When looking at the 30 players taking part in the U.S. national team pre-World Cup camp, Landon Donovan and Julian Green couldn't be further apart in their career trajectories.
The 32-year-old Donovan has made 156 national team appearances, scoring 57 goals and playing in three World Cups along the way. The 18-year-old Green has made one national team appearance, and still hasn't scored a professional or international goal, but stands a few weeks away from potentially being the youngest player to ever make a U.S. World Cup team.
It may be a bit premature to call the intersection of their careers a potentially significant transition in American soccer history, but it might wind up being just that.SPORTING NEWS: Projected USA starters | Mexico XI
Perhaps it was fitting that Donovan and Green entered Green's national team debut together, in the April 2 friendly draw against Mexico. Green showed some glimpses during that cameo, and did impress his new U.S. teammates. But recent American soccer history is riddled with players who were supposed to be the next big thing, so praise for Green has been measured.
"As far as Julian goes, I’m always reluctant with young players to, one way or the other, critique them, because they’re still young and they need time to develop," Donovan said in a recent interview with Goal USA. "We’ve seen a lot of times in this country that we get a little too excited about a young player and it ends up affecting them one way or the other, good or bad."
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Donovan was careful not to heap praise, but acknowledged that the 18-year-old winger-forward has the talent to potentially make an impact in the near future.
"His starting points are very good. He clearly has some talent," Donovan said. "He moves well and maneuvers well on the field. He seems confident. He made a play in the Mexico game in limited minutes that could have potentially changed the game in our favor. He also made some bad passes and some bad plays, so that’s sort of what you get with a young player. But there are some starting points and we’ll see over time as he plays more games whether he pans out or not.
"We want to make sure that he has the opportunity to play some games and get his feet under him before we make any determination about how much he’s going to help."
Donovan stood in Green's place a dozen years ago, when he was a hot-shot young prospect who was a somewhat surprising addition to the 2002 World Cup team.
"I don’t have that youthful energy and excitement that I did in 2002," Donovan told media at U.S. training camp on Monday. "But I see the game and the situation a lot more clearly now and so I’m able to I think enjoy it more. When you're younger you just kind of go crazy trying to make the team and you forget to enjoy it."
It is unclear just how much Green is getting to enjoy the U.S. training camp, especially considering the fight he is facing to make the World Cup team. If he goes to Brazil, Green just might wind up being a difference-making youngster the way a 20-year-old Donovan was in South Korea back in 2002.
"I think every World Cup there’s surprises as far as the roster goes, certainly myself and DaMarcus (Beasley) were late additions and were probably unexpected to some extent," Donovan said. "Julian may be that player this time I think."