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Black History Month: Green’s magic touch

Julian Green’s first touch in a World Cup was the stuff of legends.

Belgium v USA: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On July 1, 2014, the United States Men’s National Team were set to take on Belgium in the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup. The USMNT, escaping the “Group of Death” to make it to the knockout stage, were going up against a team that were starting to make noise as one of the best in the world. It was one of the biggest matches in the program’s history.

The game didn’t have a ton of action on the part of the USMNT during regulation, but on defense it was Tim Howard who stood on his head to keep the team in the match. The match after regulation was still scoreless, with Chris Wondolowski’s miss in stoppage time being the closest opportunity for the Americans.

Extra time started poorly for the USMNT, as Kevin De Bruyne scored 3 minutes into the first extra time session. It was followed by a Romelu Lukaku goal in the 104th minute as Belgium carried a 2-0 lead into the 2nd extra time period. It was between extra time periods that a young 19-year-old by the name of Julian Green took off his warmups and entered the game for his first World Cup minutes.

Julian Green, born in Tampa but raised in Germany, represented Germany at the youth level while still being courted by then-USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. In November 2013, Klinsmann attempted to call in Julian Green for a camp, but Green declined because he was not ready to file the one-time switch to represent the United States full time.

However, in March 2014, ahead of a match against Ukraine, Julian Green accepted a USMNT call-up and filed his one-time switch. He didn’t play in that camp, but shortly after the camp, Green’s switch was approved by FIFA. He made his USMNT debut in an April friendly against Mexico.

Klinsmann named Green to the 23-man USMNT roster for the 2014 World Cup, but through almost 4 matches, Green had yet to see the field. Against Belgium, Klinsmann finally gave him his chance as the team stepped back out onto the field for the second extra time period. Green didn’t make USMNT fans wait long to provide them with hope.

Shortly after kickoff to start the second extra time period, Michael Bradley received the ball about 15 yards inside the USA’s attacking half. Green, on the left wing, made a brilliant run into the middle of the 18-yard box, where Bradley floated a ball down the middle of the field towards him. Green, without hesitation, reached back with his right foot, and on the volley, sent a shot past Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into the right side of the net. Goal United States.

With his first touch in a World Cup, Julian Green had scored a goal for the USMNT, bringing their deficit down to 1. And on a volley? It’s the stuff from which dreams are made. He was the youngest goalscorer at the 2014 World Cup, having just turned 19 years old. The USMNT would fail to find the equalizer, falling to Belgium by a 2-1 score. But, Julian Green’s magic moment still lives on, and his name will forever be known by USMNT fans as a result.


For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing stories throughout the month to highlight some of the biggest moments in Black American and world soccer history.