SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — US national team defender John Anthony Brooks found out just how it feels to get thrown off the deep end on Wednesday night.
Just days after meeting his US teammates for the first time, the 20-year-old center back was thrust into the starting lineup by manager Jurgen Klinsmann, going the full 90 minutes in a 4-3 win over Bosnia, who fielded two of Europe's top strikers in Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic.
Brooks passed his trial by fire.
"I think John Anthony Brooks looks like he's been with us for 10 years," Klinsmann said after the match. "First camp, 19 years old and he played against Dzeko. I mean, you don't get it any bigger. We were really, really happy with his first [cap] as well."
"[Dzeko] is a very good player, it's not easy to play against him," Brooks said after the game. "You saw today he shot two goals. But it wasn't enough, we shot four goals."
It's been a whirlwind week for Brooks. After making his Bundesliga debut with Hertha Berlin on Saturday, including scoring a goal in a 6-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, Brooks was formally summoned to his first USMNT senior camp.
No big deal. Klinsmann pointed out how Brooks was calm throughout the stay in Sarajevo, although the youngster did admit to a case of the nerves ahead of his first cap.
"Of course, I'm nervous before every game. Always. You always want to win and that's why you're nervous," said Brooks, who partnered with Stoke City's Geoff Cameron at the heart of the US defense.
Some will criticize Brooks for his late reactions on both of Dzeko's goals and the player himself will argue he was pushed by Bosnia captain Emir Spahic as he attempted a header clearance on the other Bosnia goal by Vedad Ibisevic.
But Brooks, who counts fellow US international Terrence Boyd among his "good friends" from their youth days at Hertha Berlin, is hoping for another shot. He is not yet officially cap-tied because of the friendly label to Wednesday's match, but he has unequivocally committed his future to the US cause.
"My future is the USA team," he said in the postgame, although he was less sure about whether he'd be called up for the upcoming CONCACAF qualifiers: "I don't know. I don't think about it. Just do my best every training, every game and we will see."
But judging by Klinsmann's glowing reviews — he calls Brooks "one of our biggest talents" — those opportunities shouldn't be too far behind.
"It's big, it's big." Klinsmann said of Brooks' debut vs. Bosnia. "It gives us even more options in that centerback role."