Being an unproven 18-year old with scant high-level professional experience would always lead some to assume Jurgen Klinsmann secured the prospect’s services by promising a World Cup roster spot. The notion always seemed a bit far-fetched and conspiratorial, but figured to generate some consideration.
When Green did make the World Cup team and legendary U.S. national team player Landon Donovan didn’t, the conspiracy theories went into overdrive. Green quickly became the answer to a trivia question, despite it being a stretch to say his presence cost Donovan a place in the World Cup.
“That didn’t happen,” Green told Goal USA when asked if he was promised a World Cup roster spot if he chose the USA over Germany. “In soccer you always have to give your best on the pitch and you have to bring your best.”
“Surprised? I gave a lot of work on the pitch and I’m just happy,” Green said when asked if making the World Cup roster came as a shock. “Yeah of course I'm very happy, [choosing the USA over Germany] was the right decision. I love playing here and I'm very happy.”
Green’s work on the pitch in U.S. training camp has impressed many of his teammates, and obviously Klinsmann, who chose to put him on the roster despite his relative lack of experience, which includes just one national team appearance.
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“They measure themselves with the quality you bring to the table, not with the age and not where you are coming from,” Klinsmann said. “[Teammates] want to see that in the games. We played, over the last 10 days, a lot of small side games, very competitive games and games that you can’t hide. Julian didn’t hide, not even one second.”
The U.S. coach also insisted Green's presence did not cost Donovan a place on the World Cup roster.
"There was never a comparison [to Donovan] because he’s just different,” Klinsmann said of Green. “[Green] brings a different element to the game, and we are excited about it.”
Though he has managed just one professional appearance above the German fourth division, the 18-year-old remains one of Bayern Munich’s most prized young prospects. He was sought after by the German youth national team setup before he chose to play for the United States. In camp he has shown the speed, confidence and technical quality to impress teammates and coaches as well.
“He really impressed me,” U.S. defender Fabian Johnson said of Green. “He’s a good guy off the field as well. He’s a technical guy with good speed. He’s still a young guy with much talent, I think he can be a really great player if he keeps working.”
“He has good feet, he has good decision making,” U.S. captain Clint Dempsey said. “I think that by playing with a club like Bayern Munich, you get great coaching, and you can see that he's a kid that has a bright future and we're happy to have him.”
Dempsey also pointed to the benefits that bringing a young player like Green can have at the World Cup.
"I think you need a good mix in the team,” Dempsey said. “You need people who are hungry who are not going to be afraid, (players) that are new to it so they don't know what to fear. Also you need people with experience that have been in the situations and know how to handle tough games. I think that's a balance you always try to find as a coach, try to find the right mix of youth and experience and what's going to be best for the team moving forward, and I think we have a good mix.”
Klinsmann’s decision to leave Donovan off the World Cup roster has heaped even greater expectations on Green, but the youngster isn’t showing any signs of feeling the pressure. He smiled through interviews this weekend, looking like a happy and carefree teenager who isn't bothered by any suggestions that he didn’t earn his spot on the World Cup team.
Starting with Tuesday’s friendly against Azerbaijan, Green should have plenty of opportunities to show U.S. fans what his coaches and teammates have been seeing in training camp: a young player who just might wind up being the star of the U.S. team’s next generation.