photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When head coach Bob Bradley told Timmy Chandler that he'd be entering the U.S. national team's match against Argentina for his international debut, the 20-year-old right back's reaction was not one of a newcomer getting ready to face the best player in the world in Lionel Messi in his first cap.
Instead of feeling anxious, overjoyed or overwhelmed by the moment that was about to present itself, the German-born son of an American serviceman and German woman solely focused on the task at hand.
""I was not nervous, I don't know why," said Chandler, who speaks limited English. "I think I played what I can so I could help the team."
That he did.
After suffering one of the worst first half outings in recent memory by chasing Messi and the talented and savvy Argentine squad, the United States received a boost when Chandler and fellow youngster Juan Agudelo entered the 1-0 game at the start of the second half.
Instead of seeing Messi, Angel Di Maria, Esteban Cambiasso and the rest of the Argentines knock the ball around from end to end and side to side with the ease, the United States was able to get into a rhythm offensively with the help of Chandler.
The Nurnberg defender made several good runs forward and whipped in at least three good crosses that could've led to goalscoring opportunities. He did not play a part in the equalizing goal scored by Agudelo in the 59th minute, but it was evident that Chandler helped keep Argentina on its toes since entering the match.
"He was a good outlet for us," said Jay DeMerit. "In the first half, we didn't use our outlets as well, and in the second half we definitely did so. And for him to come on in this type of situation shows the type of character he is and that's a positive as well."
Defensively, Chandler did get beat a few times by Ezequiel Lavezzi but he always seemed to recover, in large part due to his speed.
"I thought he played very well," said DeMerit. "He got up and down, he recovered well, played some very good balls into the box, and that's what you always ask from your right back. I thought he did all of those things very well tonight.
Chandler's forays into Argentina's final third were arguably his most impressive contributions on the night, as the precise and powerful crosses he delivered helped the Americans attack a back line that was troubled little in the first half.
"For a player who now comes on for the first time, it was a good first (45 minutes)," said Bradley. "He helped the team a lot. As we worked with Timmy this week, his movements coming forward are good, his crossing I think has been good. I thought he got three good crosses in tonight."
Chandler delivered that type of performance despite playing with a team he's known for about a week, but he credited that to his teammates' warm welcome.
"The team was very good," said Chandler. "They all talked to me and so, it's good. They are like family. Tim Howard talked a lot to me.
"Jermaine (Jones) speaks some German and helped me train when I don't understand something."
Chandler may be grateful for the reception he received from his new team, but they seemed equally as thankful to have him on their side.
"So far he's come in with a really good way about him," said Bradley. "Maybe nervous the first day but after that, eager, and I know this was a good way to get going."