now appears to be little more than a public expression of interest and respect.
The forward/winger remains ineligible for the USMNT until he files a one-time change of international registration to represent the Stars and Stripes, thanks to three official appearances for Germany's Under-19 squad this year. Having long hoped for a clear sign from his father's land, he answered the call from his mother's, and may yet choose Die Mannschaft over the USMNT.
"I was told [U.S. Soccer] was going to call me directly but they haven't yet," Julian told the Tampa Bay Times in June 2012. “It would be an honor to play for either Germany or America."
As Klinsmann alluded to last week, Green has been tracked by the US for some time, mainly under the gaze of U-20 national team head coach Tab Ramos (pictured at right), who came within a few roster spots of including him on the USA's provisional roster for the 2012 U-17 World Cup. Green has also appeared – and scored for – Javier Perez's U-18 Yanks last year. But other opportunities to include him in other U.S. Soccer gatherings fell by the wayside, at times apparently because player, club and country were unable to coordinate plans.
“Julian would love the opportunity to play with the American team – I know that he would like to do that. Now I'm not saying that's where he wants to be capped, but he wants to participate with them,” said his father, explaining that some previous US invites had arrived on relatively short notice. “But by the same token, if you're not hearing from them and you don't feel that they are reaching out to you in some way, at some point you have to lower your thinking in your mind.
“With the schedule that he has with Munich, it's very hard to do that, to just pick up and say, 'Oh, I'm playing with the American team.' ... Let's sit down and put together a schedule for Julian so he knows when the games are, the Bayern staff know when the games are or whatever it may be.”
Jerry makes no secret of his own red, white and blue hopes for Julian, though he leaves the final decision entirely up to his son. And it's not hard to understand why the talented youngster is thinking long and hard about the chance being presented to him by the three-time World Cup champions, who themselves may have been goaded to call him back in after German media outlets questioned whether one of Bayern's brightest prospects would simply be conceded to Klinsmann and the USA.
"Jurgen Klinsmann has nominated Julian for the November matches, but he did not accept the call-up," Green's representative Katharina Schrott told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. "He hasn't made a final decision yet.
“Of course, it is a great honor for him to have the choice between two national teams and he was very proud of the nomination. But he needs more time to think about this important topic.”
Green has yet to feature in a competitive match for Bayern, so it also serves to reason that the fierce battle for a first-team place at the Bundesliga giants has forced him to put international questions on the back burner.
“I advised Juli to think long and hard about this decision – no need to rush,” said his father this week. “He must sit down and reflect on what he has accomplished, and where he wants to take his career going forward. You can never let the 'bright lights and media chatter' drive a decision that you have to live with once it's made.
“So he will take the time, see how things develop at Bayern, and then make an educated decision.”
But even if it's a year or two down the road, the time will eventually come to give Klinsmann an answer.
“His focus, truly and honestly, has always been on Bayern,” said Jerry Green. “I think – and this is me talking, not him saying this – I think he feels American, in his bones that's what he feels that he is. He was born on MacDill, you can't help but have that feeling. Being born in America is one thing, but when you're born on a military base to boot, you have to have that. It's just something that's inside you.
"The window is still there, but [U.S. Soccer] just need to make their intentions known.”
Klinsmann seems to have done that with this month's outreach. Now two proud soccer nations must wait and see what path Julian takes.