“Is U.S. World Cup team ‘American’ Enough?” So read one USA Today headline in the run up to the 2014 World Cup. Team USA has a German coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, and five German-Americans, coined “Jurgen-Americans.” Too much outsourcing, too many Hessians?
But then German-American John Brooks scored America’s winning goal against Ghana, collapsing to the ground as though too foggy and disoriented from joy to stay on his feet. Then German-American Jermaine Jones roped one against Portugal. Then German-American Fabian Johnson lit up the wing in both games, offering a burst of offense as well as a hold-steady on defense.
So by the time it came for the team to face some Germans actually playing for Germany, any nationalistic doubters should have been silenced. As has been the case so many times in U.S. history, the melting pot had proven an asset. The German-Americans proudly flaunted their tattoos that testified to their commitment: Brooks with his giant eagle on his back, Jermaine Jones with his stars-and-striped kneecap.
Against Germany, their narrative grew more rich, and, also, more American: The national mythos is full of stories of the spurned who get a shot at redemption. Passed up by their home country, here was a chance for Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson to show Joachim Low and the rest of the Germans what they missed out on.