NATAL, Brazil — For a time Monday if you looked up the Wikipedia entry on John Brooks, this is what you’d find:
“John Anthony Brooks, Jr. referred to as John Brooks (born January 28, 1993 in Berlin) is a German-American footballer. He is the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln.”
If you hadn’t heard his name before, you certainly have now: John Brooks is the 21-year-old who came in as a substitute into the USA vs Ghana game Monday, and scored a header to keep America’s hope alive in the World Cup in Brazil.
His 86th minute goal was sweet payback against Ghana — a team that dashed America’s hopes in the last two World Cups.
Here’s what you need to know about America’s new hero:
He straddles two cultures
Each of Brooks’ elbows sport a tattoo.
On the left is an outline of Berlin, with a star marking the neighborhood he grew up in. The state of Illinois covers his right, with a star representing Chicago, his father’s hometown.
And while he has relatives stateside, his main attachments are in Berlin where his mother’s from, he said in his U.S. Soccer video portrait.
“My mom, it’s the most important person in my life.”
His American father, a serviceman, has moved on to Switzerland.
He is bilingual
Brooks mixes it up on Twitter and Facebook with posts in English and in German, and sometimes in both — like the one he wrote about his nomination for the U.S. team.
“Happy to be called into the preliminary USMNT roster! Will work hard to be part of it! – Glücklich über meine Nominierung für die US Nationalmannschaft! Werde mein bestes geben um dabei zu sein!”
His video portrait on U.S. Soccer’s website is heavily edited, sometimes in mid-sentence, and his German accent comes through at times, but he says he’s proud to be part of the U.S. team.
“It was a big dream to come to this team. It’s an honor to wear this jersey,” he said.
He made history Monday
Brooks wasn’t in the starting lineup for Monday’s game against nemesis Ghana. But he was called into service when Matt Besler complained of hamstring problems — and the coach didn’t want to take chances.
Brooks goal was one for the record books. He’s the first substitute in U.S. soccer history to score in a World Cup match.
He seems to leave an impression
Just like Monday, he made a grand entrance during his first game with Hertha BSC, after the Berlin team he plays for ascended from the minors to the major league. Brooks scored a goal in his first game of the season in August.
Then, he rushed to the airport to make his first U.S. national team match.
He’s part of a German presence on Team USA
Brooks is not the only German national soccer league player to make the jump across the Atlantic to kick for the U.S. national team.
Four more have joined him on this World Cup journey on a soccer Mayflower of sorts.
When Jürgen Klinsmann, a household name in German soccer, took over as U.S. coach, he went shopping for quality talent made in Germany — with a U.S. passport.
In addition to Brooks, the team boasts Jermaine Jones, Timothy Chandler, Julian Green and Fabian Johnson — all of them U.S.-German dual nationals.
This will make for a particularly interesting game next week, when the United States team faces soccer powerhouse Germany in the coastal resort town of Recife.
If you hear someone on the U.S. team scream “Tor!!” after a score…
…well, that’s German for “Goal!!” for Team USA.