PIVOTAL YEAR AWAITS HURZELER
With the current German season now winding down, a transformative year awaits Bayern Munich and US U-20 midfiedler Fabian Hurzeler at both the club an international levels.
Hurzeler, 17, is coming off a season where he was a regular starter for Bayern Munich U-19 team and played occasionally in friendlies for the U-23 team.
"For me personally, it was a good season," Hurzeler told YA from Germany. "I played well. I scored some goals and I had assists. I improved a great deal. I played normally with the U-19s but also sometimes with the second team of Bayern Munich. With the U-19s we are in [sixth] place but for the U-23s are not so successful."
Hurzeler spent a lot of time this past season learning from the coaching staff at Bayern and he ended up playing many different attacking positions. So far this season he has scored four goals.
While normally a midfielder that plays either on the left or centrally, Hurzeler versatility was put to as test recently as he played at forward in the last two games for the U-19s against first place FC Kaiserslautern and SSV Ulm.
Bayern Munich won each of these games with Hurzeler up top and he insists he does not feel out of position there.
"Normally, I'm a midfielder but we have a lot of injuries on the team at the moment. So my [coach] said to me I had to play forward. For me, that's not a problem because I play forward as well as I do midfield. In the midfield, I like to play either centrally or [wide]. I can play on the right but I prefer to play on the left."
Hurzeler's recent strong play comes on the heels of a personal highlight for him. Over the past few weeks he has been asked bu the club to occasionally train with Bayern Munich's first team.
Training with Bayern has left him with the overall career goal to eventually suit up for the perennial Champions League contender. For next season however, he is focused on consistently playing with the U-23 team and getting regular invitations to train with the first team.
"I've trained with them but my aim is to play with them," Huzeler said confidently. "In the last few weeks, I've trained with them four times and I hope I can continue with that. Next year I want to play on the second team at Bayern Munich. Maybe I'll have the chance to train more with the first team. Maybe even sometime I'll actually have a chance to play with the first team."
Next year will also be a pivotal year for Hurzeler in his relationship with Bayern Munich. He is hopeful that the next few months will yield a professional contract but if he is unable to secure a pro deal by the end of next season, he will move on.
"I hope to sign a contract," Hurzeler admitted. "If I don't sign a contract with Bayern Munich, I will change to a new team next year."
So while the upcoming season will be important for Huzeler as he tries to move further up the ranks at one of the most powerful clubs in the world, it will also be important internationally.
After representing Germany at the U-17 level, Hurzeler last year announced that he would prefer to play for the United States instead. Hurzeler was born in Texas to German parents but moved back to his parents' native Germany when he was a young kid.
Hurzeler attended a camp in January for the US U-20 national team as they were preparing for World Cup Qualifying. He enjoyed his camp with the US team and was invited to be part of the World Cup qualifying team. He declined the invitation because it fell during an important time of his school year.
At qualifying, the US team ended up winning both its group play games but lost the all-important quarterfinal game to Guatemala in Guatemala City and, as a result, did not qualify for this summer's U-20 World Cup in Colombia.
"It was a hard decision for me," Hurzeler recalled. "I was really looking forward to playing for them in qualifying but my parents and I decided it would be better for me to finish school now and then move forward with [soccer]. It was very disappointing they didn't qualify."
Hurzeler is still on the books as a German player as he represented their U-17 national team in official European qualifying games. Since he did not play for the US U-20 team at qualifying, he still has yet to file for his one-time change of association with FIFA. He will still need to do this prior to representing the US or US youth teams in offical events.
Moving forward, Hurzeler hopes to remain in the plans for the US team even though Thomas Rongen is no longer the coach and it was Rongen that introduced him into the US program.
"I would like to play with the United States but Thomas Rongen isn't the coach anymore and for me that was a little disappointing," Hurzeler said of his US future. "But of course I would like to play for the US."
Hurzeler has not completely closed the door on Germany but he doesn't hesitate to say that the US is his still remains his first choice because he really appreciates the respect and interest they have shown in him the past year.
"It's not a conflict," Hurzeler stated frankly. "I am focused on myself right now. I want to play as best I can right now and then I will look at which country I will play for. But right now I prefer to play for the United States because they really looked at me. They want me and they showed me that they want me. I played for them and it makes me proud."
Hurzeler was unable to attend the recent US U-20 friendlies against France because he is in the middle of his final exams but looks forward to the next opportunity he has to play for the US.
Even though playing with the U-20s will be most of Hurzeler's immediate US future, his first major tournament for the United States could be with the Olympic team which has qualifying next spring with the games taking place next summer.
For one of the top prospects in the US system, the opportunity to play at the 2012 Olympic games in London would be a dream.
"The Olympics would be a great challenge for me and it would be a new challenge," Hurzeler concluded. "Every player dreams of getting to the Olympics."