BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, April 27, 2011
After a break-out season culminated in his first international cap barely two months after his first-team debut, Timothy Chandler feels the experience and his new teammates have already left a strong mark on him.
As the second half of the 2010/11 Bundesliga season got underway in mid-January, Chandler was thrilled to even have earned his promotion to Nürnberg's first-team roster after just half a season in the organization, following nearly a decade in Eintracht Frankfurt's youth setup.
However, not even the player himself could have predicted how much farther he still would come during even the following weeks.
A trio of solid substitute appearances for the team ultimately led to Nürnberg coach Dieter Hecking inserting the then-20 year-old into the starting eleven when injuries took their toll on the team. The German-born American immediately took the initiative and exploded for a goal and assist, and hasn't looked back in the time since, establishing himself as one of the team's most consistent starters.
His consistently superb performances on the right flank of Nürnberg's lineup - both as a midfielder and defender - caught the eye of US National team head coach Bob Bradley, who wasted no time in calling Chandler up at the first opportunity for a pair of friendly matches against Argentina and Paraguay.
After spending several days working with his new teammates in the days prior to their game against Argentina, Chandler finally took the field in a packed New Meadowlands Stadium for the second half against the likes of Lionel Messi and Co. as the team fought back for a tough-fought 1-1 draw.
"Everything was really great," Chandler told YA, reflecting on the whole experience leading up to and including both games. "People always say there aren't so many soccer fans in America but the atmosphere was great."
"Against Argentina there were almost 80,000 in the stadium. There were more fans in the stadium for Argentina so it wasn't like a typical home game," he remarked, "but the atmosphere was still really good."
Adding to the luster of the whole occasion was the fact that Chandler celebrated his 21st birthday on the day of the team's second game three days later against Paraguay, marking the event with a place in the team's starting lineup.
He is thankful that the more experienced veterans and coaching staff put forth a huge effort to integrate new players into the team system, both on and off the field, and thinks they did a good job to make him feel like a welcome cog in the machine.
"The other players made an effort to help me out a lot. The team and coaches did a really good job of including me, and everything went really well."
He is quick to single out and pay tribute to another player on the team who has excelled on his preferred right side of the field, and thinks that a quick synergy between the two has already helped him develop in his young career.
"I was particularly impressed with Clint Dempsey," he compliments of the two-time World Cup veteran. "In the games it wasn't always very possible to see so much from him, but when I worked together with him in training it was clear how intelligent and good of a player he is."
"He spoke quite a bit with me during the games and in training," Chandler continues. "I feel I learned a lot from him in the short time so it was a good experience to work with him."
The week-long gathering of players was also notable due to the inclusion of two other German-Americans - goalkeeper David Yelldell and defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones - both of whom played alongside Chandler at various points during the two games.
With several other players in the core of the team, namely Michael Bradley, Steve Cherundolo and Edson Buddle, either currently playing in Germany or having spent a significant portion of their careers there, it begs the question of whether this has any effect on the overall style of play on the team.
While Chandler does see some qualities of the German game in the individual styles of players, he feels that this is just another part of the collage which Bradley has constructed.
"Jermaine Jones is a strong player in the middle and definitely brings some influence from German [soccer]," Chandler evaluated. "But coach Bradley also has a good tactical sense of his own and does a good job of bringing other influences together."
The consistently promising showings by the young speedster on both the club and international level have given widely held expectations of a trajectory which will ultimately land him in the starting lineup. However with two of the most accomplished American veterans in Cherundolo and Dempsey holding down the right side of the field, his more immediate role in upcoming games, particularly the impending Gold Cup, is still being settled.
For Chandler, the specifics in solving this conundrum on the short term take a back seat to what he sees as his ultimate strength in pushing the team ahead.
"As long as I'm playing on the wing where I can use my quickness to help the team move forward then it doesn't matter to me if I'm playing more in the front or in back."
With the official announcement of the roster for the Gold Cup set to come within the next month, Chandler nevertheless remains focused on the more pressing matter of helping Nürnberg push up the standings towards a potential Europa League spot, leaving any thought regarding his summer activities until after the final weeks of the season are through.
"Nobody knows for sure," he maintains of the likelihood of his inclusion in the Gold Cup roster, concluding, "we'll have to see what the coach does, but we'll see. We'll leave it for the future."