NEW YORK – John Anthony Brooks is bound for the Bundesliga. He isn’t, however, headed for Turkey and the U-20 World Cup this summer.
US Under-20 national team head coach Tab Ramos has been following the 20-year-old center back for a few years – along with the player’s many admirers stateside – and flew to Germany in September for what he characterized as a positive meeting with Brooks to gauge his interest in representing the US.
But despite that meeting going well, according to Ramos, Brooks hasn’t accepted a camp invitation since and has subsequently been left off the US’ 35-man preliminary roster ahead of the U-21 Toulon Tournament in France, which precedes the World Cup in June.
“He was very committed to us and the future [during the meeting], but yet all the camps that I’ve called him for after, for whatever reason, he couldn’t make it,” Ramos said in a roundtable discussion with assembled journalists. “This particular month, we obviously have a FIFA deadline to meet. We gave him a deadline. We gave him a date. He couldn’t meet that deadline for us to get all the paperwork in, so we’ve left him out of the 35-man roster.”
Brooks put the finishing touches on his breakout campaign with promoted Hertha Berlin on Sunday, scoring an 87th-minute equalizer against Energie Cottbus to keep the capital club’s home record unblemished. He made 26 starts (29 appearances) without drawing a single card during his first 2.Bundesliga season as Hertha rolled to the top spot in the division and automatic promotion.
The towering defender, who stands 6-foot-4, is eligible to play for either the US or Germany, but his birth nation did not extend an invite for the upcoming UEFA Under-21 Championship in Israel, which coincides with the U-20 World Cup.
Brooks, meanwhile, addressed his absence from the US provisional roster following the final game of Hertha’s season, citing a need to recover physically ahead of what promises to be a grueling campaign in the first division.
"I would like to go, but I need a holiday to recover for the Bundesliga,” he said. “I had just eight days last summer vacation. At some point, the body needs some rest. At this time, I'll not go to Toulon."
The US open the Toulon Tournament against host nation France on May 28. They’ll also face Colombia, Congo DR and South Korea in the group stage. The group winners and runners-up advance to the final and third-place game.
Ramos’ side will then travel to Portugal for a training camp before kicking off 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup on June 21 against Spain.