BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, January 7, 2011
Losing the likes of Giuseppe Rossi and Neven Subotic has stung, but the US is exacting some form of revenge with the lastest defection being Bayern Munich's Fabian Hurzeler.
The US Under-20 camp is underway in Ft. Lauderdale this week, and among the new players in Florida is Hurzeler, formerly a standout player for Germany's Under-17 team.
Hurzeler, 17, was born in Houston, Texas, but was raised in Germany where he has lived his entire life. After discussing the issue with US head coach Thomas Rongen, the central midfielder will now represent the United States internationally.
"It's nice," Hurzeler told YA on Friday of the US setup. "The guys are very friendly. I like everybody and I'm having fun. It's a new challenge for me. I am now 17 and I can play for the U20s."
"It's a new challenge where I can also play in a World Cup for this nation."
For Hurzeler, the decision has been one long in the making. The US asked him to join in 2007, but it wasn't until 2010 that he accepted. The choice was difficult but he is happy with the US team.
"The United States national team asked me three years ago and now I made the decision," Hurzeler explained. "It was tough, but in the end I'm happy."
One of the reasons why he is happy is because of the playing style of Rongen who brings with him a European style and Hurzeler enjoys that approach.
"He's Dutch and he knows how to play soccer," Hurzeler said of his new coach. "I like his attitude with soccer. It's a bit like Europe."
Another change for Hurzeler has been getting used to his new teammates with whom he is meeting for the first time. Getting adjusted to a group of players who mostly developed their game in United States is a bit of a different experience for Germany-raised American.
"I expected to play a little different than in Europe. They play harder. They play a few more long balls. It's not so fast, but I expected this."
"There are a lot of different players. Some are technical and skillful, while others play really hard and tackle hard. It's a good difference to have on the team. They play a little bit different but soccer is the same. I have no problems [with this setup]."
One thing that Hurzeler does appreciate about this US team is the wide variety of players who are based all over the world in countries ranging from Israel and Croatia to England and Mexico. This difference he thinks makes the team better.
"They all can play soccer," Hurzeler stated frankly. "It's no different from the Germany team. I think it's good that we have different kinds of players."
Hurzeler, who is also eligible for the 2013 U-20 World Cup, is impressed by what he has seen on the field in Ft. Lauderdale and based on what he has seen in the first four days of camp, he is very optimistic of this team's chances to make a long run at the World Cup and perhaps lift the trophy at the end.
"Of course we have a chance," Hurzler said with a smile. "We have a good team. I am looking forward to playing in the World Cup with this team!"
The transition to the US U-20 national team has not been the only major development the past few months for Hurzeler. At the beginning of the season, Hurzeler was promoted to the Bayern Munich reserve team. While he still also occasionally plays for the U-19 team, he is also the youngest player on the powerful German club's reserves.
Playing against players much older is a challenge for the teen, but he enjoys the challenge and is confident he will succeed against the more established players.
"It's good to play with the reserve team because they play in a very good league," Hurzeler assessed of this transition. "It's a good challenge for me to play against the other players in this league. All the players are older than me and bigger than me. It's hard to be the youngest, but it's a great challenge. I can show my talent. I know that I can play soccer very well."
Hurzeler knows he can play the sport at a high level and he has shown that by playing very well in the first few days of his first US camp.
He is enjoying being on the field with the U-20 team and he is proud to put on the American jersey and looks forward to the future.
"I am really proud to play for the United States," Hurzeler concluded. "It's a great nation. I love it. I come for holidays every year. It's just great."