PHILADELPHIA (AP) Julian Green has been the Halley’s Comet of the U.S. national team. He appeared out of nowhere for the 2014 World Cup, scored against Belgium and then pretty much disappeared.
After scoring the goal that saved a German club from relegation to the third division, he’s back with a young American group that has no World Cup to prepare for. And he’s still only 22.
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“It made me much stronger. I’m a different person now. I’m a better player now,” he said Thursday ahead of next week’s exhibition against Bolivia.
Born in Tampa, Florida, Green was 2 when he moved to Germany with his older brother Justin and his German-born mother.
A member of Bayern Munich’s youth system, he was not part of the U.S. pool that qualified for the 2014 World Cup. The winger played for Germany in three qualifiers for the 2014 European Under-19 Championship, then switched to the Americans at the behest of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
He was a surprise pick on the U.S. roster four years ago this week, seemingly to displace Landon Donovan. At 19 the third-youngest player in the World Cup, Green scored in the Americans’ extra-time loss in the round of 16, two minutes after entering. He left Brazil on the list of potential breakout players for the next four-year cycle.
That potential has not yet been fulfilled.
While he played in exhibitions later that year against the Czech Republic and Colombia, his career stalled for club and country. Green was bypassed for the 2015 and 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cups and the 2016 Copa America. His only U.S. appearances were in three friendlies in 2016.
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After Bruce Arena replaced Klinsmann that fall, Green was never brought back. Until now.
“I’m curious just to hear his side of things and see where he’s at,” said interim coach Dave Sarachan, who took over after the U.S. was eliminated with last October’s loss to Trinidad and Tobago.
Green joined Bayern at age 14 and made his first-team debut on Nov. 27, 2013, late in a Champions League match against CSKA Moscow. Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said he expected to keep Green for 2014-15, then reversed course and loaned him to Hamburg. Green made it into just five Bundesliga games that season,
“The coach that wanted me, he gets fired after one week,” Green said. “That was a hard time.”
Green returned to Bayern for 2016-17, and his playing time under coach Carlo Ancelotti was limited to a pair of German Cup matches. He transferred to second-tier Stuttgart in January, had one goal in 10 league games, then was loaned to second-division Greuther Fuerth for 2017-18.
His played regularly, and his career started to revive. On May 13 he scored on a right-footed shot from about 23 yards in a 1-1 draw against Heidenheim, preventing Greuther Fuerth from getting demoted to Germany’s third tier.
“One of the best seasons for me personally,” he said.
He understands why he couldn’t get playing time at Bayern, one of the world’s top clubs.
“At each position there were like three top stars,” he said.
Green started to play a more central role this season, one that could have more of an impact on his team.
“Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola, they always told me my best position is in the middle,” Green said. “The first games at Fuerth I started out wide, and then the last games I started in the middle. And for me personally, I think in the middle is a better position.”
Green’s contract with Stuttgart runs through 2018-19, and he’s not sure which club he’ll be with next season. He knows he can’t afford to disappear from the thoughts of coaches on both sides of the Atlantic.
“To his credit, he’s only 22 years old and he’s back here, and he did it by playing his way back in,” U.S. assistant coach John Hackworth said.
If Green becomes a first-division regular, he could become part of the American nucleus for the 2022 World Cup cycle, a roster led by Christian Pulisic that also could include midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, and defender Matt Miazga. Among that quartet, Green is the oldest. He has three goals in eight U.S. appearances and is the only player on this week’s roster with World Cup experience.
“I’d like to see his personality sort of emerge,” Sarachan said. “He’s a quiet kid.”
Green had a hard time believing the U.S. failed to qualify for next month’s World Cup. Given the time difference, he didn’t stay up to watch the match in Trinidad. He figured he’d find out happy news in the morning.
“I took a look at my phone: I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I thought it was a joke.”
Notes: The U.S. will play Mexico in an exhibition on Sept. 11 at Nashville, Tennessee, the second of what likely will be two home matches during the international fixture period.