Occasional U.S. international midfielder Danny Williams scored the eventual game winner in the 52nd minute of Huddersfield Town’s 2-1 FA Cup victory over Bolton Wanderers.
The 28-year old German-American’s long-range shot took a fortuitous deflection, leaving keeper Mark Howard stranded.
Williams has featured sporadically for the USMNT since obtaining his American passport in 2011, making 23 appearances and scoring two goals. His status within the national team has been an ongoing topic of conversation, particularly since the Championship and Premier League mainstay wasn’t a regular call up during Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena’s doomed World Cup qualifying campaign.
Last month, Williams told NBC Sports that he was frustrated by a lack of call ups during the cycle. He informed Joe Prince-Wright that he was not given a reason for his lack of inclusion and suggested a preference for domestic-based players:
It was frustrating but nobody really ever talked to me or gave me a reason… Some people wanted to play the MLS guys a little more but whatever, but Bruce Arena emailed me and said ‘you’re in the picture but I haven’t really seen you.’ And I thought that was a bit strange because you must know your players, don’t you? Especially because I am not 18.
Naturally, this claim was denied by Arena to ESPN FC:
“We took who we felt were the best players, regardless of where they played. The statements are completely false.”
Regardless of whether one considers the debate over the failed 2018 World Cup qualification campaign to be tedious or enthralling, it is important to look forward for the sake of progress. U.S. Soccer has to prepare for 2022, and whoever is hired has to decide whether Williams (who will be 33 when the next World Cup kicks off) will be a key part of the program.
Based on performance, it would be difficult to keep him out of any serious matches right now. Williams is currently surviving and thriving with recently promoted Huddersfield, who are in 11th place and should easily retain their spot in the Premier League. He’s made 17 league appearances in the midfield and appears to be improving after an injury-hampered start to his Terriers tenure.
Unfortunately for any player in the prime years of his career, the U.S. men’s national team won’t be playing any meaningful competitions for a very long time. If Williams intends on making his World Cup debut, he will have to continue to perform at a high level for the next four to five years. It’s a tough ask for any player to hold onto a national team spot while combating the ravages of time, coaching changes, and a regular influx of talented young players; it’s even more difficult so for someone who has never been a core player in the first place.
Perhaps Williams’ recent captaincy in November’s friendly against Portugal signals an increased role with the national team. Or maybe it’s the high-water mark in the international career of a talented but unlucky player who didn’t impress the right people in the right camps. Time will tell, but for now it’s enjoyable to see American players succeed in the top leagues.