New signing Danny Williams may not yet be a familiar name on these shores, but he has an excellent and growing reputation within the game.
He was born in Germany in March 1989 to an American father and German mother; his parents having met when his dad was serving in the forces.
He made his way into football with hometown club Karlsruhe, then stepping into the professional ranks with SC Freiburg. He played all across the back four as well as in midfield for SC, and after making his debut at aged 19 he played 60 games for their B side, scoring four goals. Whilst on their books he also played as a youth international for Germany.
He was handed a Bundesliga debut at the age of 20, and awarded a standing ovation by the crowd when substituted in the 87th minute. He then celebrated his 21st birthday by playing away to Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena, and while at Freiburg he made a total of 14 Bundesliga appearances, scoring once. Newcastle frontman Papiss Cisse was among his teammates at the 24000-seater Mage Solar Stadium.
After being unable to agree a new contract, he attracted more Bundesliga interest from big-spending Hoffenheim at the end of August 2011 and moved to a squad including the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ryan Babel. Handed squad number 13, he was given a baptism of fire with a full debut against Bayern Munich and made a total of 24 appearances in his first full season; a good return from of a possible 32 Bundesliga games.
With an all-action style, technical ability and 100% commitment, he soon became popular with his new team's fans.
After moving clubs he quickly broke into the full US national team, having been phoned personally by manager Jurgen Klinsmann in a bid to ensure he played for the US ahead of Germany, then handing him a debut against Honduras. Klinsmann said, “He has tremendous potential. The coach at Hoffenheim is full of compliments and admiration for Danny, and I really want him to come in and get a first feeling for this group of players on the US team. He's a player with a huge upside in the next couple of years. If it's possible to integrate those elements then we will continue to do that. Talking to his coach at Hoffenheim confirms he's ready for this step.”
He was soon continuing his development on the international stage by starting in a friendly away to France in the Stade de France, as well as starting in an historic 1-0 first-ever win away to Italy. Now and then he was employed by his nation on the right side of midfield.
Last season Danny made a further 21 appearances for Hoffenheim and scored his first goal for the club, helping them to a 3-1 win over Hannover. He also played one game for Hoffenheim’s B side, scoring against Elversberg in the process.
And it was last season that he truly began to make his mark as a regular in the USA team, playing in four of their six games in the World Cup semi-final qualifying round. He played against Adrian Mariappa’s Jamaica early in the season, hitting the post from 30 yards, and but for a minor ankle injury he would have faced them again post-season.
With his development continuing, he was named as one of US Soccer’s Young Male Athletes of 2012, described as ‘technically sound, resourceful and adept at playing in multiple positions.’
Long may that development continue here at Reading.
NY Times interview
Yanks Abroad interview
2012 US Soccer award nomination
US Soccer profile
Klinsmann on Williams
US Soccer interview on first call-up
Soccerway career stats
Getty Images - Williams Hoffenheim pics
Getty Images - Williams USA pics
YouTube - Williams USA reaction
YouTube - Danny behind the crest
YouTube - USA highlights; hits post