THOUGHTS ON CHANDLER
Has Chandler worn the US jersey for the last time?
Yesterday it was announced that the US national team is moving on without Timothy Chandler.
When the initial part of the US roster was announced on Tuesday, Timothy Chandler's name was not included and Jurgen Klinsmann said that the German-born right back wants to "take a break" from the US team.
Clearly this is not a good sign for those hoping to see Chandler in a US jersey anytime soon. It does likely mean that he is hoping for an eventual callup from Germany because I simply cannot see him ever refusing an invitation from Joachim Loew.
Players who are 22 years old do not take breaks from the international game. If anyone needed a break it would be Steve Cherundolo who is 10 years older and also coming off a Bundesliga season. Instead, Cherundolo was the first to arrive at the US national team camp.
So Chandler doesn't want to suit up for the US team right now and he may never want to suit up for the US team again. If his heart is not with the US, is it with Germany? It probably is.
This begs the question of whether or not he is good enough for Germany. I may be in the minority of journalists, but I think he will be on their radar after the European Championships this summer. His natural athleticism is very uncommon - even in the Bundesliga. He is fast, strong, and versatile.
Germany is one of the best national teams in the world and could very well walk away with the European title this summer. But even for a team that good, a phenomenal athlete who can move up and down the right side (either as a winger or a right back) is an asset.
It still will be tough for Chandler but this is a player who in June 2010 was informed by Eintracht Frankfurt that he was not in their plans. Since then, he signed with Nurnberg and went from a regular first team starter into a potential Bundesliga star. He probably wants to see how far he can go.
The next part of the question is how will he be viewed by the supporters of the US national team?
The US has lost out on top players before. Giuseppe Rossi and Neven Subotic are two players who would have been game-changers if they were to play for the United States. But the fact Rossi turned the US down and Subotic played for US youth national teams but filed for a switch to Serbia has left a bitter feeling among US fans.
Chandler is likely to surpass both Rossi and Subotic for two reasons: First is that unlike the other two, he actually played for the senior national team. In addition, he bailed on the Gold Cup, and quit the US team right before World Cup qualifying despite still being considered an important part of the team.
Second, Chandler made so many repeated comments, both in interviews with Yanks Abroad and to US Soccer's website, that he was dedicated to the US team. He frequently referred to it as a "dream." US Soccer has given Chandler his space. They allowed him to stay with his club and miss friendlies due to "injuries" that were not as serious as reported. Both Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann rated him highly and tried to make him a key part of the team. Subotic also once gave statements that he wouldn't turn his back on the US team, but unlike Subotic, Chandler was an adult when he made his comments.
If Chandler had refused a callup, he would likely have gone the way of Fulham's Brede Hangeland. Hangeland, like Chandler, is a US citizen but doesn't have strong US connections. He would have made a true difference for the US national team if he chose the US over Norway, but instead there really aren't any hard feelings from supporters due to the lack of US connections. The fact that Chandler played for the US and made the specific comments will leave bitter feelings.
Klinsmann said that the door is still open for Chandler's return. It is quite possible that in the future Chandler wants to come back and that his possible dreams of playing for Germany never come fruition. It's wise to never close the door on Chandler but if he announces he wants to come back right before the World Cup, would he be welcome then? It's unclear how the rest of the US team will feel about welcoming a player who previously refused to join the team prior to important and meaningful games.
The US is not at the level yet where they can turn away such talent, but the team has the ability to move forward successfully with players who are dedicated to the program. As Heculez Gomez once said "to play for your country is a privilege and an honor, and it shouldn't be taken lightly."
If a player doesn't share Gomez's attitude, why would fans or teammates want such a player? Success is not nearly as rewarding otherwise.
In the end of the day, international soccer is different than club soccer in that the players and the supporters are united and share the common bond of the flag. If a player does not share that goal, he really should not be part of the national team. Talent is important, but dedication, heart, and the willingness to fight for the flag are equally as important in the international game. Look no further the Frankie Hejduk who wasn't the most skilled player, but was remarkably successful at the 2002 World Cup through effort and willpower alone.
So while, Chandler says he wants to take a break from US Soccer, I hope the US fans now decide to take a break from Chandler. Despite occasional setbacks such as the recent Olympic qualifying team, soccer will continue to progress in the states and no one player or handful of players will ever change that.