World Cup: Veterans praise youngster Julian Green as USMNT "X-factor"
STANFORD, Calif. – US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Friday morning that any fans curious of what Julian Green has accomplished for the American team need only ask the other US players how well he’s performed behind closed doors.
On Friday afternoon, Green’s new teammates backed him up.
“On the field, he’s exciting. And he’s the X-factor,” veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard said of Green, the 18-year-old German-American winger from Bayern Munich. “And every team has an X-factor. You have to have it, it’s good. It’s a surprise. If we think we can use Julian in a moment and he can get a goal, then it’s all worth it.”
Green has served as something of a lightning rod for controversy since his addition to the squad this spring, when he switched allegiances from Germany to the US and later debuted off the bench against Mexico in April. While that effort was largely forgettable – Green came on in the 59th minute of a 2-2 draw – he has used the past week-and-a-half at Stanford University to impress both Klinsmann and some of the US team’s hardy veterans while becoming the youngest player selected on the 23-man World Cup roster.
“He’s a good player,” midfielder Jermaine Jones said. “I think he will show the people that he’s a good player, and he’s already showed that in some training sessions.”
Added midfielder Michael Bradley: “He’s a talented kid. He’s a guy who, whether he’s tilted off to the left or tilted off to the right in attacking positions, he’s able to go at defenders and get shots off. It’s exciting to have a young guy like that in the team.”
Green, however, was far less talkative about his skills when he met the media for the first time Friday at Stanford. Soft-spoken and clearly still learning his way with the English language, Green said he wasn’t necessarily surprised by his selection, despite a rough start to camp after dealing with the lingering effects of a shoulder injury suffered in his US debut last month.
“The first two days were a little bit complicated, because my shoulder was injured,” he said. “Now, everyday its getting better and I’m feeling comfortable.”
Green will likely be deployed as an option on the left wing, where he’ll compete with fellow German-American Fabian Johnson and Houston Dynamo winger Brad Davis. But he said he’s willing to play on the right as well, if Klinsmann needs him there next month in Brazil.
“I’m feeling good on the left wing, on the right wing, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m just giving my best, and I hope I will be on the team.”
Green said he hasn’t given much thought to critics who said he was chosen instead of USMNT icon Landon Donovan, a notion Klinsmann quickly shot down as well when the subject was broached on Friday.
“I’m a young player and I can’t comment,” Green said. “That’s the decision of the coach. Landon is a good player, but it’s the decision of the coach.”
Green also shot down the idea that Klinsmann promised him a World Cup roster spot when he made the FIFA switch of allegiances last month – “that didn’t happen,” he said – and insisted that his shoulder injury has completely healed with three weeks remaining before his potential World Cup debut.
“It was hard, but I had a couple extra trainings with Bayern, and right now the shoulder is perfect,” he said.