There is an unrelenting irony to the way things have played out for Timothy Chandler in the last nine months.
For years, the U.S. chased after Chandler, as the German-American dipped his toe in the water time and time again, only to spurn the team when it came time to report for a game which would cap-tie him to the Yanks for the rest of his playing career.
Finally, after claiming he'd only been waiting to establish himself with his club team, and not sitting by the phone waiting for Germany to call, Chandler played in the USA's 2-1 loss at Honduras in the opening match of the Hexagonal, tying him to the USA forever more.
He hasn't played for Jurgen Klinsmann's team since.
The U.S. finally got what it was after and all of a sudden, the thrill was gone – or so it seemed.
After being listed as unavailable with injury in the subsequent two roster announcements after the Honduras match, Chandler has fallen off the map entirely. The latest, and perhaps worst ignominy came on Monday, when Eric Lichaj – he of zero caps since the summer of 2011 – was picked for the U.S. roster ahead of Chandler.
Sure, Chandler had a bit of a nightmare that February afternoon in San Pedro Sula, but his continuing omission speaks to a potentially larger issue.
Straight away, one has to allow for the possibility that Klinsmann and his staff simply don't rate Chandler as a player. When asked about his omission for the team's roster against Bosnia-Herzegovina in August, the U.S. coach simply stated there were other players ahead of Chandler on the depth chart.
Fair enough, but objectively, Chandler's continuing absence from the U.S. roster is puzzling to say the least (U.S. Soccer declined comment to Goal on Chandler's omission).
First of all, the team's right back situation is hardly settled, as converted midfielder Brad Evans currently resides precariously atop the depth chart. Behind him are players with major question marks like Michael Parkhurst (lack of club minutes) and Steve Cherundolo (age, injury), players out of position like Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, and Michael Orozco, and Lichaj.
More importantly, though, is Chandler's obvious pedigree. He's been a Bundesliga regular for four seasons now and at just 23, he still has room to grow as a player. Oddly enough, U.S. assistant coach Andreas Herzog went to Germany to scout Chandler late last month, and saw the right back turn in a strong performance against Stuttgart, as he tallied an assist. Chandler has now started eight consecutive Bundesliga matches. Still, no call-up came.
If Klinsmann is indeed omitting Chandler at least partially due to his lack of commitment in the past, it certainly wouldn't be the first time the U.S. boss had done so.
Most famous is the case of Landon Donovan, whose voluntary sabbatical last winter led Klinsmann to omit him for multiple rosters upon his return with the Galaxy, before he forced the USA's all-time leading scorer to earn his way back with a B-team apprenticeship in the Gold Cup this summer.
During his time as Germany's head coach, Klinsmann was similarity unafraid to drop the axe. First, he sacked his goalkeeper coach Sepp Maier after Maier made public comments undermining Klinsmann's authority. The decision led former Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus to famously label Klinsmann a “cold-blooded killer.”
Klinsmann also had a very public falling out with defender Christian Woerns ahead of the 2006 World Cup, as the Germany boss froze Woerns out of the team permanently after the defender openly criticized his head coach. Woerns never played for Germany again.
Chandler's situation is obviously different to the German pair who spoke out in the media, but the Maier and Woerns scenarios do display Klinsmann's willingness to cast players and coaches aside for off-the-field reasons.
Of course, Donovan is the player whose situation is most comparable to Chander's, and as Klinsmann showed with the Galaxy attacker (and Jozy Altidore to a lesser extent), reconciliation is always a possibility.
Chandler's omission from the USA roster to face Scotland and Austria has led many to deliver eulogies for his World Cup chances, but those are likely premature. Chandler's reemergence with Nurnberg coupled with the USA's dearth of options at right back means the World Cup dream isn't completely dead for Chandler with seven months to go.
The USA staff has dispatched scouts to his matches, which shows that he's close. If Chandler does get a return call and turns in a couple couple good performances with the national team, he could still make the right back spot his ahead of the World Cup.
But time is running low, and Chandler's past actions may have put him behind the eight ball. There is little doubt he's earned one more chance to prove himself before next summer. Now Klinsmann must decide if it's even worth the trouble.
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