Julian Green’s long-awaited arrival to the United States men’s national team is here. Green made his debut in a friendly against Mexico on Tuesday night when he came on in the 60th minute. His performance wasn’t great or awful, but certainly left something to be desired. Green missed on a couple passes into the midfield, and his slip and fall is what eventually led to Mexico’s second goal. He will be fine in the long-run, though. The filing of his one-time switch and immediate inclusion to the national team may be foreshadowing his selection to this summer’s World Cup roster. It’s widely suggested that Coach Jurgen Klinnsman may have used that as a pitch to Green in recruiting him to choose the United States over Germany, but only time will tell. Green is only 18 years old (turns 19 right before the World Cup), and his age along with a rise in notoriety has drawn comparisons to Freddy Adu. Adu signed a contract with Major League Soccer at age 14, and quickly garnered comparisons to Pele. Adu’s rise and fall came as a result of high expectations. As soon as his troubles began, cries of bust and failure began to tarnish his image. After leaving DC United in 2007, Adu has since played for six teams and is currently without a team. The Green-Adu comparison is important because many think that predicting Green to be a part of the 2014 World Cup and saying Green will have a successful future for the United States Men’s National Team will create a similar blueprint to Adu’s.
It’s important to talk about this comparison because I believe it to be an illogical one. Adu and Green are two entirely different situations to begin with. Adu signed with MLS before the league even had its 10th birthday, and was 14 years old when he became the focus of the public eye. National news even talked about him because he became the youngest player to sign a professional contract in any of the major American sports leagues. Green is an 18 year-old player who plays for Bayern Munich, but played most of this season for the team’s reserve squad in the fourth division of German soccer. He made his first and only so-far professional appearance in the 88th minute of a UEFA Champions League game against CSKA Moscow. Another reason why these players have entirely different situations is the time period they play in. Adu burst onto the scene in 2002 and signed with DC United in 2004, at a time where the future of the United States Men’s National Team was promising, but still up in the air. The national team was just a year and a half removed from a World Cup featuring aging stars (16 of the 23 players were 28 years or older) and was looking for the team’s newest star. Adu unfairly became labeled as that that guy. He had such high expectations that even being a pretty good player would have been a disappointment. We as a soccer community are at fault for Adu’s failure as we expected and demanded too much. Now, Julian Green is coming in at a different time. He could make the World Cup roster, but if he does, he would be joining a team that will be playing in the “Group of Death.” He’s not expected to be the star, or the one to provide moments of brilliance. It’s not like he’s going to lead the United States past Portugal with a last-minute bicycle kick over Cristiano Ronaldo’s head. Green would be joining a team of both upcoming stars and aging ones, and he won’t likely see the field if he is to make the World Cup roster. Green’s inclusion to the national team’s training and friendly in Phoenix this past week may be a sign of the post-World Cup future. Klinsmann’s extended contract through 2018 allows him to focus on this upcoming summer, but also allow him to build on and focus on the ultimate goal of the World Cup in 2018. Green isn’t being thrown into stardom; he’s just a piece of the national team puzzle going forward. Look at players such as Aron Johannson, John Anthony Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, and Luis Gil. These players aren’t much older than Green, but are being looked at in the same way as pieces for the national team’s future. None of these players are being looked at as “the next Pele” nor is Green.
What happens now is that we need to stop making comparisons between the two, or even mentioning them in the same sentence. They’re two very different situations, and two different players. Green is on the up-and-up, while Adu is unemployed and supposedly refuses to take a smaller salary and play in the North American Soccer League. Will Julian Green be the “next Pele”? Absolutely not. Will he be a key contributor for the United States Men’s National team? He may very well be, but don’t expect to see him score or even play in this upcoming World Cup. Time will only tell what’s to come of Green, but we do know is that he has promising opportunities for club and country and it will be expecting to watch it all unfold.