Strong start but more time needed for Julian Green
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The hype machine was humming in the run-up to Julian Green's U.S. national team debut, but the 18-year-old German-American's first appearance with the Yanks turned out to be rather anticlimactic -- not that that's a bad thing. Yes, the Bayern Munich prospect made his much-anticipated cameo, coming on in the 59th minute of the Americans' 2-2 draw with Mexico here on Wednesday night. And yes, he showed some flashes of the quality that has landed him on the books of the world's best club team. But during those 30-odd minutes Green also revealed himself for exactly what he is: a gifted but still inexperienced pro who, if he does make the U.S. World Cup squad this summer, probably isn't ready to play a big role for Jurgen Klinsmann's team in Brazil. "Obviously he was nervous, too, playing his first cap in front of 60,000 against Mexico," Klinsmann said afterward. "[But] I think that you saw in some moments what this kid is actually capable to do. "The team welcomed him with open arms. When you're among other players you check each other out and you understand within 10 minutes if he's a good player or not. Julian is a very good player." Still, it’s hard to draw too many conclusions from Green's performance on Wednesday. And the truth is that it doesn't figure to impact his World Cup chances much either way. Rather, how he fares during the U.S. team's extended preparation camp in May will be far more telling. And by then, Green could well have more than just a few minutes with Bayern's first team under his belt, what with the reigning European champs having already clinched the Bundesliga title. At the same time, the competition for a roster spot just got a little stiffer after fellow attackers Chris Wondolowski and Eddie Johnson found the net against El Tri, even if Johnson's classy, 85th-minute finish was ruled offside. "More than anything, tonight was just about getting him onto the field for the first time and letting him enjoy that and almost in some ways getting that out of the way," midfielder Michael Bradley, who scored the Yanks' opener, said of Green. "Now he can come in and feel like he's a part of the group. He's gotten the first one under his belt and now he can build on that from there." Full U.S. vs. Mexico coverage - Carlisle: U.S. cave after strong start - Dempsey: We deserved third goal - FC TV: Donovan in the balance? - Hernandez: El Tri grades - Team USA: Who's in, who's out? - Report: U.S. 2-2 Mexico - Highlights While Green was the main storyline before the game, there were plenty of other ones after it, not least Klinsmann's decision not to start Landon Donovan. The coach revealed that the national team's all-time top scorer had been bothered by a sore left knee upon his arrival to camp, an ailment Donovan later described as tendinitis. "It was a simple decision based on the way he was the last couple of days," Klinsmann said. "He didn't train well. He had no tempo in training sessions and no high pace, no higher rhythm, he didn't take people on ... He took [the news] very positive and said 'I'm ready coming off the bench.'" “It's OK now," Donovan said of the knee. "It was hurting earlier in the week. It's just one of those things where it's better to be cautious at this point." It was perhaps the only thing Klinsmann was cautious about on Wednesday. After playing with a single striker for most of his two-and-a-half years at the Yanks' helm, Klinsmann instead opted for a two-pronged attack against El Tri, with Clint Dempsey joining Wondolowski up front. He also deployed Bradley in a more advanced position behind the strikers and Bradley responded with a dominant performance in the first half, after which the U.S. led 2-0. Following the break, though, the entire team seemed to wilt -- something Klinsmann said can't happen at the World Cup, where the ability to play at full throttle for 90 -- or even 120 -- minutes will be crucially important. “We have to understand for us to go into a World Cup and have a real chance at making a run, we've got to be the fittest team there," Bradley said. "We've got to be able to play at a pace and a tempo for 90 minutes that other teams aren't comfortable dealing with and we have to be able to do that every three or four days. That's what we have to be about." They also have to be unpredictable. "We need to have at least two, if not three, different systems for the World Cup to kind of confuse hopefully our opponents a little bit,” Klinsmann said of the tactical switch. "It's good to mix it up," Dempsey said. "This was an opportunity to look at different players and different systems to see what's going to be best for us." When it comes to Julian Green, at least, it's a process that will continue for another few months.