AMSTERDAM – Now that it's officially a World Cup year, Timothy Chandler is hoping some new responsibilities handed down by FC Nürnberg boss Gertjan Verbeek can help him earn a fresh call from US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
A name familiar to stateside fans for his history of mentoring and prominently featuring young US national team aces, Verbeek has been on the FCN job for just three games. Both Jozy Altidore and Aron Jóhannsson grew their games at AZ Alkmaar under the Dutch coach, who also played a prominent role in the development of Michael Bradley at Heerenveen.
"He is a great teaching coach, but only soccer," Chandler told MLSsoccer.com by phone last Thursday from the team's midseason camp in Spain. "He doesn't so much like running or [fitness regimens] from the preseason now."
Verbeek has spent the winter break installing a new system that places more emphasis on playing in the opponents' end. Coming from the Eredivisie, the manager is well-accustomed to making important chess pieces out of his wide defenders.
"It's very comfortable for me, because the left and right back are very special players for him," said Chandler. "He wants us to go with the offense and on the counterattack. He doesn't just want us to think about defense now."
The 23-year-old was already performing considerably better this season than he did during a rough 2012-13 campaign before Verbeek's arrival. However, probably his best outing this term came in their final match before the winter break, a scoreless stalemate with Schalke that preceded Chandler making Kicker magainze's Bundesliga Team of the Week for the first time since March 2011.
Chandler hopes his improved play and the added responsibilities from Verbeek will help him get back into the US national team reckoning. He has not appeared for Klinsmann's side since a poor showing in their World Cup qualifying loss at Honduras last February. With a little more than four months left until the roster deadline for Brazil 2014, he knows now is the time to make a depth chart move.
"I think when I play good, he will have to call me," said Chandler. "For sure, I want to get back in the picture."
A Frankfurt native with a US military father, the defender is often viewed in a controversial light by American media and fans alike for missing more than one potentially cap-tying call-up. Skeptical observers have cast great doubt on the timing of certain minor injuries that have pulled him out the squad, while his rejection of one Klinsmann call-up led to charges that Chandler was waffling in hopes of a Germany call.
However, Joachim Löw has gone on record as never monitoring Chandler and Klinsmann stated in a conference call prior to the Honduras defeat that the player was still trying to find his way with Nürnberg. Now that he is back to being set at one position and building performance consistency, he says the days of begging off call-ups are over.
"I wanted to get my form together," he stated. "I know there were many people who thought I didn't make a hard decision because I wanted to play for Germany, but there was no question that I wanted to play for the USA. Now, I just try to play well and wait for a call."
Chandler will get his next chance to impress when Nürnberg return to Bundesliga play with a January 25 visit from Fabian Johnson's Hoffenheim. Though they remain winless heading into the back half of the Bundesliga season, Chandler says FC Nürnberg watchers should expect much more success over the remainder thanks to the influence of Verbeek.
To be precise, Der Club are the last club from Europe's top six leagues in the UEFA co-efficients still waiting on three points. Their record is not actually so dire as it might seem, with a league-high 11 ties keeping them out of the basement through 17 of 34 games.
"We haven't lost too many games, we just make draws," said Chandler. "The last four or five games, we've played some very good football. We have now had some time to train with our new coach and I think things will be much better in the second half."