Just off the edge of the Germany-Austria border, about 30 minutes from the southern edge of Munich, there lies a small village by the name of Miesbach. With red-roofed buildings and winding streets, set against a mountainous backdrop, it looks like a pictorial dictionary’s entry for “Bavarian town.” It’s small; about 11,300 people live there. Julian Green is one of them–and has been for a while.
“I grew up there, I have my friends there,” Green says of Miesbach. “It’s not so big, so you can’t do so much, but I like it.”
Green, a surprise inclusion on the United States’ 2014 World Cup squad at the age of 19, is now 21 years old. He was confirmed Tuesday as a first-team player for Bayern Munich this season, but he’s still trying to carve out an active role for one of the best clubs in the world. But after years of living with his mother in Miesbach, and despite all the options he surely had when it recently came time to get a flat of his own, Green decided to keep on living in his longtime hometown.
“That's my personality,” he explains. “I love spending time with my friends, and my family, and it was very important that I go home and have that.”
Throughout Green's budding career already full of many twists and turns, Miesbach provides a comparative sanctuary of stability. Green’s career has ranged from thrilling surprising highs on the world’s stage (a goal in extra time in the 2014 World Cup round of 16 against Belgium), to times when he couldn’t seem to get playing time anywhere.
Hovering over all, like the mountains shadow Miesbach, is his inclusion on the 2014 World Cup roster. The problem is, it’s often remembered for who wasn’t there alongside him. Landon Donovan and Green may not have ever been fighting for the same place on the roster, but for better or worse they will be inextricably linked in American soccer lore. 2014 was the year that arguably the USA's greatest men's player ever was deemed surplus to requirements, which means that Green, by implication if not intention, became “the next big thing.” The goal against Belgium, though it didn’t win the game, added fuel to that fire.
“From that moment to now?” he asks himself, taking stock of the disappointing two years that followed his World Cup goal. He shrugs.
By that, Green means to say that things change quickly. Coming off the World Cup, it became clear that Green wasn’t going to get significant playing time in a stacked Bayern Munich squad. So the club sent him on loan to Hamburg, with coach Mirko Slomka seemed eager to bring him on board. Then, after just one game at Hamburg, Slomka was unceremoniously fired. The new appointee, Green says, simply didn’t have the player in his plans.
“It was sure that I wouldn't play. I knew he had other players in mind,” Green says. “I think it was the worst thing that can happen to a player. You always want to play, even more when you’re on loan. But maybe that's the reason that I feel a little bit stronger by the end of it.”
In Green’s case, “stronger” means not just improvement as a player, but also an increased appreciation for the comforts of home. In Hamburg, Julian Green had a flat right on the Elbe river, but he couldn’t find time on the field, or relaxation off of it.
“It was a little bit difficult go to go without [time with friends] in Hamburg,” he said. “But then, that’s how soccer life can be. Sometimes you have to go somewhere else, but you have to handle it.
“I wanted to play in Hamburg, but it was not a negative thing for me. I learned a lot from the situation. I've never thought back to Hamburg like ‘Oh s***, it was so bad.’ I just move forward."
This managing of expectations is why Green isn’t getting to carried away with his hat trick against Inter Milan, pointing out that he could have had a couple goals in a friendly against Manchester City earlier in the preseason were it not for failed finishes. He repeats the same line again: “That’s soccer.”
But outside of soccer, Green values stability. Time with friends. Proximity to family. Relaxing evenings and nights spent playing FIFA, watching TV shows, or movies (Green is particularly fond of chase thrillers, like Frédéric Schoendoerffer’s 96 Hours or any of Liam Neeson’s more recent works)
All of that may be part of the reason why, despite long odds of playing meaningful minutes for a Bayern Munich team that remains as deep and talented as ever, that Green harbors no intentions of trying out another loan.
“I’m not thinking about going anywhere else, I’m thinking about Bayern Munich,” he said, repeating lines he’s told countless media members over the course of Bayern’s preseason U.S. tour. The club, after all, has been his home on the field since he was 14 years old.
And away from the field, there will always be Miesbach.