GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Julian Green, the latest German-American lured to the U.S. national team by coach Jurgen Klinsmann, is ready for make his international debut in Wednesday night’s exhibition against Mexico.
A glistening young talent with speed and skill, the 18-year-old Bayern Munich forward played in three European Under-19 Championship qualifiers for Germany last fall, then was granted permission by FIFA last week to switch associations to the United States.
Green was born in Florida but grew up mainly in Germany, making regular trips to Tampa to see his father.
An avid hockey player until he chose soccer at about age 12, he made his first-team debut for Bayern Munich on Nov. 27 as an 88th-minute substitute in a Champions League match at CSKA Moscow. He’s spent most of the season with the Bayern reserves, who play in the German third division.
Klinsmann, a former Bayern player and coach, is a big reason for the switch, according to Green’s father, Jerry.
“He knew the coach’s pedigree. (Klinsmann) was certainly an excellent soccer player and has an excellent soccer mind,” the elder Green said during an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “And that in combination with his own feeling toward America, being part of an American squad” led to the decision.
Klinsmann put Julian Green off limits to media ahead of the match, the last for the Americans before the final pre-World Cup training camp opens in mid-May.
“We don’t want to put any type of pressure on him or too high expectations,” Klinsmann said, “because at the end of the day he’s a player to be developed. ... How fast everything can proceed is up to him. We take his pace, we take his development and have a very close eye on him.”
Julian was 2 when he moved with his older brother Justin and his German-born mother to Germany. Jerry Reed stayed in Florida with the plan of joining his family. It never happened, and eventually there was a divorce.
Jerry Green said Julian was interested in sports virtually from the time he could run.
“I could see early on that he was a pretty athletic kid,” the father said. “When he was 2 years old he was already trying to play sports and always had a ball in his hands somewhere and was interested in anything moving quickly.”
Julian followed his older brother into hockey, then into soccer.
Justin gravitated toward academics. He’s about to receive a degree in interactive media from college in Germany, as an environmental artist, designing background art for video games.
“I am very proud of them,” Jerry Green said, “very proud that they are taking advantage of the opportunities that they have in life. That’s all you can ask for. They’re both doing something that they’re very passionate about. A parent couldn’t ask for any more from his kids.”
The father describes Julian as “a very level-headed kid.”
“He understands it’s his job to get better and improve and do the best he can every day. One of the things I’ve always told him is he has to make sure he learns something every day about the game and about himself.”
Klinsmann said U.S. team representatives have been in contact with Green for the past 1½-to-two years. Green joins fellow German-Americans Terrence Boyd, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Alfredo Morales and Daniel Williams in the U.S. player pool.
“Obviously we have a lot of valuable information about a lot of players coming through the dual citizenship path,” Klinsmann said. “And we want to start communicating with them as early as possible and then show them how the path could be for the U.S.”
Klinsmann believes both of Green’s parents “really appreciated that we were very open and honest about everything we did.”
“So over time, the relationship is getting better and better,” he said. “It’s down to the kid. He has to make the choice. He has to make the emotional decision to go for whatever country he chooses. I think we put ourselves in a very good spot there and we are extremely happy that he chose to play for the U.S. going forward.”
Green spent two days with the U.S. in Frankfurt ahead of the March 5 exhibition against Ukraine in Cyprus.
“We’re excited to have him,” U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. “He’s a very young player, but a guy who’s shown even at a very young age that he has good starting points and a lot of qualities. We’re all excited to get to know him these next few days, kind of get the process going of showing him what it’s like to be on this team.”
Green’s father believes his son has the ability to make the U.S. World Cup roster.
“To me the larger picture is the question, Can he help them?” Jerry Green said. “And I think he can help them — speed, ability to score from some good range. I think he has as good a shot as anyone.”