The number six jumped out at me when Jurgen Klinsmann released the U.S. starting lineup for Wednesday’s game against Germany.
Six foreign-raised starters. Four from Klinsmann’s native Germany, a Norwegian and an Icelandic product. A fifth German came off the bench.
For sure, the USA has benefited from U.S.-eligible players who were raised abroad before Klinsmann arrived. The contributions of German Tom Dooley and Dutch-raised Earnie Stewart to the U.S. national team were enormously important for American soccer.
But under Klinsmann, who has also brought into the program Germanic coaches Andi Herzog, Matthias Hamann and Berti Vogts, giving opportunities to German products has become a major part of his strategy. They don’t even have to be Bundesliga stars.
So I continually wonder how Klinsmann’s use of foreign-raised stars will affect the progress of American soccer in the long run. When Alfredo Morales has played 10 times for the USA without demonstrating extraordinary qualities -- are we denying opportunities for players raised within our shores?
When foreign-raised players get so much playing time -- how does that strike the American coaches across the country whom Klinsmann, also U.S. Soccer Technical Director, is supposed to inspire?
After this extraordinary week for U.S. soccer, I think I’m a little less worried about the situation. Klinsmann’s team that upset Germany may have been stacked with foreign products, but we’ve also seen young U.S. products shine. Bobby Wood, for example, a hero with gamewinning goals in the 2-1 win over Germany and 4-3 victory over the Dutch five days earlier.
There’s Jordan Morris, who helped the U-23s in their third-place finish at the Toulon Festival and came off the bench against Germany for his fifth U.S. appearance as a 20-year-old.
Klinsmann gave defender Ventura Alvarado the shot he deserved for his success with Club America and has kept faith in the promising 22-year-old despite shaky some spells.
Rubio Rubin, currently starring with quarterfinalist USA at the U-20 World Cup, was capped at age 18 by Klinsmann.
As long as Klinsmann is bringing in German products because they can truly raise the level of the national team -- 22-year-old central defender John Brooks may be such as an example -- and not because coaching Germans is in his comfort zone, that’s OK.
Still, if the USA continues starting teams that are half comprised of foreign products, there’s a problem somewhere.