Stoppage Time: Green gives U.S. reason to hope

Stoppage Time: Green gives U.S. reason to hope

<p>Tuesday was about as monumental of a day as possible for United States national team fans.</p>

Philadelphia, PA ( - Tuesday was about as monumental of a day as possible for United States national team fans.

No, the Americans did not overtake one of world football's powers in a friendly match on foreign soil. FIFA did not magically re-draw the groups for this summer's World Cup and take the U.S. squad out of its "Group of Death" to reassign Jurgen Klinsmann's men to a new group consisting of Iran, Switzerland and Algeria (though I'm not sure anyone would oppose a new draw seeing as how being in a group with Germany, Portugal and Ghana is an incredibly cruel twist of fate for a nation that topped its region in qualifying).

What happened Tuesday was the strike of a match that could ignite the U.S. national team's fire ahead of an undoubtedly difficult World Cup group in Brazil, as well as the nation's next two or three World Cup efforts.

That ignition comes from a seemingly innocent decision from an 18-year-old kid, Julian Green.

Green has been the subject of a slight tug-of-war between the United States and Germany, both of which the Tampa, Fla., native has been eligible to represent on the international level.

He has featured for both nations at the youth level, playing for the U.S. Under-18 team in 2012 before representing Germany in 2014 European Under-19 Championship qualifying.

Green's future with the U.S. team looked grim when he denied Klinsmann's invitation for a pair of November friendly matches. But Klinsmann persisted, baiting Green to commit to his team by dangling a spot on this summer's World Cup roster in front of the youngster's eyes.

"This is a player who has tremendous potential going forward," Klinsmann said in an interview with last week. "I think there's a strong chance to see him rather sooner than later and there's also a chance for him to break even into this World Cup roster. But first he has to make this decision and we go from there."

The decision was made this week and Klinsmann deserves the lion's share of the credit for how it transpired.

Make no mistake, Green was heavily recruited for a place with the U.S. team. Not only did Klinsmann's sentiments about potentially naming Green to the World Cup squad entice him to choose the United States over Germany, but the coach's enthusiasm for inclusion has trickled down to the player pool, which opened Green to the fold with open arms.

Green spent two days with the national team ahead of its friendly match against Ukraine on March 5, and the youngster said his warm reception influenced his decision to commit to the United States.

"A big part of the decision was the experience I had in Frankfurt," Green said, according to "All the players were super nice and welcomed me from the beginning. Clint Dempsey gave me a jersey with my name on it, and the way they supported me gave me a lot of belief. The coaches have shown a lot of trust in me, and now I hope to do everything I can to earn a spot on the World Cup roster."

Klinsmann has shown a penchant for securing the services of players eligible to represent multiple national teams. He hit the mark with Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams and Aron Johansson, and the subsequent competition for places has raised the level of play for everyone in the pool.

Shouldn't Green's commitment have a meaningful impact on the national team's current corps of strikers? Jozy Altidore hasn't been in the best form (to put it kindly) since making the switch from AZ Alkmaar to Sunderland; wouldn't it benefit the national team to add another capable striker to the fold?

And the ripple effect of impact should not simply be limited to Altidore. With Green committing to the U.S. national team, all of the nation's fringe strikers have been put on red alert. Suddenly, Chris Wondolowski, Eddie Johnson and Terrence Boyd are sweating ahead of the roster selection: Make yourself indispensable to Klinsmann's World Cup plans, or buy an HD-TV to watch the games this summer.

Even if Green is the last man on Klinsmann's World Cup roster, he adds value to the team in a way that no other player in the pool can. He plays for Bayern Munich. The majority of the German national team plays for Bayern Munich. The U.S. squad is in the same group as Germany. Klinsmann used to coach both Germany and Bayern Munich.

Pairing Green, a player who trains alongside German internationals every day, with Klinsmann, a man who knows the strengths and weaknesses of virtually every German player, can only help the national team's odds of getting a result against Germany in the final match of the group stage, which they'll likely need given the vast quality in the group.

All of this added value from Green and his ability on the pitch has not yet been highlighted. His technical play and ability to occupy dangerous positions would make him a game-changer if the Americans are seeking a late goal in any match of the group stage.

And at only 18 years old, Green figures to be a key piece for the United States in Russia in 2018, Qatar in 2022, and beyond.

So remember this week in the future when Green comes good and becomes the next poster child for American soccer. The decision was that important.

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