BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, August 8, 2013
John Anthony Brooks is not on the new German U-21 roster and will play for the USMNT next week instead.
German U-21 head coach Horst Hrubesch told the media this week that he was very interested in Brooks and called him up for the August 13 friendly against France. Meanwhile U.S national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann also called up Brooks for the national team friendly against Bosnia in Sarajevo.
Hrubesch said that Brooks would have to make his decision today, Thursday, when Germany's roster was set to come out. When it was released, Brooks' name was not on it.
It is safe to assume that Brooks will be playing for the United States next week but his decision is actually remarkable when compared with the decision of other dual nationals in the U.S system. Brooks was born and raised in Germany and is now ready to play for the U.S despite German interest still on the table.
That truly is unique. Timothy Chandler, Terrence Boyd, David Yelldell, and Danny Williams are all German-Americans the U.S team has used in recent years band none had any serious interest from Germany. Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson both were in the German youth system (Jones even played in full national team friendlies) but eventually fell short of becoming regulars with the first team. Other German-Americans like Jeremy Toljan, Julian Green, and Shawn Parker are still presently involved with German youth teams.
Few dual nationals tend to side with a weaker nation when there is legitimate interest from the stronger nation. As the Aron Johannsson showed, the opportunity to play with a potentially big national team is very tempting and it can overwhelm much stronger ties a player would have to a weaker nation.
Germany is a much stronger national team than the United States. Yes, the interest from Brooks came from the U-21 team as opposed to the full team, but the Germany U-21 team is a prestigious team and was eager to have Brooks. His path to the full team was still open and in recent years, Bayern Munich has showed interest in him. He's a highly rated player with potential to climb the ladder within the DFB.
Unlike any other German-American, Brooks had a true decision to make and it has gone in the U.S team's favor.
So why is he making this decision? It is impossible to say yet until Brooks explains himself. Perhaps a chance to make the 2014 World Cup team and play in three World Cups before the age of 30 was a factor. Maybe he had a great time in previous U.S U-20 camps. Another very strong link could be that the United States gave him his first taste of international soccer before Germany showed any interest. Brooks was called up for a U-20 tournament in Peru in 2010 and US coach Thomas Rongen wanted to continue to bring Brooks in that cycle only to have Hertha deny his release. The U.S has maintained consistent interest since that time. Germany's interest prior to this month has been with its U-20 team which not a major youth team in the DFB hierarchy.
The friendly against Bosnia is not a cap-tying situation and Brooks could still play for Germany. That, however, seems unlikely. With World Cup qualifying in the home stretch, players know that national team coaches are in a serious phase and Brooks surely knows that a good performance against Bosnia can put him on the World Cup qualifying team in September.
The issue of dual national recruiting is an uneasy topic. There are legitimate arguments that bringing in too many foreign-born and raised players shows a lack of confidence in American player development and can hurt team chemistry. But if Brooks is on the U.S team in Sarajevo next week, it is refreshing to know that it is because he wants to be there. He had the opportunity to don the German jersey but instead opted for the Stars and Stripes. That unique decision will only endear him to U.S fans if he continues to be part of the team in the months and years ahead.