Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Timothy Chandler Conundrum

Article by Brad Snook

Earlier today, Jurgen Klinsmann announced the first 16 players invited to the USMNT training camp in Orlando in preparation for the upcoming slate of friendlies and the start of the next stage of World Cup qualifying. Full roster announcement here. One glaring omission from the list is Timothy Chandler, the German-American defender whom many US fans had pegged as the left back of the future for years to come.

When asked about Chandler’s exclusion from the roster, Klinsmann’s response was as telling as it was vague:

“I have had long conversations with Timmy about where he is in his professional career and his commitment to playing international football. He has expressed his appreciation for all the opportunities we have given him, but he also feels at this point he needs to take a break. It’s disappointing not having him as a part of the team at this important juncture of building our team, but ultimately a player must decide what is best for him. The door is certainly not closed on Timmy, but in the moment we move on without him.” 

After players such as Neven Subotic, Giuseppe Rossi, and (to a lesser extent) Andy Najar all chose to play for other countries; US fans were left feeling spurned and insufficient like the hot chick on The Bachelor that just misses out on the final rose.

It was supposed to be different this time. Timothy Chandler is the player we thought finally chose the US over a foreign rival. After saying he would represent the US, Chandler has made eight appearances for the USMNT. However, none of these caps were earned in an official FIFA competition, meaning Chandler is still eligible to play for his homeland Germany. Is Chandler having commitment issues, or does he really need the rest like he claimed to Klinsmann?

While I would like nothing more than to see Chandler suit up for the US in an official match in the near future, all is not lost if he chooses not to play for the US. There are several reasons for American fans to remain calm, and resist the urge to watch The Notebook while wallowing into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s yet again:

- Maybe he really does just need some rest

Chandler is just 22 years old, and logged by far the most minutes of his career in 2011-12. He made 33 appearances (32 starts) with his club FC N├╝rnberg. The Bundesliga season is long and taxing; it’s quite possible his body needs the rest and regeneration. It’s important not to burn a young player out too soon. That being said, one has to wonder how much influence and control those in charge at his club have over Chandler’s decision. This might be another chapter in the long-standing battle of club v. country.

The next World Cup qualifiers are September 7th & 11th against Jamaica. Given some time to think it over, he might have a change of heart. With rest and health (this will be two weeks after the start of the 2012-13 Bundesliga season), might we see Chandler back in an American uniform?

-The US has depth in the back

No really, they do; I promise. For years, outside back has been a glaring weakness of the USMNT. Surprisingly, there is now more depth in the back than there has been in years. Klinsmann actually has options in the back when looking to fill the roster at outside back. Gone are the days of Jeff Agoos being directly or indirectly responsible for all the goals the US conceded in World Cup 2002. No longer are American fans subject to The Jonathan Bornstein Project due to a dearth of other options.

To go along with the always reliable Steve Cherundolo, there has been a recent influx of quality, young depth at outside back for the USMNT. Fabian Johnson provides an attacking option out of the back and the ability to defend against top flight competition. Edgar Castillo is coming off of the best season of his career with Club Tijuana. Eric Lichaj is now healthy and looking like he’s in good form. Alfredo Morales is in contention for his first ever US cap. Josh Gatt looks promising and can play in the back. Even Danny Williams, who is listed as a midfielder on the US roster, plays as a defender for Hoffenheim. The cupboard is not bare US fans.

-Is his heart really in it?

Unlike Rossi, who was born and raised in New Jersey, Chandler is German with American ties by way of his serviceman father, who left shortly after his birth. He was born in Frankfurt, Germany, and was raised there his entire life. This is a kid who grew up a product of the German youth system, idolizing the players on the German national team. Can you really blame him if he decides not to play for the US? Personally, I can respect him declining the US offer if he isn’t completely committed to this team and this country.

That being said, Germany has shown no signs of calling Chandler into their camp any time soon. They have said that they don’t see him in their plans, and he’s not on the roster for this summer’s Euro 2012 championship. This likely means that he will still be eligible to play for the USMNT for the next round of qualifiers in September.

Only time will tell how the Timothy Chandler conundrum will play out. Unfortunately for
American fans, all that’s left to do is wait for that final rose.

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