May 23, 2014
By Charles Cuttone
What does Klinsmann’s World Cup roster say about the direction of US Soccer?
Jurgen Klinsmann made some curious decisions in selecting the United States National Team roster for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, leading to the question, where exactly is soccer in the United States going?
Obviously, Klinsmann thinks this is the roster that has the best chance of performing well in Brazil, though given the team’s placement in the so called group of death with Ghana, Germany and Portugal, doing well in Brazil may be hoping for a win and a draw, but is this really the best team that can be fielded and the best reflection of American soccer?
Sure, one can make the argument either way for Landon Donovan, and Klinsmann has made it clear all along there would be no sacred cows. Instead, Klinsmann replaced the best player ever produced by America with an 18-year-old with dual German and American citizenship and all of three minutes on the field with the senior US squad, Julian Green. Green, born of an American father and German mother, had gone back and forth between U.S. and German National teams as a youth, thanks to FIFA’s curiously porous rules on such things, before becoming officially “cap tied” to the United States earlier this year in a friendly against Mexico.
Donovan may have hurt himself with Klinsmann after his three-month sabbatical from soccer, one that left him mentally and physically prepared to go back out on the field an perform at a high standard. The hiatus may have left Klinsmann wondering about Donovan’s commitment, so instead he replaced him with a teenager who committed to the U.S. only when it became clear he was not in Germany’s plans.
Green’s total national team experience is 12 games. Except for the cap in March against Mexico, all at the youth level .
Green is one of five German-American players on the U.S. roster. One of the others, Timothy Chandler, hasn’t played for the U.S. in over a year and struggled with injuries during the second half of the Bundesliga season. And, while the U.S. has always been a melting pot of immigrants, and the national team pool has always reflected that, these players are not among the huddled masses whose families came to American seeking a better life. They are American because of parental passport, but have little or no experience as Americans. They will wrap themselves in the American flag as part of our national team, and while there is nothing wrong with that, it leaves one wondering where is the American player development system if the national team has to scour Germany for players with American bloodlines.
MLS is clearly a better league than it was four years ago, and that’s reflected with the selection of 10 active MLS players on this roster as opposed to only four in South Africa. But what about America’s largest immigrant group, Mexican Americans? Where are they? There is a large contingent of Americans playing in Mexico. Several of them contributed to the U.S. making it to Brazil. Yet they were left off the roster.
The lack of the Hispanic representation in U.S. soccer has long been a sticking point. With this U.S. roster, you have to wonder if we are heading back down the same old road.