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Clash with FCB team-mates

US starlet Green focused on World Cup

What a difference a year makes: on 13 June last year Julian Green was crushed with disappointment after a defeat to Rostock with the FC Bayern Under-19s in the semi-finals of the German youth championship. Exactly 12 months later he was in Brazil watching the opening match of the 2014 World Cup as a member of the USA national squad. And although he has been an unused sub in both matches played by Jürgen Klinsmann’s team so far, he could yet make his debut on the global stage when the US take on Green’s adopted home country and seven of his Bayern team-mates in Recife on Thursday.

Green was born in Tampa, Florida, to an American father and a German mother and has lived in Germany since he was two. He signed his first pro contract last November and made his Bundesliga and Champions League debuts in a whirlwind ascent last season, but that U-19 defeat to Rostock still rankles. “It’s tough thinking about it again,” he admitted to FCBwhen we spoke to him at a US national team media session in New York. As for his eventful 2013/14, Julian is taking it as it comes: “I’m just enjoying it for now. I’m not really thinking about it at all.”

The striker is one of a group of Bayern reserves whose careers have taken off over the last 12 months, with the likes of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Ylli Sallahi also breaking into the senior team. Established stars such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller and Holger Badstuber emerged from previous high-quality youth generations, but Green is wary of making comparisons: “We’re obviously a very good age group, but so far we didn’t achieve anything. We still have to demonstrate our abilities at the highest levels day by day.”

When Klinsi comes calling

Julian represented three-time World Cup winners Germany at a number of junior levels, although he did once feature for USA in a U-18 international and scored on his debut. However, he was a regular for the Germany U-19s and looked set to compete for a place in Joachim Löw’s senior side, but US and former Bayern boss Klinsmann had other ideas. Green took up an invitation to a US squad training camp and made the call in favor of his country of birth.

“I received a very warm welcome from the whole team,” Julian toldFCB. “Clint Dempsey welcomed me and presented me with my jersey. That was very special. I talked a lot with the coach and the other players and I made my decision after that. My parents were always supportive and told me to follow my heart. Obviously my family is very proud, especially my father.” Green’s choice has met with understanding and encouragement from all sides: “There’s been no negative reaction. Everyone wished me luck and was very supportive.”

As to life on the US team, the youngster has noticed one big difference compared to the norm at FCB. “The team is very physical,” he said. “Their tackles are a little bit harder, but that’s understandable when everyone wants to play in Brazil.” Julian’s early experience with sport is a big help in that respect. “I played hockey when I was younger,” he revealed, “we often went to watch ice hockey and the Tampa Bay Lighting.”

German-American bloc

Despite spending most of his life in Germany, Green is very aware of his American roots. “I was born in Florida, so heading to the US and especially to Florida is very special for me,” he declared. Nor is a German connection a bad thing on the current US team. Klinsmann has hired former Germany boss Berti Vogts in a consulting role and the US squad features a number of German-American players including ex-Schalke enforcer Jermaine Jones, Hoffenheim’s Fabian Johnson and new Frankfurt signing Tim Chandler. Maybe it would be easier if the team simply spoke German?

“No, we try to speak English all the time,” Green countered, “but from time to time it does help to speak German. It’s important to have these guys. We try to support each other, but we want to be one US team, not an isolated group.” And in any case, the youngster smiled, “my English isn’t so bad!”

Aiming high with FCB

Whether or not Julian clocks up his first World Cup minutes and maybe even goes head-to-head with fellow FCB men Lahm, Müller and Co when the US face Germany on 26 June, the experience gained by going to Brazil is sure to help his efforts at club level. Green’s idol is Argentine great Lionel Messi, and the pair are not dissimilar in many ways. At 5 feet 7½ inches the 19-year-old is just a half-inch or so taller than the Barcelona superstar, and both are technically gifted. “I’m capable of scoring with every part of my body,” he told FCB last fall, “my agility and dribbling skill often gives me an edge over big defenders.”

He is also highly adept in the ‘false nine’ position favored by Bayern boss Pep Guardiola. Green is an unabashed fan of the Spaniard: “He tries to develop the players every day. He talks to the players a lot. It’s an honor to be coached by Guardiola at the beginning of my career,” he enthused. The striker is already looking forward to the Audi Summer Tour 2014 from 30 July to 7 August, when Bayern will play Club Deportivo Guadalajara in New Jersey and the MLS All-Stars in Portland, Oregon. “This will definitely be special,” he said.

Naturally, the tournament in Brazil is the starlet’s immediate focus, but his medium-term target is to keep making waves at Germany’s most successful club. “At the moment I’m trying to concentrate on the World Cup, because it’s a great opportunity for me,” he concluded. “But I joined FC Bayern Munich to play in the first team. This is still my goal.”