Monday, February 19, 2018
Sports

Bayern Munich player from Tampa at soccer national team crossroads

TAMPA — There's an international soccer squall brewing.

And a kid from Tampa is squarely in the eye of the storm.

Tampa-born Julian Green will train with the U.S. Men's National team in advance of Wednesday's game against Ukraine in Cyprus. Green, who plays professionally for prestigious German power Bayern Munich, will join the Yanks for a two-day training camp in Frankfurt.

"We are thrilled Julian accepted our invitation and comes into these two days in Frankfurt," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann told ussoccer.com. "We want to show him how things work with the United States team and with our environment. We want him to meet the players, to meet the staff, obviously to meet us coaches and we want him to feel comfortable in our environment."

Green, who was born in Tampa and holds dual citizenship, has played with both U.S. and German youth national teams in the past. However, the talented 18-year-old attacker has not yet declared which country he will play for on the senior level.

"I am looking forward to the days with (the U.S. team)," Green said via email from Germany. "I am proud and happy that Jurgen Klinsmann is interested in watching me play and I am curious about the training and the people. I am sure it will be a valuable experience and I will enjoy it."

• • •

Although he has played for both countries at the youth level, a step to either's senior national team would be binding. Green would have to file a one-time change of association with Federation International of Football Association (FIFA) in order to play for the U.S. team, a move that would permanently tie his international allegiance to the Americans.

"Playing for a national team and representing a whole country is always a special honor but it is never the decision of a player only," Green said. "You have also to be nominated by the coach."

And that's what makes Klinsmann's decision to call Green into camp so intriguing for U.S. soccer fans. Although he will not travel to Cyprus for the match, and moved out of Ukraine for safety reasons, his mere presence at training indicates the U.S. team is putting on a serious push to have Green wear stars and stripes permanently.

"Julian is an exceptional talent," said Klinsmann, a legendary former player who once coached Bayern and the German national team. "(It's) not only because he's playing for Bayern Munich, but he's shown that already over the past two years in the senior team environment there against the 'older guys.' "

• • •

The U.S. team has had some success luring dual-citizenship players like current national team members Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones, but has lost out on other coveted stars such as Giuseppe Rossi (Italy) and Neven Subotíc (Serbia).

And Germany figures to be a player in the Green tug-of-war. Green has starred for Bayern Munich's reserve squad — he scored 15 goals in 18 appearances last season — and also made a cameo with the first team in a Champions League match against CSKA Moscow.

Green said taking the pitch for Bayern Munich, a team that has won a record 23 Bundesliga titles and five more Champions League titles, was thrilling.

"Beyond words," Green said of his debut. "It was an unbelievable moment. I was very happy and very nervous at the same time. But my nervousness swept away quickly and I could enjoy it."

• • •

While in the Army and stationed in Germany, Julian's father, Jerry Green, married a local woman. The pair moved to Tampa and Julian was born at MacDill Air Force Base. After two years, the couple separated and Julian and his brother, Justin, moved back to Germany with their mother.

And although Julian is undecided on his future with either national team, Jerry has made his preference clear.

"I want him to play for America," he said. "I am an American, a U.S. fan and it's where I'm from."

National allegiance aside, Jerry, who lives in Tampa, also feels choosing the U.S. team would be the best career move for his son.

"I think Julian could help (the U.S.) and playing for America would be just as fulfilling as playing for Germany," said Jerry, an admissions and community outreach counselor at Eckerd College.

"Yes, Germany has a better chance to win a World Cup right now, but that might not be the case three or four years from now. The U.S. has a very promising squad and I think it would be ideal for him."

There has been speculation Klinsmann could entice Green to fully commit to the U.S. team by promising him a slot in this summer's World Cup in Brazil. The FIFA application takes about a month.

Although Green has yet to cap (play in an international game) for the U.S. team on the senior level, Jerry wouldn't be shocked if Klinsmann adds his son's name to the American roster this summer.

"I wouldn't be surprised at all," Jerry said. "He practices every day against some of the best players in the world at Bayern. I think it's ridiculous to think he couldn't hold his own on the World Cup stage. I haven't leaned on Julian at all in terms of (choosing a country), but if he were to get a World Cup call, I would. It would be that time. I think it would be an offer he couldn't refuse."

• • •

Which nation Green chooses remains to be seen, but the striker isn't tipping his hand.

"I have not made a decision yet, because there are many different factors I have to consider," he said. "Partially it is an emotional decision, because of my familiar background. Based on career possibilities there are pros and cons for both countries as well. At the moment I can't say what will be the deciding factor in the end."

Stay tuned.

Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]

 
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