The U-23 MNT roster that is preparing to face Colombia in a do-or-die series for the last berth at the Summer Olympics counts on players who have represented the USA at the U-17 and U-20 FIFA World Cups in recent years. It also includes one player who’s played at an even higher level.
Midfielder Julian Green was on the 2014 FIFA World Cup team, scoring in the USA’s dramatic 2-1 loss to Belgium in overtime in the Round of 16 in Brazil.
And while he understands the significance of that achievement, he knows what’s in front of the U-23’s as it prepares to face Colombia in a two-game Olympic Qualifying Playoff for the last spot in the Olympics in Rio.
“We know how important the Olympics are,” Green said this week from U-23 MNT camp. “These are very, very important games for us and we want to be at the Olympics.”
At 20 years old, Green is not the youngest player on the U-23 MNT. In fact, five are younger, with the youngest being Emerson Hyndman at 19.
And despite his appearance in Brazil, Green says what he can best offer his U-23 teammates is on the field.
“The biggest thing I have to do is to score goals. That’s the most important thing for the team,” he said. “That’s what I have to work to do.”
Scoring goals is what the Tampa native has been doing with his club for the past six months.
After returning to Bayern Munich from a loan stint with Hamburg last fall, Green has scored 10 goals for Bayern II, the club’s reserve team, while playing consistently. He has also made one appearance on Bayern’s first team, starting the UEFA Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb in December alongside stalwarts Robert Lewandowski, Franck Ribery and Xabi Alonso.
“It was important for me to play every game after the last year in Hamburg, so I’m feeling great,” Green said. “Now I’m looking forward to these two games against Colombia.”
Green is one of 12 players in camp who were not part of the U-23 MNT that placed third in CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying last fall, but says he watched from afar and wants to help the team get the job done against Colombia.
“We played well overall,” Green said of the Qualifying Tournament. “We won all the games expect that one. But now we’re here and we have to take these last steps and I’m sure that we can do it.”
The U-23 MNT will face Colombia on Friday in Barranquilla in the first leg (5 p.m. ET, live on FS1 and Univision Deportes Network), and will play the second leg on March 29 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas (8:30 p.m. CT, live on ESPN2).