On March 26th 2011 against Argentina, fans of US Soccer were given a glimpse of who they thought was going to be the successor to long time right back Steve Cherundolo. Coming in at half time, Tim Chandler quickly demonstrated a penchant for going forward. His dangerous cross in the 48th minute created a great scoring opportunity for Jozy Altidore and his speed down the wing opened up multiple opportunities for the United States. It was only one game, but Chandler looked as if he could become an instant starter.
The son of an American service-man and German mother, he had all the things the US needed; he played a position of need, he was getting playing time at a top German club (FC Nuremberg), and he wasn’t in the sights of Joachim Low and the German National team. Fast forward to the summer of 2011 at the Gold Cup, under advice from his club he declined Bob Bradley’s offer to play in the tournament, citing fatigue from the season. Most were disheartened, but they understood. Here was a 22 year old playing his first full season in the top flight of German football, and his club wanted him to rest. Perhaps this was the case of a big club bullying a young player, but for the sake of player development, they let it slide. The US was highly favored in the tournament and Cherundolo was still more than capable of manning his position. Chandler tried to allay fears, claiming he was focused on meeting back up with the US, and German head coach Joachim Low even went so far as to say that Chandler wasn’t on the German national team’s radar.
One year later, on the eve of a month long training camp, which includes three international friendlies and concludes with the start of World Cup qualifying, Chandler again has denied a call-up. This time from fellow countrymen Jurgen Klinsmann, citing that he needs a “break”. It seems that in turning down an important national team call-up for the second time in two years, Chandler has no interest in representing the US.
Naturally the coaching staff, the players, and fans are extremely disappointed on missing out on seeing a player with huge potential. It stings for US fans because again they may have to bear being spurned again by another young dual nationality star. And after having to endure rejection from Neven Subotic and Giuseppe Rossi, this one could very well leave a mark. But Chandler’s decision won’t be a death blow for the US, being that Cherundolo can still put in a shift, and there are some other young options that Klinsmann has called into camp. You have Eric Lichaj who is a natural right-back but just finished the season with Aston Villa at left-back, Fabian Johnson has been a revelation for the US and Hoffenhiem, Edgar Castillo has had a career year at Club Tijuana, and add in another up and coming prospect in Alfredo Morales from Hertha Berlin, Klinsmann will have a lot to work with in the upcoming month.
The problem with Chandler’s decision is that the US can’t wait around for him. Left and right back are areas of need, where starters and back-ups are needed. The next month will give Klinsmann a real chance to see what the aforementioned players are capable of, but he should have had a chance to see them already. In addition to Argentina, Chandler played in matches against Paraguay, Belgium, Ecuador, France and Slovenia. Chandler took away valuable playing opportunities from other players who could have been groomed to fill the left back position in games against quality competition. He took time away from guys who would die to put the US shirt on.
Interestingly, the one who may be hurt the most by this decision is Tim Chandler himself. No one begrudges him the decision he’s made. Being mixed racially, it’s entirely understandable that he may have never felt like he fit in with the Americans. He may feel more German than American, and that’s fine. The Americans pursued him. But the timing no doubt hurts him. As far as we know he is not in Germany’s plans for this summer’s European Championship. Furthermore, Klinsmann’s own words indicated this training camp is all business. They are in this camp strictly for World Cup Qualifying and not for scouting. Jurgen specifically said they are looking for leaders. Players who, despite long seasons in Europe, are looking to build on that season use their time with the national time as an opportunity to get better.
Klinsmann did add that the door is still open for Tim Chandler, but one has to wonder how long it will be open for a player who has not made up his mind.