There were plenty of USMNT players and alums on show as the Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga returned to the pitch this weekend, and there may be more to come when Josh Sargent’s Werder Bremen hits the field Monday.
Weston McKennie, Schalke — This fella divided opinions amongst Americans on social media as Schalke were run out of the proverbial gym in the Revierderby, but the 21-year-old was pretty decent in a bd spot.
Playing as a No. 6, McKennie was often on an island. He dominated the stat sheet and was rated the club’s best performer by numerous statistical outlets. He couldn’t put out fires on two break goals and caught some guff on social media, but he had the most positive moments amongst his struggling teammates.
Sofascore, for one, rated him equal to anyone in a similar role on the victors, as McKennie rang up five of seven duels won, five interceptions, four tackles, a blocked shot and was dribbled past once. Sometimes maligned for passing, the 21-year-old American posted 79 touches and 81 percent passing, including three of six long balls.
Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Playing wide on the right, Adams completed 83 percent of his passes and hit on his lone long ball attempt. Both of his shot attempts were off-target, and he won four of seven duels while making three tackles in a 1-1 draw with visiting Freiburg. Three points were expected.
Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf – Twenty-two minutes off the bench in a rough 0-0 draw with fellow strugglers Paderborn. Got stuck right in, winning four of five duels with a tackle and drawing a foul while the heat map has him all over the right side of the pitch (Sofascore).
John Brooks, Wolfsburg – Ups and a very big down for Brooks, whose attempted clearance of a free kick was nearly an own goal before Augsburg’s Tin Jedvaj finished the job in a 2-1 win. Brooks had a clearance, interception, and two tackles, winning three of five duels and completing 93 percent of his passes including eight of 10 longballs (Sofascore).
Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen – plays v. Bayer Leverkusen, Monday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt – Sixteen minutes off the bench as one of Eintracht’s five subs. Seventeen touches at right midfield. Lots of desperation crosses and an interception as Eintracht clawed back one goal after he entered with a 3-0 deficit.
Fabian Johnson, Borussia Monchengladbach – Did not feature in a 3-1 win over Eintracht.
Julian Green, Greuther Furth — An ankle injury and the coronavirus pause meant his start v. Hamburg was his first since November. Green played his usual steady game over 59 minutes in a 2-2 draw, passing at 90 percent with a key pass, interception, and shot on target while being fouled twice.
Bobby Wood, Hamburg and Sebastian Soto, Hannover 96– Wood didn’t make the bench and Soto, linked to Norwich City, saw his match with Dynamo Dresden postponed.
Sometimes, when the post-match celebrations are still raging in Bavaria, you’ll find Greuther Furth midfielder Julian Green doing something he’s done since he was a kid in Florida.
Far from the lights of the 2.Bundesliga pitches, and surely less glamorous than orchestrating Furth’s attack from the center of the park, one of the most-fouled players in the league is worried about a different kind of tackle.
“You have to be calm,” the USMNT midfielder told ProSoccerTalk. “I like it after games, it relaxes me. You have to have confidence but also if something doesn’t go the right way, you have to stay with it and suddenly you catch a fish. In some ways it’s a little bit like soccer. Because you always have to do the right things, or the right tackle, and then you score. Or you catch a fish.”
Green’s demeanor belies his energetic presence on the pitch. Through Furth’s 2W-2D-1L start to the season, he’s been one of their top players. The 24-year-old has a pair of goals, leads the team in shots-per-game (2.6), and is completing 83.3 percent of his passes at a high danger position.
Through five match days of the 2.Bundesliga season, he’s been fouled 2.8 times per match. It’s early, but he finished the previous two seasons as the 7th-most and 4th-most fouled players in the league. Targeted.
“Every team is watching our games like we watch their games and they know which player they have to control,” he said. “Sometimes there are 2-3 guys around me but that’s soccer. If they try to tackle me or foul me, it’s no problem. I have to be a little quicker so they can’t get me.”
More a fish than a fisherman, if we’re honest.
Green has been with Furth for three seasons now, well settled after short stints at Hamburg and Stuttgart following six years as property of Bayern Munich.
He cemented his status amongst Furth supporters when he finished his first season there by scoring a goal against Heidenheim to keep the side in the 2.Bundesliga on the final day of the 2017-18 season.
His latest appearance was his 60th for the club — he has nine goals and four assists — but he’s never been a more critical part of the team than he’s been since the hiring of Stefan Leitl. The former Ingolstadt manager has started Green every time he’s eligible for selection.
“He doesn’t crack under pressure and doesn’t shy away from taking over responsibility,” Leitl said of Green. “In this season, he has already shown that he can reliably fulfill the role in the center without being restricted in his creativity or his way of playing soccer.”
Leitl credits Green for his hard work and low-key demeanor, saying the German-American’s “drive to constantly improve has a positive effect on the entire squad and team dynamic.”
He also credits the player for his adaptability and engine, capable as a No. 8 or a No. 10 in Leitl’s complex system.
“We want to keep a smart balance between higher and lower pressure phases in the game, therefore our players have to be able to quickly adapt to different tactical situations and formations,” he said. “With his skills et, Julian is able to do that. He is a very versatile player, has good technique and is eager to run a lot.”
