Timothy Chandler on the 'great feeling' of playing for USMNT
In our exclusive interview, the Eintracht Frankfurt defender reflects on the 'great experience' of playing international football for the United States.
“It was one of the hardest games I’ve played for years,” says Timothy Chandler.
“It was like 12 or one o’clock, the air was dry and the grass was not colored.”
The Frankfurt right back is talking about the first competitive appearance he made for the USA, which came at the Estadio Olimpico in Honduras on February 6 2013 in a World Cup qualifier.
The temperature that day? A breezy 90 degrees.
The USMNT lost 2-1 despite Clint Dempsey giving them a first-half lead.
It was a result that left them without a point in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualification and left Chandler wondering what he had got himself into.
He wasn’t always subjected to playing in a dustbowl on international duty, though.
Along with Honduras, the USA shared the group with Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Jamaica, and in travelling to those countries there were, as he explains in an exclusive interview with sports betting website Betway, plenty of testing conditions to get used to.
“You have to look at where you play,” he explains. “Sometimes it’s the humidity you need to be aware of”.
“Against these countries, it’s much more physically taxing. This is the biggest change between playing in the Bundesliga and for the USA.”
Despite all of this, Chandler’s time representing the United States is one that he looks back on fondly.
His path to representing the national team was, it’s fair to say, an unorthodox one.
“It meant a lot to me,” he says. “I like the country and when we heard the national anthem, it was a great feeling. I had not so many things to do with the US in my family, but I like it a lot. I do have that bit from my father, as well.”
Chandler was born in Germany to a German mother and an American father and has lived there his entire life.”
So why then, did he declare for the stars and stripes ahead of Germany?
“It was the beginning of my career and USA was the first national team that asked me to play,” he says.
“At the time, Bob Bradley was the coach and he called me and asked if I wanted to play in some friendlies.
“I said yes, and even to this day I still follow the games on DAZN and follow the team on Instagram.”
Chandler’s USA debut came in a friendly against Argentina on March 26 2011 that was tied 1-1, although it wasn’t until the aforementioned defeat in Honduras – two years later – that he played in his first competitive match.
Even though they were beaten on that day, Chandler did help the USA to top the qualification group and, in turn, make it to the 2014 World Cup – an experience he will never forget.
“I think this was one of the biggest things in my career and meant a lot to me,” he says.
“That’s why I say it’s a big, big part of my career to play for a national team.
“I learned a lot in big games against big countries. We played against Portugal, Germany, Belgium and Ghana, so it was a great experience.”
The experience of playing for the USA wasn’t just good for Chandler on a professional level, he also made friends for life.
“Jozy [Altidore] was a great guy from the first day,” he says.
“Dempsey was great too, but I think the most important one was Jozy. We still talk sometimes, like about how we are and how the family is.”
Chandler was just 20 years old when he first played for the USMNT. For someone so young, whose first language isn’t English, the support of his team-mates was invaluable.
“On the pitch, it’s always easy to find the language,” he explains. “But off it we had some German-speaking players.
“My English isn’t perfect, but the big players tried to help me out when I made mistakes.
“They just said, ‘Timmy, it’s no problem, you’re a good kid’, which was really kind because I was a child.
“At the time, we had Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams that spoke German.
“Not everything was perfect when they spoke either, so sometimes it was very funny but they’re good guys.”
The cultural differences between the US and Germany are pronounced but, as Chandler explains, certain things made the transition easier whenever he travelled across the Atlantic.
“I love it there. The most important thing for me is that I could go and buy Fruity Pebbles in the US, I love them,” he says.
With an average age of under 24 in the most recent squad, Gregg Berhalter and the USMNT have put their trust in younger talent ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
It’s something that looks to be paying off, with the USA currently on course for a place at the tournament in Qatar, and Chander is excited by the current roster.
“I really think the team has a lot of good players,” he says.
“Look at John Brooks or Weston McKennie, who plays for one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“I think the target is to go far at the World Cup, maybe we can reach the quarter finals.
“With this team, a lot of things are possible.”
It’s not just Chandler who is excited at the state of soccer in the USA. The country is, according to him, becoming a destination that players want to play in.
“We had a player at Frankfurt called Dejan Joveljic, who has moved to LA Galaxy,” he says.
“I see a lot of players want to go and play there. I thought about it a couple of times, but Frankfurt is my hometown club.
“I do think MLS can achieve a lot in the next couple of years, they can come close to Europe.
“The future is always difficult to tell, but I really think there is a lot to come.”