By Mike Woitalla
On paper, the inclusion of Julian Green seems Coach Jurgen Klinsmann's most controversial roster pick for the 2014 World Cup.
The 18-year-old Bayern Munich attacker has yet to see action in the Bundesliga. He did make a two-minute off the bench in a meaningless UEFA Champions League game last fall but otherwise has played fourth division ball with Bayern's reserve team.
Klinsmann: 'It's down to pure performance'
Klinsmann must believe that Green is more likely to help the USA at the World Cup than Landon Donovan, the USA’s all-time leading scorer and veteran of the last three World Cups.
“I’m not comparing Julian with Landon,” said Klinsmann. "That’s absolutely not the discussion. We have in Julian a player who brings certain values to the team that we observed over almost two years in many, many of his games and his training sessions at Bayern Munich. And we see it by talking to [Bayern coach] Pep Guardiola many times.”
Guardiola has praised Green saying he “can play wide and up front, left and right.” Green has appeared and scored in friendly games with Bayern’s first team. This past season he scored 15 goals in 21 games for Bayern Munich II.
“We see a very special talent coming through,” said Klinsmann. “He’s getting more and more ready everyday. He’s getting stronger everyday and he has more confidence.”
Klinsmann said he did not promise a World Cup roster spot while convincing Green, who was born in Florida and has lived in Germany since age 2, to commit to the USA after spending a couple days to U.S. training camp in March. Green then played 31 minutes in the 2-2 friendly with Mexico April 2 and showed signs that he could possess dribbling skills the USA generally lacks.
And, apparently, Green has been extremely impressive in training camp with the USA.
“He’s very well respected already in this group,” Klinsmann said. “In a soccer team, it’s very simple. They measure themselves with the quality they bring to the table -- not the age or not where they’re coming from.
“They want to see that in the games and over the last 10 days we had a lot and lot of small-sided games. Very competitive games and games where he cannot hide. And Julian didn’t hide. Not even one second.”
“If you ask the other players what they think about the kid you’ll hear a lot of positives.”
Klinsmann then insisted again there was never a comparison between Green and Donovan. But it’s hard to believe Donovan would have been dropped if he didn’t think Green could add the kind of offensive spark that Donovan had delivered for so many years.