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Mar 182014

It’s OK US Soccer fans. You can get excited about Julian Green choosing to play for the United States.

Before we go any further, here’s the best highlight compilation I can find, since German fourth division games are not readily available even among the shadiest of free streaming sites.

Many people are already making comparisons to Freddy Adu, Terrance Boyd, and I’ve even seen one person on Twitter bring up the name Saer Sene.

Before we talk about what those guys are/were, let’s focus on how we got to this point. Julian Green first joined Bayern Munich in 2010 at the age of 15. He is a dual citizen (Germany and the United States) and has already played for the United States U-18 team once and the Germany U-19 team five times. Several of those appearances were in Euro qualifying, which is why he must apply with FIFA for a one time switch. This season Green has 15 goals (and seven assists) in 21 appearances for the Bayern Munich reserve team that plays in the German fourth division. He has two extremely brief cameo appearances for the senior team in UEFA Champions League action and also made the roster when Bayern competed at the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup. In January, he signed a new deal with Bayern through 2017. He is a “forward”, but you’ll find some who call him a “winger” and some who call him an outright “striker”.

Now let’s talk about Freddy Adu. Freddy Adu signed with MLS’s DC United at the age of 14 at a time when MLS was struggling to survive. Prior to that he had been training at the IMG academy since 2002 when he was 12 years old. He needed 87 appearances over the course of three seasons to score his first 12 goals as an “attacking midfielder” in an extremely watered down MLS. Freddy Adu was hailed as a savior for MLS first and the US men’s national team second; remember the USMNT already had “phenoms” in the form of Landon Donovan and Damarcus Beasley after their breakout performances at the 2002 World Cup.

Now let’s make the comparison more directly. Adu was being hyped as a “phenom” in MLS at the age of 14 having not played professionally for any club. Julian Green didn’t join Bayern until he turned 15 and we are just now talking about him at the age of 18 after he’s scored 15 goals in 21 appearances for Bayern’s reserves. Adu’s youth training consisted of a US residency program that was in its infant stages and it hasn’t really grown that much in terms of quality output since. Julian Green has spent his entire Bayern “career” under the tutelage of truly world class coaches in a system with a plan/regimen that is light years ahead of anything you’ll find at the current US youth levels; although credit to guys like Tab Ramos and Wilmer Cabrera for slowly starting to change that at the lower age groups.

Then there’s the Pep Guardiola factor.

I am a true believer in Pep Guardiola the coach. He eats, breathes, and sleeps the game 24/7. He constantly looking for teaching moments, even with his senior team players. Lionel Messi had been starting for Barcelona three years before Guardiola showed up, but for four years from 2008-2012 Barca and Messi were the best team in the world. Messi was really good before Guardiola came along. He flourished after that. Don’t be fooled: Guardiola has his hands all over the youth teams at Bayern now as well.

The point I’m making with this is that Julian Green is currently developing under one of the great coaches of the “modern era”. He will only continue to improve as long as he remains at Bayern. He is already well beyond whatever level Freddy Adu was at when he first became a “phenom” in 2004. If there was no hope for Green, I do not believe Guardiola would’ve signed him to an extension this January. Meanwhile, Adu has transferred to more teams than we can count since he left DC United in 2006. Freddy Adu has turned out to be a very average soccer player. Whatever happens with Green between now and 2018, he will not be as “well traveled” as Adu. He play wherever he goes and he will play well.

So that’s Julian Green the “hyped prospect”. What about Julian Green the USMNT player?

I think he deserves a spot on the plane to Brazil this summer. If the US is ever going to win the World Cup, it has to bring its best players; no questions asked. I have not seen Green play this season. I have, however, watched his “direct competition” play. Jozy Altidore continues to struggle in the English Premier League. Clint Dempsey has underwhelmed ever since he left the Premier League for the less taxing MLS. Terrance Boyd has double digit goals this season while playing in Austria. Boyd is the next closest comparison to Green since he played extremely well in Borussia Dortmund’s youth system before being sold to Rapid Wien. The problem with Boyd is we have never seen him get regular minutes for the US. Jozy Altidore, regardless of his club form, continues to steal valuable minutes from Boyd. Fellow newcomer Aron Johannsson is probably the only US “forward” right now that I’m prepared to say with absolute certainty is a better overall soccer player than Green.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Julian Green doesn’t play for the US in 2018 and beyond; barring injury obviously. When it comes to 2014, the question you have to ask yourself is this: Is Julian Green better than the 23-30 guys Jurgen Klinsmann wants to take to Brazil right now. If Green is to be a “winger” I would rate him (again, based solely on his resume) as just as good as the likes of Graham Zusi or even Juan Agudelo. He is definitely better than recent US performers Brek Shea (winger) and Chris Wondolowski (striker).

So why can’t we get excited about Julian Green playing for the US in 2014 and beyond? Some might say he doesn’t deserve a chance because he hasn’t “put in the time” that other guys have. I have to assume “put in the time” means “he hasn’t played in World Cup qualifying or the Gold Cup”. So you want to potentially hold a guy back because he has played in European qualifying but not CONCACAF? Because he hasn’t scored a goal or two against Guatemala or Jamaica? Are those really the best factors to determine who the “best” US players are at this point in time?

Great is great. Julian Green has a resume that no other US international had when they were 18. I’m not heralding him as a savior. I actually don’t even believe he should start if he goes to Brazil. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t good enough to come off the bench in the 70th minute with the Stars And Stripes down a goal. It doesn’t mean he can’t make his teammates better, and vice versa. It doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the 23 best American soccer players at this time.

So go ahead and get excited about Julian Green potentially playing in the World Cup this year. Keep your fingers crossed that he makes the team this summer. Then we can get a good look at just how good he really is. We can find out whether or not he can help bring the United States closer to winning a World Cup.

Adam Uthe

VP of Content Development for GFT and proud supporter of Columbus Crew (MLS) and Liverpool FC (EPL). @AUtheGFT

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