United States U-20 National Team goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann has signed with Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin. The netminder gained interest from clubs in Germany following his standout performance in the U-20 World Cup. Prior to signing with Berlin, Klinsmann had trials with German sides Stuttgart and Eintracht Braunschweig in addition to Premier League clubs Everton and West Ham United.
Discussing the decision with Kicker Online, Klinsmann noted, "I could have signed a contract at Braunschweig, but it's important in life to take risks." Currently, Hertha Berlin has two first team keepers. Last season the first choice was Rune Jarstein who helped lead the team to sixth in the Bundesliga table allowing 47 goals, good for seventh fewest in the league, holding 11 clean sheets, and playing every minute of the campaign.
It is expected that rather than joining the senior squad, Klinsmann will fight for a spot on the U-23 team which plays in the fourth division. The youngster is looking forward to taking the next step in his development, telling Kicker Online: "To learn from [senior keepers] Rune [Jarstein] and Thomas [Kraft] and to get accustomed to the level of play through games for the second team is a great opportunity. It's a chance you just need to grab."
Leaving the University of California Golden Bears is still a risk for the keeper. Klinsmann is leaving guaranteed playing time and the comfort of college and life in the United States for an uncertain future in Germany. He does have several advantages compared to other Americans who have moved abroad to challenge themselves at the highest level. For example, he has a support network in his new home thanks to his father’s connections. In addition, Klinsmann knows the language and being raised by a soccer player has no doubt instilled in him a certain amount of built in professional socialization that the younger Klinsmann can tap into when he has a poor day in training or other setbacks arise.
Still, it is Klinsmann’s play that has earned him this opportunity. Sporting Director Michael Preetz was impressed by the 6’4”, 20-year-old in his week-long trial with the club and sounded excited about the potential of the young keeper in the future. He told Bundesliga.com, “[h]e should gain a foothold with us and develop step by step.”
According to ESPNFC.com, Klinsmann impressed with his calmness, confidence, technical ability, and athleticism, but he also showcased his nose for goal scoring in a scrimmage by finding unoccupied space off of the far post and slamming home a volley.
That’s a goal Thomas Muller would be proud of but Hertha Berlin clearly hopes that the keeper’s skills between the sticks develop as he begins his professional career.