WASHINGTON -- They hail from Goppingen, Frankfurt, Munich, Bremen and Karlsruhe. Sunday, they'll be representing the United States, trying to defeat Germany.
The USA-Germany friendly at RFK Stadium boasts an unusual storyline, with the hosts' heavy German-American presence taking center stage. Between manager Jurgen Klinsmann and players Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Terrence Boyd and Danny Williams, facing the opposition takes on added meaning.
"I think for all of those players, they're German-American players, for myself, as a German-American, it is something special," Klinsmann said. "We asked for that game already two years ago, and now it happens. It's our Centennial game, 100 years of U.S. Soccer. We know that this is kind of broadcast over to Germany as a big deal. It's huge there, the players know that, their family's there, they want to do well, they are in between two worlds often, myself included."
Klinsmann played for Germany 108 times, scoring 47 goals and winning the 1990 World Cup, and he also coached Die Mannschaft from 2004-2006. His lead assistant at the time was current Germany boss Joachim Low, and he said that he invited Low and his coaching staff -- one that he initially assembled -- to the U.S. team hotel Friday night to catch up and talk soccer.
While the individual connection to Germany remains strong for Klinsmann, the same can be said for a number of his players. Like Klinsmann, Jones and Johnson have also played for Germany, with the former appearing in three friendlies and the latter playing on the youth level. Both players filed for one-time FIFA switches to change international allegiances, joining the USA and helping usher in a bigger multi-national presence in the player pool.
"It's a nice game to play," said the Frankfurt-born Jones, who is the son of an American serviceman and owns a home in Los Angeles. "I always say that I'm half-half; half-American, half-German. I'm proud that I have both jerseys on, and I'm proud of Germany too. I live in Germany, I was born in Germany, but now I have the jersey from America. When I go on the pitch, I want to win the game, and if I score, I score against Germany."
Added Munich native Johnson, who, along with Williams, linked up with the USA in D.C. after helping Hoffenheim avoid relegation from the Bundesliga: "I'm just excited. I know a few players, I played with some in the club or the national team for Germany. I'm just excited like the rest of the team."
The Karlsuhe-born Williams never represented Germany in an official competition, though he did play on the U-15 level, and the Bremen-born Boyd has dual citizenship but has only played for the USA, and he said that even though the meaning of playing against his birth country is strong, that will matter little over the course of Sunday's 90 minutes.
"I think for all of us German-Americans, we grew up in Germany, we spent our entire lives there," Boyd said. "Of course it has a different meaning to us, but when the ref blows the whistle it's different. Every match I wouldn't say is the same, but you don't think of other things than just what you do in the next moment, the next play. Off the field of course you think about certain things, all the stories that come with this match."
That starts with the national anthems, both of which will resonate more than usual with the USA's German-American contingent.