Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Men’s National Team trained Friday, side-by-side flags — one American, one German — overlooked the session, painted onto the sloping turf surrounding American University’s campus field.
For a quartet of U.S. players, the design served as an apropos symbol for the dueling emotions surely swarming within their hearts and minds.
When defender Fabian Johnson, midfielders Jermaine Jones and Danny Williams, and forward Terrence Boyd pull on the red, white and blue for Sunday’s friendly at RFK Stadium, they’ll do so to play against the nation they were born in. Raised in. Have family in.
“It’s a big deal for us German-Americans since we grew up in the country,” Boyd said. “But I think it won’t prevent us from performing. If I have the chance to score, I will not think about it, that I’m scoring against my home country. Every match I get is important, every minute I get is important for me. I have to perform.”
The players come from similar roots, as all four were born to German mothers and American servicemen fathers. But when it comes to their ties to the Germany national team program, they have varying backstories.
Jones, 31, played for the German under-21 side and even picked up three caps with the senior squad before becoming one of the first players to change international allegiances under FIFA’s revised guidelines.
Johnson, 25, and Williams, 24, also were veterans of the German youth setup before committing to the U.S. Only the 22-year-old Boyd, who played for the U.S. U-20s and U-23s, has never competitively worn the German jersey that Sunday will signify the opposition.
“It will be a big moment for them,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “There will be a lot of eyes on them, not just at the game itself but back home in Germany. So I think it’s pretty cool for them. All of those little moments are special.”
Yet when it comes to the idea of divided allegiances, the sentiment within the American contingent is strong: These players have chosen to represent the U.S., and that commitment isn’t going to waver during a match against the motherland.
“It’s still the U.S. national team,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “There’s an incredible amount of pride in representing our country. So sure, we have different backgrounds. But that’s part of what our country is about. When you look at those guys, sure, they’re all excited at the chance to play against Germany. But in a lot ways, it’s business as usual.”
While Jones and Johnson are established starters under coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who also will be facing his native country for the first time, Williams and Boyd find themselves on the fringes of the team heading into qualifiers against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras. In friendlies such as this one, making a case for more playing time is always a top priority — no matter the opponent.
But if Boyd does bag his first international goal against Germany, will it carry added meaning?
“I will go crazy berserk insane,” Boyd said. “It could be against Germany, it could be against Honduras — I don’t care. When I score my first goal — and I will at some point — it’s going to be a huge party.”