There was a certain buzz in the air on a warm Wednesday night in Phoenix. Though the U.S. had faced Mexico a plethora of times before, this night brought a unique mystique about it. With the 2014 FIFA World Cup 70 days away, fans and players knew the importance of a solid performance. Stir that in with the debut of the heralded Bayern Munich youngster Julian Green, and the concoction made for a memorable night. While team USA may have made progress in deciding its final 23, Green made sure to enter the spotlight as the competition nears.
In the 59th minute of the game, manager Jurgen Klinsmann illustrated faith in the young debutant when he deployed Green amidst Mexico’s lethal onslaught. Green entered the game for midfielder Brad Davis, and served as the left winger with his team clinging to a 2-1 lead. Fans roared with delight as Green jogged onto the pitch for the first of countless appearances the starlet will make.
Green’s first touch was a tricky header, cut out by an opponent. As an encore, Green jogged forward with the ball, with nothing coming off of the ensuing movement. The youngster appeared slightly jittery, and did not appear overly comfortable in his role as a winger. American fans felt a slight knot form in their stomachs as they witnessed their tadpole try to aviod sinking and swim.
News jumped from bad to worse, as Green was put on skates off an ariel ball to switch Mexican play. Green slipped and fell trying to clear the danger, and landed forcefully on his shoulder in the process. The attacker left the pitch to be treated, averting a potentially devastating injury.
Green would return to the field, ready to reveal his true colors. Upon his return he began to carry the play more, showing confidence as a playmaking winger. Then came the notorious controversy that altered the course of the game.
After Eddie Johnson’s incorrectly disallowed goal, Julian Green ran at the right side of the Mexican defense. Green beat one man, and appeared to have been tripped inside the penalty box. The ref wouldn’t budge, and the chance was gone. Still, Green knew his job was done. He had put himself in the lottery for a ticket to Brazil.
Whether or not Green is on the plane is up in the air. Green must impress in the remaining friendlies, in which he will definitley earn playing time in various positions. If Green features in Brazil, look for a cinderella story to emerge, as he has the ability to shine against big teans. With games against Ghana, Germany, and Portugal remaining, the U.S. will need all the help it can get.
Photo: USA Today.