Defender Timmy Chandler has covered a lot of soccer ground recently — from toiling away in Germany's fourth division three months ago to making an impressive debut with the U.S. national team.
Chandler said his coach and teammates at FC Nuremberg joke about his seemingly sudden success.
"They all laughed and said look at how quickly this is all going, all of a sudden," said Chandler, who spoke German during the interview.
The 21-year-old known made his debut for the U.S. national team on March 26, something was even a consideration when he began playing as a youngster.
Chandler, the son of an American serviceman and a German mother, signed with hometown team Eintracht Frankfurt when he was 10. He was later invited to play for the German national team's Under-15 side. That experience didn't end well.
"I played for the youth team and I didn't like that, I had a lot problems there," said Chandler, who declined to elaborate.
Last summer, Chandler left Frankfurt and signed with Nuremberg, a tradition-steeped team in northern Bavaria. After spending the first half of the season with the second team injuries on the first team in January gave Chandler a chance to display his speed and crossing ability in the Bundesliga.
His play caught the eye of former U.S. defender Tony Sanneh, a former Nuremberg player, who put him in contact with the U.S. coaches.
Within weeks, Chandler was in training camp with the U.S. national team, and came in at the half to help spark an improbable comeback to tie against Argentina on March 26.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Chandler started the next game against Paraguay in Nashville, again pressing up the field to help create chances, though the U.S. ended up losing the game 1-0. His effective attacking play surprised longtime observers of the national team.
"Apparently that's not so usual in the U.S.," Chandler said. "But I said to myself that I play like this in Nuremberg — very offensive-minded, with lots of runs down the wings. I thought I'd do it like that here, too."
Coach Bob Bradley praised Chandler's crossing and passes, and his positive attitude. But the coach said he may have to temper Chandler's attacking instinct depending on the game situation, especially as the team prepares for the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer.
"It's not just going forward, it's making good decisions," Bradley said.
Midfielder Landon Donovan echoed those concerns after the loss against Paraguay.
"There's certain times when we want him to do things, and he's not quite there yet," Donovan said. "But his pure willingness to attack is good."
Chandler's transition to the U.S. national team has been eased by other German-Americans on the squad, including midfielder Jermaine Jones and goalkeeper David Yelldell — who also made his debut with the team this week.
Donovan also speaks German following stints with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich.
"It's always good to be able to speak German," said Chandler. "But I also want to work on my English."
Jones and Chandler overlapped at Frankfurt, but didn't know each other because Chandler was playing for youth teams when Jones, now 30, was already on the senior team.
"It's important for him to keep working on his skills and responsibilities," said Jones, who now plays for Blackburn in England. "He can learn a lot about how to take on certain situations from older players.
"You can see he has the talent," Jones added. "He's had his first chance here, and I don't think it will be his last."
Michael Bradley, who earlier this year moved to Aston Villa in England, said he never crossed paths with Chandler when he played with his previous team, Borussia Moenchengladbach, in Germany.
But the midfielder said it's evident that Chandler is a strong athlete, "and he combines that with good soccer qualities."
Midfielder Clint Dempsey agreed.
"He's a good player — he's quick and he's only going to get better," Dempsey said. "It's cool to see these new faces come in and the talent that they have."
Chandler said playing with the U.S. team has been "a dream come true," no matter what the future holds. "This 10-day international break with the U.S. national team has been great in every way," he said.