BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, February 10, 2010
One of the most surprising stories so far this season regarding American soccer players overseas has been the sudden emergence of Daniel Williams at SC Freiburg in the German Bundesliga.
Williams, 20, was born in the German city of Karlsruhe where his parents still live. Williams is the son of an American father, who was in the US military stationed in Heidelburg, and a German mother. Despite his American citizenship, Williams has yet to get an American passport but he said it is simply a matter of going to pick it up at the US Embassy in Frankfurt.
"I only have a German passport right now but my dad is from North Carolina and has always wanted me to get an American passport but I didn't have time do that yet," Williams told YA. "I haven't had time for that right now because I am so busy with [soccer]. But my dad really wants me to get the passport."
This past season has seen Williams rise from the second team before the winter break to becoming a starter on the first team. His recent ascendency largely stems from his good run of play with the second team and the training he did with the first team in January after the winter break.
"I had been playing with the second team before the winter break and then the coach from the first team, Robin Dutt, told me he wanted me to come to train with them," Williams explained. "I went there and did a good job in training and so he has let me play with the first team. It was a dream of mine."
Since making the first team, Williams has started three games at right back and has earned solid reviews from the media for his play. In his most recent game against Schalke, Williams was named by a German publication to the Bundesliga team of the week.
"I had a difficult debut because I had to play against Stuttgart and I had to guard Alexander Hleb. It was a little bit difficult but I think I did well," Williams said of his first three games with Freiburg's first team. "The second match was against Leverkusen and the third game was against Schalke. I think I've played well and I hope to play in the upcoming games also."
While Williams has played well at right back so far with Freiburg, it is not his natural position. In fact, he had not played the position in over a year before suddenly getting asked to play there last month by first team coach Robin Dutt.
"My natural position is defensive midfield but my coach with the first team has wanted me to play at right back and I couldn't say no," Williams said of his position change. "I am just very happy to play in the Bundesliga with the first team."
"When I heard that I would play with the first team I would not say I expected it but I also wasn't surprised," Williams added. "I was very happy because the week before I played my first match the coach tried to get me to play at right back. I thought, 'ok, now I have to do well in training.' I turned into a really good situation because then he let me play with the first team [against Stuttgart]. Sometimes when I think about it, it's a dream. "
"For the junior teams with Freiburg, I have also played right and left back," Williams continued. "But the last six months to a year with the second team, I have always played in the defensive midfield. So my time as a right back with Freiburg's first team is my first time at right back in more than a year."
While Williams is enjoying his new position at right back and knows he will be playing there for awhile, he hopes to return in the future to his natural defensive midfield position in the center of the field.
"For the young guys like me it's very hard to play in the central midfield because many of the players who play there in the Bundesliga are older with much more experience," Williams stressed. "But in the future I would like to play in the midfield because that is my natural position."
One of Williams' most important goals over the next few months will be to help lead Freiburg away from the relegation zone and ensure that the club plays in the Bundesliga next season. They currently sit in 15th place, one place away from relegation, in the 18 team league. They have 19 points through 21 games and trail 14th place Bochum by three points.
"I hope we stay in the Bundesliga," Williams said of the current relegation battle. "For both the club and for me it is better to play in the Bundesliga instead of the second league. It will be very hard but I think our team is very good and will stay in the Bundesliga."
Despite the relegation battle, Williams is thriving at Freiburg and insists that club is a great fit for him.
"My situation at Freiburg is very good," Williams said of his club situation. "The coaches like the way I play and they have given me a lot of confidence and I am only 20 years old. I don't want to change clubs because right now it is good for me to play and practice in the first league."
So while Williams' club situation with Freiburg is progressing well, his international future will surely become an issue. Williams' dual citizenship with both Germany and the US allows him to play for both countries. Several years ago Williams played for Germany's youth team but has not heard back since. He is now open to the idea of representing the US.
"Of course I would consider playing for the US National team," Williams admitted. "At this time I never really think about playing for Germany or for the USA national teams. I played for Germany U15s but after that I haven't heard from people on either the German teams or the USA teams."
Williams also feels that there is the possibility that once the US takes interest in him, people in Germany may take notice.
"I think that when the German people know that I could play for the US National team they may offer me a chance to play for the German U21 team," Williams said with some laughter. "But I will talk with my dad and with my mom and see what they say about the offers."
Williams' interest in playing for the US is strong despite the fact that he has never set foot in the country. He speaks fluent English and has a strong desire to visit the country where his father was born.
"I have never been to the United States but I have always wanted to go," Williams discussed. "When I was young in 2001 I was going to go to New York but the September 11 terrorist attacks happened at the World Trade Center and my dad cancelled the trip."
"If I get a chance to play for the US team I wouldn't say no if I had no chance at the time for the German national team," Williams concluded. "I am very interested in the US national team because my dad comes from the USA and I have watched them in friendlies and at the last World Cup."