BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, May 11, 2011
The US national team has often benefited from German-born Americans and Nürnberg forward Jann George is hoping to become the next in this long line to represent the Stars and Stripes.
George, 18, was an emerging talent last fall with FC Nürnberg and was beginning to earn consistent playing time with the club's U-19 team. Through the first six games of the A-Junior Bundesliga season for U-19 teams, he already had tallied four goals and an assist, however his season was cut short with a knee injury.
Despite the injury, the club felt very confident in George's ability and signed him to a three-year contract extension. After missing the last six months, he is ready to rejoin the club next month when they begin preparations for a new season.
"I signed a professional contract until 2014 in January 2011," George told YA from Nürnberg. "In this season, I only played 6 matches [but I had] 4 goals and 1 assist. Then I injured my knee. Now I'm on rehabilitation and I'll start practicing with the professionals in new season on the 26th of June."
George already joined the Nürnberg organization when he was just nine years old and has progressed consistently through all levels within the club.
When FC Nürnberg announced the three year contract extension, club officials and head coach Dieter Hecking all made very positive statements that made it clear that George was in the plans for the club's first team.
Those statements have motivated George and he is looking forward to getting on the field soon and putting his injury troubles behind him.
"It's a fantastic feeling to know that the coach and the club recognized my talent," George said of the team's support and commitment towards him. "I worked hard to get there and I'll never stop keeping myself in shape. But it would have been much easier for me if I wasn't injured so often in the last two years."
Even though George has missed significant time since his injury, he is very optimistic that this summer he will begin training with the first team. When the season begins, however, he does not know if he will be with the first team or the U-23 team.
If it is with the U-23 team, George won't be disappointed as he is still very young and the club has a new coach that he feels would be productive to play under.
"I want to practice with the first team," George stated confidently. "But it wouldn't be bad if I can gather experience in the team of the new coach of U23, Michael Wiesinger [who is an] ex-player of Bayern Munich and FC Nürnberg."
"My first goal is to train without pain and injuries," he added. "The next step will be to become part of the first squad. I have three years time for that."
If George is able to emerge into the club's first team, questions about his international future would likely follow. George has dual citizenship with Germany and the United States but has yet to represent either country.
One of George's closest friends is his Nürnberg teammate Timothy Chandler who was also born in Germany but has American citizenship. Chandler's rapid progression from an unknown U23 player to a rising Bundesliga star saw him make his debut for the US national team in March.
George very much wants to follow in the footsteps of his good friend and also represent the United States on the world's stage.
"Timothy Chandler is a very good friend of mine," George revealed."We often spend time together. My biggest dream is to play for the United States and Timmy is a role model."
Like Chandler, George's connection to the United States derives from the United States military where his father was an American serviceman stationed in Germany. George has never stepped foot in the United States but he has an appreciation of his roots there.
"I've never been to the US," George admitted. "I do have the American citizenship but I was born in Germany. My parents met when the American military was stationed in Bamberg."
Many in the United States are unfamiliar with George or how he prefers to play the game, but his skill set does address a need within the US system. While scoring from the forward position has been a weakness that was most evident at the 2010 World Cup, George is a tall and fast forward that is aggressive.
"My main strength is my body," George concluded. "But I also have technical skills and a good eye to play nice passes. I'm hungry to shoot goals every practice and every match. I'm fast and dynamic."