2 years ago, Julian Green was almost a mythical figure for US Soccer fans. Long have Americans awaited a true world class player, one who plays for one of the top teams in the world. When it was reported the 18-year-old Green, an emerging member of Bayern Munich’s reserve team was interested in representing the United States instead of Germany, it seemed like American fans’ prayers might finally be answered.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann instantly invited him to a training camp in Europe, and after officially pledging his allegiance to the Red, White and Blue, Green was on a plane to Brazil as part of the 23-man squad headed to the World Cup. While his inclusion was a shock for many, especially considering Green had never played a single game for Bayern’s first team, high praise from people like Pep Guardiola, Bastian Schwienstieger and Franck Ribery enthused fans at the idea of him getting on the field and gaining valuable experience. Not since Freddy Adu had an American player been so hyped up, though this time is seemed like the talk was for real.
Green’s stoppage time goal against Belgium in the Round of 16 only increased the hype, and as he headed back to Bayern people were expecting this exciting prospect to finally break through to the first team.
Unfortunately for Green and US fans, the last few years since the World Cup have been extremely disappointing. After a securing a loan to Hamburg in 2015 to get Bundesliga experience, Green was deemed unfit for the first team and relegated to the reserves of the struggling club. Green refused, and headed back home to Bayern in disgrace to play for the reserves there. This past season, he focused on trying to crack the first team at Munich, but was stuck playing 4th division soccer with the reserves once again. While he is still young, his window is nearly closed now at Bayern, as young attackers like Douglas Costa, Kingsley Coman and 18-year-old Renato Sanches seem to have strangleholds on places with the senior team. Incumbent starters, Ribery and Arjen Robben aren’t going anywhere either.
Green, who was an afterthought for this summer’s Copa America, losing out to 17-year-old and Bundesliga rival Christian Pulisic, has seen his national team minutes diminish since his shining moment in Brazil. Now though, he is determined as ever to make it with Bayern, telling Sports Illustrated reporter Grant Wahl “he won’t be playing with the reserves this year” and that it’s “1st team or bust”. So far, he has started well, featuring in a number of preseason games including a match against AC Milan today. New head coach Carlo Ancelotti has even said Green “will be important for us this season”.
For Green, who has just turned 21, it will be imperative to make a strong impression with Bayern this upcoming season. He is getting too old to be playing with the reserves in the 4th division, and must begin playing in a top flight league somewhere soon. We have already seen former American “saviors” like Adu and Juan Agudelo, who start well but are unable fulfill their potential, turn into cautionary tales for young prospects. Green has all the potential in the world and could still be an important piece for the US in the years to come, but needs to have a breakout year with Bayern or move on once and for all to drive his career forward.