BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, July 5, 2011
As FC Nurnberg begin their preseason for the upcoming Bundesliga campaign, right back Timothy Chandler will be looking to build off an exceptional debut season.
Twelve months ago Chandler left Eintracht Frankfurt after being told he was no longer in the team's plans, before signing with Nurnberg. After initially excelling at the U-23 level, Chandler went with the first team on their winter trip to Turkey and impressed head coach Dieter Hecking which led to a quick debut in the second half of the season. The American was named to the Bundesliga team of the week multiple times and was one of the highest rated fullbacks playing in Germany since the start of 2011.
Now, after a month off for the offseason, Chandler insists he is healthy as Nurnberg's preseason camp enters into its eighth day in Austria and that a summer hiatus is part of the reason.
"I was injured towards the end of last season," Chandler told YA from Austria. "During the offseason I went on vacation and I feel okay now. I am ready to go."
On Sunday, Nurnberg played their first preseason match as they cruised to a comfortable 6-0 win over the lower division Austrian club SV Raika Längenfeld. Chandler played second half and was on the field for the final four goals.
This season will be an important one for the youngster as expectations will be much higher. Last season he took the Bundesliga by surprise and he frequently referred it as "a dream."
This year, however, will be one where he will look to show that he can turn in strong performances consistently throughout a long season. Chandler feels it will be difficult but he is confident in his ability.
"It will be difficult to keep that up from last year," Chandler discussed. "It will be a challenge and I will have to fully engage myself, focus, and play consistent games. Then we will see what happens."
Last year, Nurnberg finished in sixth place which was well above expectations for a club that has been relegated out of the Bundesliga twice in the last decade. They remained in contention for fifth place and a spot in the Europa League until the last few weeks of the season before tailing off at the end of April.
This season Chandler is confident that Nurnberg can again contend for a berth in European play with the Bundesliga now sending its top six teams to continental competitions.
"We are good enough," Chandler said confidently. "I like how the team is taking shape. We have a very good team and we are ready to contend again. Absolutely we can contend for spot [in European play] again. That is our goal and that's what we want to accomplish."
On the international front, Chandler's earned a call to the US national team for a pair of friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay in March. Chandler made his international debut in the game against Argentina and was on the field for the US team's equalizer in a 1-1 draw.
Back in May, US head coach Bob Bradley initially planned for Chandler to be on the team for the 2011 Gold Cup. Soon after, however, it was agreed that Chandler should be allowed to rest the injuries he picked up at the end of the last season instead of spending his entire off season playing for US team.
For Chandler, it was a very tough choice to not be with the US team at the Gold Cup. He watched all of the team's games and wished he was there to contribute.
"I watched the tournament," Chandler said of the Gold Cup. "It was very difficult for me not to go. I wanted to play for the United States, but I had to go with decision of the club. I was not fit at the time and was still recovering."
Now completely healed and ready to play, Chandler hopes that it won't be long before he can represent the United States again. The US is scheduled to play their next game against Belgium on September 6 in Brussels and Chandler hopes be a part of the team.
"If I am invited, I would love to play for the United States again," Chandler said. "I have a very good opinion of Bob Bradley as a coach. He brought me in back in March and I like playing under him along with the players on the US team."
Chandler was born in Frankfurt and is the son of an American soldier who was stationed in Germany. As a US-German dual citizen, Chandler played for Germany at the U-15 level but it was not a good experience for him. Since then he has never played for Germany again.
With his strong performances in the in the second half of the Bundesliga season, rumors have circulated that Chandler may not have chosen to play in the Gold Cup because he did not want to be permanently cap-tied to the United States and instead was holding out for an invitation to play for Germany.
In June, the German federation said that Chandler was not an option for them anymore in acknowledging that he wants to play for the United States.
In addition to the statements from the German federation, Chandler himself is very quick to halt the new rumors that have surfaced since the Gold Cup.
When he was in US national team camp last March, he told the media that he did not want to play for Germany. He is very insistent that this is still true and that his top international goal right now is to represent the US at the World Cup.
"No. That is absolutely not the reason why I missed the Gold Cup," Chandler stated emphatically. "It is my goal and dream to represent the United States at the 2014 World Cup. What I said in March is true. I will absolutely not play for Germany. There is no way that will happen."
Following preseason, Chandler and FC Nurnberg travel to take on Arminia Bielefeld in a German Cup mach on July 30. Nurnberg opens their Bundesliga season on August 6th when they face Hertha Berlin on the road.