NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's still early, of course, but the chances are more likely that we'll remember this week's two U.S. national-team friendlies less for the results -- a 1-1 tie against Argentina and Tuesday's 1-0 loss to Paraguay -- than for the initial impacts made by some young American players.
After the Argentina game the name on the lips of most observers was Juan Agudelo, the 18-year-old forward who scored his second goal in three U.S. games. But the name that stood out on Tuesday was Timmy Chandler, the German-American speed merchant who celebrated his 21st birthday by making a significant impact as a right-sided defender and midfielder in his first U.S. start.
While most of the U.S. team was active in movement but lacking in the necessary quality on Tuesday, Chandler had his share of both, combining speed, vision, smart passing and (for the most part) good decisions on when to push forward. You can tell he has young legs, and right now the U.S. doesn't possess a fullback on either side of the field who is as dangerous a threat moving forward.
"He's athletic, he has speed going forward and he's shown an ability when he gets forward to hit some very good crosses," said U.S. coach Bob Bradley. "In situations where he needs to make passes inside to midfielders, his passing has been pretty good. He plays as both a right back and right midfielder at Nürnberg. They play a bit differently than we play, so there are still some things that need to be worked out in terms of positioning and some of the defensive duties."
Bradley's positive reviews don't mean that Chandler is a shoo-in to start at right back ahead of the incumbent Steve Cherundolo in the Gold Cup, but they do mean that Chandler is at least in the conversation.
And he should be. Chandler's name was all over my game notes on Tuesday. He ran a nifty give-and-go with Landon Donovan on one U.S. attack. He beat his defender one-on-one before hitting a solid cross that led to a corner kick. And when Eric Lichaj came on in the second half at right back, Chandler moved seamlessly to right midfield, where he combined well with an overlapping Lichaj on more than one occasion.
"I think he's done very well," said Donovan. "It's still going to take him a little time to adapt to the way we play. There's certain times where we want him to do things and he's not quite there yet. But his pure willingness to attack is good. Defensively he's been pretty good, and I think with more time and more games he's going to progress really well."
Chandler is only part of the new German-American invasion of the U.S. national team. In the second half on Tuesday, the U.S. had three German-born players on the field: Chandler, midfielder Jermaine Jones and goalkeeper David Yelldell. It wasn't lost on anyone that the stadium PA system happened to be playing Bruce Springsteen's "Born In the U.S.A." at the end of halftime, and yet the guys who weren't say they have been heartily welcomed to the U.S. team.
"It's a good feeling," said Jones, whose last-minute strike was saved well by Paraguayan goalkeeper Justo Villar to preserve the win. "This team has a good atmosphere."
"There's a huge German flavor on our team," said U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra. "But that's OK -- it's the United States of America. That's what we are: a big melting pot."
"Off the field, there's a lot of German spoken," said Donovan, who speaks the language well. "Our job is to make sure they integrate the right way on the field. A lot of times, and you see this in all leagues around the world, communication is important. We need to make sure they're moving along and comfortable saying things, and that'll help their progress."
Chandler and Jones, in particular, could have sizable roles for the U.S. when the team next gathers in early June for a friendly against Spain and the subsequent Gold Cup. If they're able to continue integrating into the team, what happened over the past week -- on and off the field -- will have played a big role in that process.