MATHEW WAGNER - Monday, October 8, 2012
With the final games of second round World Cup qualifying coming up, Danny Williams is hoping to help the United States move onto the vaunted "Hexagonal" group- and one step closer to his ultimate goal.
After deciding to represent the U.S. late in 2011, the German-American said that he really started to look forward to representing the Stars and Stripes at the world's biggest tournament, which the U.S. has played in every version since 1990.
"That was my biggest dream I had when I started to play for the US national team," Williams said. "It's every kid's dream to play in the World Cup. I'm really looking forward to it, and I hope I can play a role at the World Cup with the U.S. team.
"I really feel comfortable with this team. It was the best decision to make."
Before Williams' decision, the central midfielder made only one prior trip to the U.S.- a vacation in Miami during the summer of 2011- but it wasn't necessarily Williams fault.
His father, a former American military serviceman, was stationed at Heidelberg Army Airfield in Heidelberg, Germany, 20 years ago and never returned to his native land. He met Williams' mother and settled down in the Baden city of Karlsruhe.
Williams' father has a deep-fear of flying, Williams said, and has fallen out of touch with most people he knew in the U.S. because he hasn't been there. Still, Williams said that his father is proud that Williams chose to represent his father's country of birth.
"They always follow our national team games on the internet," Williams said. "My mom is very excited and is nervous whenever we are playing. My dad is also proud that his son represents his country. I am also thankful for my parents because without them I wouldn't be where I am now."
Despite growing up in Germany and speaking mostly German, the FC Freiburg and Karlsruher SC youth product makes a conscious effort to use his English.
Between the number of German-Americans called into coach Jürgen Klinsmann's camps and players like Steve Cherundolo, who, after over a dozen years at Hannover, can speak fluent German, Williams might not need to use the English skills he has.
That said, Williams doesn't want to alienate himself from his non-German speaking teammates.
"It's made it a lot easier for me with the Germans on the team, but right now, I talk to everybody and I feel very comfortable," he said. "Also with Stevie [Cherundolo], he can speak fluent German, but in front of the other players, I speak with him in English because I don't want the other players to think [I] always speak German. Jürgen Klinsmann also speaks English to me in front of the team which I like."
As for the product on the field, the 23-year-old American has made great strides in the past couple of years.
Williams earned his professional debut on Jan. 22, 2010, for FC Freiburg against Stuttgart, and appeared in nine games for Freiburg, including two starts.
Before the 2011-2012 season, Williams switched to Hoffenheim, where he's played in 29 games. His play in Germany has earned him eight caps for the U.S. in the process.
Williams said that because both his international and professional careers are young, he's still got a long way to go to reach his full potential.
"I think I can even improve myself and even get better because I'll work just as hard [as always]," he said. "My goal is to improve everyday in training and in the games. So I hope I'll have a long career in front of me."
One thing Williams can mark off his list of accomplishments is scoring a goal.
Williams recorded his first ever professional goal against Cherundolo and Hannover Sept. 23. Normally defensive-minded, he ran forward on the attack in the second minute of stoppage time, and after teammate Kevin Volland sucked in the defenders and goalkeeper, Williams placed the ball into the back of an empty net.
Williams said it was good to finally open his goal-scoring account.
"It was a good feeling because that was my first goal," he said. "I was saying to myself, ‘Okay Danny, it's time to score your first goal of your professional career.' I'm thankful I did it."
Getting back to the national team, with his coach facing a lot of heat for the team's struggles in qualifying, Williams said the team is starting to understand how Klinsmann's system works and is becoming more and more comfortable with it.
Given more time, he said it will show that this system is the right one for the U.S.
"With every game we are getting more comfortable with each other," Williams said. "I can already see it, like from the first half against Jamaica. I think the system is very good for us.
"We have really good potential on the national team because we have so many young players. The mix between the young players and the more experienced players is perfect on our team. We have great potential."