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Jun 25, 2014

Gulati: Foreign-born no less American

So close to a place in the Last 16 until Portugal grabbed an equaliser, the USA have to lift themselves to get the point required to progress. The ace up their sleeve is coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who knows the German team inside out.

RECIFE, Brazil -- With five players on the 23-man U.S. World Cup squad born and/or developed in Germany, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati understands why some people have wondered openly if there is too much of a foreign influence on Jurgen Klinsmann's team.

He just doesn't agree with it.

"When it comes down to the notion that those players are any less American," Gulati said on Wednesday during a lengthy, impromptu round-table discussion with reporters at Arena Pernambuco, where the U.S. will meet Germany on Thursday (Noon ET, ESPN/WatchESPN) in its final first round match.

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"We've got five players who were born outside the United States because they had a serviceman father who was serving the country," Gulati said. "It would be pretty hard to convince me or anyone else that they've got less of a right to play for the United States than anyone else."

Selecting players with multiple nationalities has become standard practice in international soccer, of course. All three of the Americans Group G foes, including the three-time world champion Germans, have fielded foreign-born players in Brazil.

Of the Yanks' German-American quintet -- John Brooks, Timmy Chandler, Julian Green, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones -- two have already scored crucial goals in Brazil.

Brooks, a 21-year-old defender who plays for hometown club Hertha Berlin, nodded home a late winner in the squad's June 16 opener against Ghana. Jones, at 32 the elder statesman of the group, provided an important equalizer with the Americans trailing 1-0 in the second half of Sunday's 2-2 draw with Portugal.

Jermaine Jones, part of the United States' German-American contingent, scored the equalizer against Portugal on Sunday.

Besides the German-Americans, midfielder Mix Diskerud (Norway) and forward Aron Johnannsson (Iceland) were trained almost exclusively in other countries. With close to a third of Klinsmann's squad brought up outside the American development system, it raises the question of if U.S. Soccer is doing enough to produce its own talent.

Gulati dismissed such claims on Wednesday, noting that Borussia Dortmund defender Neven Subotic, who played for Serbia at the 2010 World Cup, and current Mexico midfielder Miguel Ponce, a former high school star in California, both spent time with U.S. youth national teams.

"It's a globalized world," Gulati said. "We haven't done anything to expedite citizenship for any players or anything like that. Those guys are all Americans at birth. In a couple of cases, they obviously had to file a change of nationality switch under FIFA rules and they chose to do that."

For the U.S., one of those players was Tampa, Florida-born, Germany-raised Bayern Munich prospect Julian Green, who committed to the U.S. in March. The 19-year-old, who has yet to see the field in Brazil, was recruited heavily by Klinsmann, as was Johnannsson. Gulati conceded that having a former World Cup winner as a coach may have helped land players that might not have chosen the Yanks otherwise.

"If you're a young German-American player," he said, "It's probably a little different to get a call from Jurgen Klinsmann than it might be from 'John Smith.'"

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