Putting together a roster for U.S. Men’s National Team camp is never as straight forward as it seems. Because MNT camps almost always convene right after a full slate of club matches, the 23 (or more) players that are scheduled to come in at the beginning of the weekend are rarely the same as what eventually arrives by the following Monday.
This time around, following a mild injury suffered by Alejandro Bedoya in Philadelphia Union’s 3-2 loss to New York Red Bulls on Oct. 1, a slot opened up to bring back a player who hasn’t been heard from much in MNT circles since the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Just 19 years old then, Julian Green made a name for himself when he came off the bench in the USA’s Round of 16 match against Belgium to put home a fantastic volley in extra time of the eventual 2-1 loss. That match was just his third appearance for the National Team and it would take him nearly two full years to double his cap tally, doing so in the MNT’s 3-1 win against Puerto Rico in a transitional camp prior to this summer’s Copa America Centenario.
Following a preseason where he scored four goals for Bayern Munich, including a hat trick against Inter Milan, Green has consistently made the bench for the German giants. Training every day and having to battle for time on the field with the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Thomas Mueller, Green has yet to appear in a Bundesliga match this season, but consistently turning up in the match day 18 made a statement that led U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to recall the now 21-year-old attacker.
“This window we have two friendly games, and with a couple of players getting injured or being out and a couple of players very busy with their club environment, suddenly things open up and I said, ‘You know what? This might be a good moment to bring [Green] back and see where he’s at,’” Klinsmann told reporters on Monday.
“I called Bayern and they said, ‘You know Jurgen, if you want to bring him in, we’d be delighted. He’s doing well in training. He’s waiting for his chance.’ So he came in, and we told him the same thing we have said often: ‘Make your statement, make your impression,’ and from the first day on, he made an impression.”
He stood out in training and stepped up in Friday’s match against Cuba. Earning just his second start in a U.S. shirt, he proved to be the most dangerous player on the field in the 2-0 win. His shot in the 62nd minute rebounded and was put home by Chris Wondolowski, then he tapped home a low cross from the San Jose Earthquakes ace in nine minutes later.
“It’s always nice to play for the U.S. National Team,” the soft spoken Green told reporters following Friday’s win. “It’s always an honor for me. I just want to do my best and score goals. I’m happy about my performance.”
If the story of an MNT player being absent from the team for an extended period only to come back and contribute in a big way sounds familiar, that’s because it also happened last month. After two years between National Team call-ups, Sacha Kljestan, who was also a late addition to the September camp, made an emphatic return to the MNT with two goals and two assists in vital World Cup Qualifying wins against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago.
At the start of camp, Klinsmann challenged a number of players to follow Kljestan’s example of taking advantage of another chance with the MNT. Still with the New Zealand game to play Tuesday, it appears Green has made the most of his recall, getting back to basics with the things he’s does best.
“I think he helped himself a lot,” Klinsmann said. “Obviously he had to wait until there was an opportunity, and there are opportunities always coming along even when you don’t think they’re actually coming. “
“From the first day, every training session he went at people. We always told him, ‘Your strength is one against one. Your strength is taking people on, getting into the box, making something happen.’ And that’s what he did. It’s kind of felt like he still has that stuff at the back of his mind. You don’t have to repeat it anymore, and now it’s really nice to see that.”