By IVES GALARCEP
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras– It is a process that has spanned two years and two different U.S. Men’s National Team coaches. Timmy Chandler’s path to being cap-tied to the United States has gone on longer than most would have expected, and longer than some U.S. players would have liked, but it appears the wait will finally come to an end here on Wednesday when he is expected to play for the United States in the Hexagonal World Cup qualifying opener against Honduras.
The young German-born defender has accepted call-ups for friendlies but has backed out of tournaments and qualifiers, most memorably the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, when it can be argued that his absence helped contribute to the U.S. team’s demise (they lost to Mexico in the final). He used excuses related to needing rest and wanting to focus on club soccer, and each time he made a new excuse it felt more and more like he was holding out for a chance to play for Germany.
Things have changed though. Chandler has decided to finally commit himself, and his trip down here for Wednesday’s qualifier provides clear evidence of his intentions. That, coupled with an injury to Steve Cherundolo will very likely mean that he will make his first cap-tying appearance in an important Road World cup qualifier.
“I feel very proud now to play for the U.S. National team and tomorrow for the first qualifying game with the national team,” Chandler said on Tuesday before the U.S. team’s training session at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano. “Of course I was in the last game, in Russia, and I like the mentality of the team and of the trainer very much and I’m only proud to be here, and happy.”
Chander pointed to the feeling of camaraderie within the team as one of the key reasons for finally deciding to commit to the United States.
“The whole team are fine, and it’s like a little family and I very much like it,” Chandler. “I speak with (Klinsmann) a lot and he told me that he wanted me to make a future with the USA. That’s why I come here. I want to help the USA and I hope I can do it.
“We want to go forward with the national team and you see what’s happened here, I think it’s gone forward in the past months and years when he’s here. I hope it’s the same in the future.”
Chandler’s indecisiveness led to some consternation among U.S. players who didn’t appreciate what appeared to be lack of commitment, but now that he is ready to tie himself to the U.S. national team, there is plenty of appreciation for a player who looks destined to replace Steve Cherundolo as the team’s first-choice right back.
“It’s about time you know,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard. “It’s been a lot of back and forth. Probably too much if you ask me. That’s my opinion and Timmy, we think he’s a big part of the team. He’s young, but he brings a lot of grit and experience and he’s a really good player.
“Obviously commitment is a big thing for us so if that’s what he’s going to do we’re excited because he’s a fantastic player,” Howard said. “If we can have Fabian (Johnson and Timmy kind of bookend the back four that’d be great for us. With their youth and they’re already playing in a great league.”
Some U.S. fans still won’t buy that Chandler has finally committed to the United States until he takes the field on Wednesday, but the Nuremberg defender left no doubt that he intends to play on Wednesday, and do whatever Klinsmann and the United States needs him to do.
“I think I can make it,” Chandler said. “I can step in and do what (Klinsmann) wants and I’ll give my best tomorrow and I hope we win.”