Trust in Jurgen Klinsmann on display in U.S. soccer’s Julian Green fever

23 Comments

Search Julian Green’s name on Twitter, add a “USMNT” hashtag, and after Tuesday’s announcement from U.S. Soccer, you’ll see a level of excitement that can only be contained by a 140-character limit. If you’re already ensconced in this world, the energy’s probably also hit your Facebook, with corresponding coverage spreading like wild-fire throughout American soccer media. To both U.S. Soccer and national team fans, this is big news; even if, on first blush, it’s not obvious why.

Green is attached to the Bayern Munich brand, though – to the extend somebody who has yet to play a league game can be attached to a team. He’s also bee tearing it up for Bayern Munich II, where he’s scored 15 goals in 21 games this season. Said to have impressed after being invited to March’s national team camp, the now aspiring U.S. international carries enough mystery to tickle both optimism and cynicism.

Right now, with only two minutes of play above the German fourth division, Green is what you want him to be. If you want to see that Bayern pedigree as a sign he deserves special attention, there’s enough product there to do so. Never mind that most of the people generating that excitement haven’t seen enough of his games. There has to be a reason why Bayern not only signed him but are featuring him in their second team. And with Green also seeing time with various German U-level teams, the feeling was not exclusive to München.

But don’t begrudge people their cynicism. In fact, a more cautious approach seems to make sense. The raw numbers look great, and the prospect of fast, dynamic wide presence is tantalizing, yet we have no real idea how performance in Germany’s fourth division translates to the international stage. We don’t know if Green’s goal totals are a result of individual brilliance or his team’s collective talent. Does his 2013-14 reflect a natural ascent, or is blip in his development curve? Ask most fans and writers, they wouldn’t be able to tell you if he’s right- or left-footed.source: AP

The one thing U.S. soccer fans can rely on is Jurgen Klinsmann. On the surface, Green may seem like the latest manifestation of Klinsmann’s fetish: A German player the former Nationalmannscraft star wants to bring into the fold. And ultimately, that may be all Green (right) is, but if he does turn into a player who can made Fabian Johnson or Jermaine Jones-esque contributions, some of that hype will be worth it. Both players switched from Germany to the U.S. Both are sure to start in Brazil.

Green, however, has nowhere near the track record of Jones or Johnson. Or Danny Williams. Or Timmy Chandler. The closest comparison we have to Green is Terrence Boyd, whose acclaim among U.S. soccer’s followers has diminished slightly since his move to Rapid Wien. When he was playing with Borussia Dortmund II, people used that cache to entertain greatness. Now, he’s a valuable squad player on the bubble for Brazil.

The big difference between then two (besides Boyd being much older): Klinsmann seems much higher on Green …

[tweet https://twitter.com/J_Klinsmann/statuses/446035584792805376 width=”400″ align=”center”]

… an optimism has translated to the U.S. fan base. After seeing Klinsmann sift through the U.S. talent pool, bring new players in while casting others aside, the program’s new technical director has built huge credibility with a fan base that was once highly skeptical. It’s not only the success of Johnson or the cultivation of players like Graham Zusi and Eddie Johnson. It’s the results, too. In what many thought would be a transition cycle for the U.S., Klinsmann’s team easily won their final qualifying group, and accomplishment that’s won supporter’s trust.

If Klinsmann had looked at Green, saw nothing, and didn’t pursue him, fans would have said “15 goals in the fourth division obviously aren’t worth that much.” Instead, Green has Klinsmann’s stamp of approach. And in Klinsmann, U.S. Soccer has come to trust.

Green’s inside track to Brazil

When U.S. Soccer distributed their announcement today, they didn’t cut Green’s feelings about this summer. “I hope to do everything I can to earn a spot on the World Cup roster,” he said. Somewhere along the way, he’s been given the impression he has a chance.

Some are already speculating that Green’s been guaranteed a spot. That’s possible, but it’s also not Klinsmann’s style. As much as the coach values competition, he’s unlikely to guarantee Clint Dempsey’s spot, let alone a player who has yet to put on the uniform.

But it’s also likely Green is very close, close enough that Klinsmann convinced him to switch. Three months from Brazil, Klinsmann already has a full depth chart laid out, one he wouldn’t disrupt without reason. If Green wasn’t going to be a meaningful part of that picture, Klinsmann could have put off his full court press until the fall.

From the player’s point of view, this change could have happened at any time. The only reason to rush a decision is if a delay would cost him a spot at the World Cup. That’s likely the picture Klinsmann painted ahead of this filing.

Green is probably not a lock for Brazil, but he may now have to play his way out of a spot. With Brek Shea struggling in England, Green may be the player most likely to join Alejandro Bedoya as wide options off Klinsmann’s bench this summer.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.