Julian Green may or may not make his senior United States National Team debut Wednesday night in Phoenix against Mexico (11 p.m. EDT, ESPN). Given the hullabaloo generated in the soccer community by his decision to opt for the U.S. over Germany, you’d assume Jurgen Klinsmann will run him out there given its a friendly and six subs are allowed.
This much is known, whether Green plays 90 minutes or 90 seconds, conclusions will be drawn as we continue to play the USMNT Game of Hype.
He’s the next Eddie Johnson. He’s the next Juan Agudelo. He’s the next David Regis. He’s the next John O’Brien. He’s the next … Freddy Adu.
Even if Green, 18, puts together a performance channeling a young Lionel Messi or Neymar or Franck Ribery it will be far too little to judge him by accurately. International friendlies have been littered with false dawns for the National Team throughout its history, as noted above. This shouldn’t come as that revelatory a statement, but the entire U.S. Soccer community — fans, media, players — always tend to look at things on a macro-level trying to make sweeping declarative statements. The underlying factor here is the long-simmering issue: soccer’s place and future in America.
Anytime a player like Green, who’s on the books at Bayern Munich but plays mainly for the club’s reserve squad, rolls around people love to project what it means big picture. Realistically, Green opting to play for the U.S. is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t change the overall picture of Americans playing at the top level in Europe, does it? Nor will it usher in sweeping change the way soccer is developed in the States.
Granted, there is reason to be optimistic. Wednesday night’s friendly will be the first time 99.9 percent of American soccer fans actually see Green, you know, actually play soccer. There’s only so much you can garner from glowing reports and YouTube clips. Right now, to dust off a decades-old Simpsons reference, Green isn’t all that different from Gabbo, until we finally see him in the Bomb Pomp U.S. away shirt tonight at the University of Phoenix Stadium. There’s a lot of hype and a lot of hope, but not much tangible information until Green debuts and gets some games under his belt.
A positive first impressive will go a long way, so long as it doesn’t kick the hype machine into overdrive based off one performance. Drawn into a brutal group and with many of its best players floundering at the club level, American soccer fans don’t have much to get excited about as we zero in on June. Pinning the hopes (and hype) on the shoulders of a teenager might not be the best idea of all time, as history has proven.
Here’s a very simple way to look at it: can Green’s play on the field help the U.S. get results against Ghana, Portugal and Germany, no more, no less. Keep your fingers crossed and let the hype develop on its own merits.