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Back from injury layoff, Tim Chandler is open to USMNT return

FRANKFURT, Germany — Timmy Chandler’s big smile said it all on Saturday.

He didn’t play a minute in Eintracht Frankfurt’s big 5-1 romp over Bayern Munich, but the German-born American defender was still giddy over the result, and given what he has endured over the past year with injuries, he has more reason to smile now that he is healthy again.

“We played very well, our team, from the first minute on,” Chandler said after Saturday’s match. “We wanted to be aggressive, we wanted to press them high, I think everything worked out very good. Also the red card came from this so I think it was a pretty top game from us today, 5-1 against Bayern Munich is a big, big thing.”

Chandler was on the bench for Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, still working to win back a starting role since returning from the knee surgery that cost him almost the entire 2018/2019 Bundesliga. After undergoing surgery in August of 2018, what was initially expected to be a six-month recovery grew longer, and he wound up making just one substitute’s appearance before the season ended.

The new season has seen Chandler be a regular on the bench for his club. He has made just three starts in all competitions, including a recent DFB Pokal match against St. Pauli, and has been used more as a substitute, earning limited minutes.

Despite the struggle for playing time, Chandler is enjoying being back in the fold at Eintracht, which is understandable considering how difficult last season was for him.

“I feel good right now,” Chandler said. “For me it’s important at the moment that I’m fit. I was one year out so now it’s be with the team, train with the team, get some minutes and then we’ll look at what the coach wants to do.”

One coach Chandler hasn’t heard from is U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter. That isn’t a surprise considering Chandler’s lengthy stint on the sidelines, and his relative lack of playing time for Eintracht this season, but the 29-year-old fullback made it clear he is ready for the call of Berhalter decides to bring him in for a look.

“I’m open, but I never get a call so I can’t say anything about the national team at the moment, but when I get a call I will go,” said Chandler, who struggled to recall the last time he heard from anyone with the USMNT.

“Oh, I don’t remember,” Chandler said. “It was a really long time ago, because I had a long injury, and before it was also a long time ago, so maybe one and a half, two years already.”

A versatile fullback capable of playing right back and left back, Chandler hasn’t been with the USMNT since 2016, as part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s last two matches as head coach.

Chandler earned 29 caps for the USMNT since making his debut under Bob Bradley in 2011. A member of the 2014 USMNT World Cup squad, Chandler’s time with the national team has been marked by disappointing performances, which saw him consistently struggle to have his national team form match his club form.

Chandler enjoyed arguably the best season of his career in the 2017-2018 Bundesliga campaign, but failed to receive a look from interim USMNT coaches Bruce Arena and Dave Sarachan.

A return to the national team could be difficult until Chandler can regain a starting role for Eintracht Frankfurt, and he is also facing the prospect of trying to return to a USMNT with younger fullback options emerging, such as Reggie Cannon and Sergino Dest, as well as prospects in the pipeline such as Chris Gloster and Antonee Robinson.

Chandler said he still watches USMNT matches when the time difference is reasonable, and said he believes he could help the team if called.

“Maybe, always when I go to a team, when I play for Frankfurt or the national team, I try to do my best,” Chandler said. “When I come to the national team, maybe next time I can help them, but I will give my best.”