Green has plenty of love for Leitl, who’s grown a side with a mix of youngsters and veterans. For every Green, Paul Seguin, or Marco Meyerhofer — all 24 of younger — there’s a veteran like Marco Caligiuri or Albanian national team captain Mergim Mavraj.
“(Leitl) is a big part and he made our team better,” Green said. “Not only me. Since he’s here you see the whole game of the team changed a lot.”
There may be some more American life coming through the pipeline to Furth’s first team; Eighteen-year-old midfielder Blaine Ferri (Southlake, Texas) is a regular starter on Furth II, which has started 6W-2D-1L, and right wing/right back Malik McLemore (22) has two goals in his last four matches for the second team.
“Over here the structures, especially in the youth academies are being professionalized more and more,” Leitl said. “Talented and uprising players are really benefiting from these structures. Nevertheless, you have to recognize the great work that has been and is still being accomplished in the U.S. … Soccer is on the rise in the states and there has been a great increase in talented American players that make it to a professional level in Europe.”
It helps that Green is comfortable in his shoes, and his position. He’s 24 and in the final year of his contract. Furth wants to keep him around beyond the season. He wants to get to the highest level, and would be thrilled to do it with Furth.
Green’s track back to the USMNT picture is in a similar place. He’s just trying to control the controllable. Multiple times, he expresses a desire to let his play do the talking. His international tenure has been a roller coaster from its dawn, representing both Germany and the U.S. at youth international levels.
Eventually won over by Jurgen Klinsmann, Green earned his first cap at 18, turned 19 two months later, made the 2014 World Cup roster, and scored two minutes into his first and only match of the tournament. You remember the goal.
He’d earn just five caps in the next three-and-a-half years, scoring against Cuba and New Zealand in 2016, before becoming a regular contributor for interim boss Dave Sarachan. He scored against France in a run of six-straight caps, but Gregg Berhalter was hired and has yet to call up the midfielder.
He wants back in, but is willing to keep working and hope for the call.
“For a soccer player it’s one of the best feelings to wear your nation’s jersey and it’s a big goal for me to get back there,” Green said. “Right now I’m focusing on Furth and I want to make good games here and then we’ll see what will happen in the future.”
Given his background as a highly recruited dual national, Bayern Munich academy product, and World Cup goal scorer, it’s easy to forget that Green carries a lot of Florida in his back pocket. Not just the fishing, but his Twitter feed is equal parts U.S. Soccer and the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I played hockey ’til I was 10 years old,” he said. “I still love watching hockey, especially the playoffs, maybe not last season because I love Tampa Bay Lightning. I don’t want to give them too much pressure this season but I think this time there’s no way any other team can win the Cup but them.”
That’s a pressure he’s not placing on Furth, who is off to another fine start in a bid for promotion and the club’s first Bundesliga season since 2012-13.
“We can’t say what will be in May but we have to be calm and play our game. This season it’s the best 2.Bundesliga ever. There are many big names like Stuttgart, Hamburg, Hannover or Nuremberg. So for us right now it’s hard to say we have to get to the Bundesliga but we all want to win and at the end we are all playing to win.”
Furth’s next match comes against winless Labor Wiesbaden on Sept. 13. Two of the next three come against big boys Stuttgart and Hamburg, and will provide a real glimpse at Furth’s chances to mount a successful season-long campaign.
The early season report that 2.Bundesliga side Greuther Fuerth manager Stefan Leitl wants to tie Julian Green down to a new contract are making a lot of sense with three league matches in the books.
Playing as a No. 8, Green has gone 90 minutes in all three league matches under Leitl this season, scoring against FC St. Pauli and Jahn Regensburg. That gives him five goals in 15 matches since Leitl was hired late last season.
Green turned 24 this summer, a number that feels even younger considering his goal against Belgium at the 2014 World Cup seems like it happened about 150 years ago.
It’s a small sample size, but after three games Green is the 8th-ranked performer in the entire German second division by advanced statistics site WhoScored. And for those who sleep on the English Championship and 2.Bundesliga, it’s worth noting that is one of only two second tiers the web site bothers rating on a week-to-week basis.
In addition to his pair of goals, Green is completing 89.2 percent of his passes in the center of the park, making 1.7 tackles per match, and has drawn 3.3 fouls per match. That last figure is fourth in the league.
In the 2.Bundesliga, St. Pauli 1-3 Greuther Furth. American mid Julian Green with a very nice 70th minute goal to round out the scoring. Green played a full 90 pic.twitter.com/7yQXTK6Pl3
Green isn’t a flashy personality and even says in the above article that he’d rather his play do the talking, but you have to think he’s on the radar of Greeg Berhalter for next month’s USMNT friendlies with so many Americans on new club teams and MLS in the thick of its stretch run.
Green had certain success under USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan but has yet to be called up by Berhalter, a man who knows the value of the 2.Bundesliga having helped Energie Cottbus to Bundesliga promotion as a player.
And as a No. 8, or even further up and central? Nice.
If he doesn’t re-up with Furth, it will be intriguing to see where he winds up next season (especially if Furth manages to get promoted).
When it comes to Americans Abroad, few leagues have as many active USMNT-eligible players than Germany’s second tier.
Maybe it’s a knock-on effect of Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT tenure, but seven players with American blood have taken part in matches over the first two weekends in 2.Bundesliga (four with U.S. connections have not).
“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.
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.