USA vs. Ghana: Why is so much of the US team German?

To replace a 'lost generation' of young US players, America's German coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, has had to look to his homeland to build tomorrow's stars at this World Cup.

Julio Cortez/AP/File
Mix Diskerud (l.) and Aron Johannsson of the US talk before the start of an international soccer friendly between Turkey and the United States on June 1, 2014 in Harrison, N.J.

The men of the US soccer team will begin play in one of the hardest World Cup groups June 16, without their all-time best player. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann has left Landon Donovan at home, questioning his fitness and commitment to the team.

With games against Ghana (June 16), Portugal (June 22), and Germany (June 26), the United States will be hard pressed even to qualify for the knockout stages. But Klinsmann’s focus might be beyond these two weeks. His job is to rebuild an aging US team, and he’s turned to his native Germany to do it.

Team USA will have a distinctly Northern European flavor in Brazil, with five players having been born and raised in Germany, one in Norway, and one raised in Iceland after being born to Icelandic parents attending college in Alabama.

These players all play in European leagues, a crucible of competition above what America’s Major League Soccer can offer. Klinsmann will be counting on that experience.

But the moves have also been forced on Klinsmann. Many of America’s young prospects have stalled. The overseas recruits – who, except for Icelander Aron Johannsson, all have one American parent – are partly to fill in that gap.

The only member of the “lost generation” that failed to qualify for the London Olympics to make the 2014 World Cup team? Norwegian-American Mikkel “Mix” Diskerud. In Brazil, he’ll be wearing Donovan’s No. 10 shirt.

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