STANFORD, Calif. – If you’re one of the many fans who thought Timmy Chandler’s US national team career was over after that disastrous day in San Pedro Sula last February, the man himself would agree with you.
“I think this was the most unbelievable game in my life,” the German-American defender told reporters at USMNT training on Sunday. “The heat was unbelievable.”
Chandler was making his eighth start at right back for the US when they opened the CONCACAF Hexagonal in Honduras. And although that appearance officially cap-tied the FC Nürnberg speedster to the US, it was a clear baptism by fire into the rigors of World Cup qualifying in this part of the world.
He was clearly gassed in the sweltering heat as the Americans slumped to a 2-1 defeat and later admitted it was hard to adjust to the culture shock of a road match in Central America.
As it turns out, that appearance would be Chandler’s last in a US uniform. Until Brazil, perhaps. Last week, the 24-year-old received his first call-up from Jurgen Klinsmann in 15 months thanks to what the coach deemed a “very high level of play” this past season for Nürnberg.
The club was relegated from the Bundesliga, but Chandler was a bright spot for Der Club, starting 19 games at right back and right midfield, and fighting back from a knee injury that buried him further down Klinsmann’s depth chart. Without the Frankfurt native in the fold, the USMNT went on to roll through the Hexagonal and top the table for a third straight World Cup cycle.
While getting Klinsmann’s call was something of a surprise, Chandler says he held out belief that he still figured into the coach’s plans.
“I thought [my chance] had gone,” he said. “… [But Klinsmann] said I can have a chance [if] I work hard. When he called me here to Stanford, I was very happy. Yeah, for sure [I was] surprised. But I think I worked very hard and that’s why.”
Now Chandler must prove he belongs again. After serving as a starter at either right or left back for Klinsmann’s first six games in charge, he returns to the hottest position battle in US camp – Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst, Brad Evans, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson all appear to be in the running at right back.
But Chandler is confident that his experience and hard work back in Nürnberg will help him compete and make the final 23-man roster. And a chance to play against Germany on June 26 in Natal would be icing on the cake. Even if people back home give the Frankfurt native a hard time about facing off against the country of his birth.
“For sure, they make jokes, you know?” he laughed. “Someone [says], ‘Don’t win against them,’ someone [says], ‘Kick their ass.’ When you play against Germany, it’s a very nice game.”
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com.