BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, March 24, 2011
During the Bundesliga winter break, FC Nurnberg's Timothy Chandler was just another young reserve player, but now two months later he is a rising star with his club and a member of the US national team.
Chandler's inclusion to the US team for the upcoming friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay comes on the heels of a terrific run at Nurnberg where he was named twice in the past six weeks to Kicker Magazine's Bundesliga team of the week.
With the national team camp now entering into its fourth day, the German-born Chandler is enjoying his first national team experience.
"It's very good. I am very happy," Chandler told YA on Wednesday. "The team is very good and I like playing with them."
Chandler, who will turn 21 next week, arrived in North Carolina only knowing one of his national team teammates.
Despite that, he is quickly assimilating into the close-knit US group while rooming with David Yelldell who was also born in Germany and making his first national team appearance.
"I knew Jermaine Jones when he played at Frankfurt and we were on the same team," Chandler discussed. "But everyone else I only knew from television. Players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Landon Donovan. I got here and everyone is friendly to me. I like it here."
The process of getting to the US national team has happened very quickly for Chandler who didn't make his first team debut until January 19th in a German Cup match against OFC Kickers.
Only three weeks later he broke into the starting lineup in a game against Stuttgart where he scored his first goal and added two assists in a 4-1 win. Shortly after that game, US head coach Bob Bradley was on the phone.
"I was very happy and it was like a dream," Chandler recalled of his rise. "Because one week before I talk to Yanks Abroad and I told them all that and two weeks later Bob Bradley called me. We talked and after I was very, very happy. It was like a dream."
The first person to actually call Chandler on behalf of the US was Tony Sanneh who played with Nurnberg from 2001-2004 and was a star player for the US national team at the 2002 World Cup.
Sanneh received word from Nurnberg contacts that there was an emerging talent within their organization who held dual citizenship with Germany and the US and was open to playing for the US.
Sanneh was quickly on the phone to both Chandler and Bradley.
"I have good friends at the club and they let me know that he wanted to play for the US," Sanneh told YA of the process of contacting Chandler. "They also told me he was going to start seeing some action so it would be wise for the US to see him and bring him in before the Germans did."
"I talked to Tim," Sanneh continued. "I never saw him play, [but I] trusted the recommendation. He wanted to play for the US so I just followed up with Bob and let him know I knew Tim wanted to play and I knew he was about to hit the field. I told him I heard good things."
While Chandler's strong run of play in the Bundesliga also drew attention from Germany's U-21 team, the youngster insists that playing for the US is indeed his first choice and that he has no interest of playing for Germany whom he last represented at the U-15 level.
"I want to play for the United States," Chandler said bluntly. "I don't want to play for Germany. I don't even think about playing for Germany. I played for the youth teams of Germany and it was not so good. Now I get a chance to play for the US team and I see how it is. It's very good."
When Chandler received his invitation to join the US national team, his teammates, coaches, and club officials at Nurnberg were also excited.
"Everyone at Nurnberg was very happy for me," Chandler explained. "My coach [Dieter Hecking] was saying it was very quick with the Bundesliga and now the national team but he is also happy."
At Nurnberg, Chandler is part of a team that has been quickly climbing the Bundesliga standings. At the winter break, the club was hovering in the bottom half of the league.
Since then, however, they have been dominant and now sit in sixth place trailing fifth place Mainz for the league's last Europa League spot.
Chandler is part of the Nurnberg's youth movement that has been a key component of the team's success since the winter break.
"I think [the recent success is] because we have a lot of young players that really want to play hard," Chandler pointed out. "We've done very well but we have to win the next game at Cologne and then maybe then we can think about the Europa League. We will think from game to game."
For now, Chandler is focused on continuing to work his way into Bradley's plans for the US team where he hopes to be part of this summer's Gold Cup team.
He is confident he can succeed under Bradley because his coaching style is similar to that of Hecking's style at Nurnberg.
"Bob Bradley is a very good coach," Chandler assessed. "I like the training we are doing here. At Nurnberg it is a little bit harder but we play the same soccer [as the US team]. We play quick and on the ground."
In Chandler, Bradley has a player that can play on the right side of the field either as a pure winger or as a right back. So far in camp with the US national team he has played only as a right back but moving into the midfield would be an easy transition because he has played significant minutes there this season at Nurnberg.
"I have no preference," Chandler said of playing either right back or right wing. "I only play on the outside but whether in the back or up front it is the same for me."
Chandler's adjustment to the US team will be put to a tough test on Saturday when his first cap could come against Argentina, one of the best teams in the world.
Chandler could be in the position where he will have to help defend against one of the best players of his generation in Lionel Messi.
"It's going to be good," Chander said of the upcoming game against Argentina in New Jersey. "It's a very big game for the team and for me in maybe my first game. If I play, I'll be very happy. It's against Messi, the best player in the world."