It is 85 degrees with a relative humidity of 80 percent. It’s an average day in Brazil much as it was just over a year ago when U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team defender John Brooks was in Brazil with the senior MNT for the 2014 World Cup.
It is now just over a year since he headed home an unforgettable game-winning goal in the waning minutes of the USA’s opening game against Ghana. It was more than a goal. It was a game-winner that defeated Ghana, the nemesis that had knocked the USA out of the two previous World Cups. While Brooks was only 21-years-old when he scored that goal, it was a career highlight.
Brooks in the aftermath of his game-winning goal vs. Ghana at the 2014 World Cup.
After setting the social-media sphere on fire with the goal, next came countless post-game interviews. When Brooks finally got to his phone after the match he knew exactly who he was going to call first, the person who now on this hot day in Brazil is seated right next to him, his U-23 MNT teammate and lifelong friend, Jerome Kiesewetter.
“The first call I did after the Ghana game was calling Jerome,” Brooks recalled. “It was a great feeling to hear his voice after the goal and I heard in his voice that he was very proud and that made me proud too.”
Kiesewetter was in Germany at the time, the nation that he and Brooke grew up in and with the time difference was up late into the night watching the match. When Brooks scored that goal Kiesewetter let out a yell that ensured the rest of Germany would also be are of what happened.
The moment was a big one for both Kiesewetter and Brooks, who over the years through soccer had become close as brothers.
“I met Jerome a long time ago when we were very young,” Brooks said. “We went to a soccer camp in Germany. I was by myself and he got dropped off by his mom. He was just a little baby boy.”
“We were two German-Americans that happened to be living in the same community,” Kiesewetter remembered. “It was a place that kids would all come together and play soccer.”
“We played every day together and since there we’ve been really close friends,” Brooks said.
A friendship and bond forged in football, today the two are integral parts of the USA’s run toward the 2016 Olympic Games.
“We grew up together and we grew up playing soccer,” Kiesewetter said. “When we were kids we always dreamed of playing in big soccer events and tournaments like the Olympics. We used to tell each other that we’d play in them one day. Now together we have the chance. It’s a dream right now playing for the U.S. National Team.”
“When we were kids we always said we wanted to play for the USA and represent our country and play in Olympics and play in World Cups and now we have that opportunity,” Brooks added.
“It’s funny that we’re sitting here next to each other fulfilling our dreams,” concluded Kiesewetter.
Kiesewetter celebrates scoring against Canada in the USA's Olympic Qualifying campaign.
The two are roommates in this camp just as they have been when playing soccer over the years, moving up the soccer ladder together.
“It’s funny all the time,” Kiesewetter laughed. “You’d just have to be in our room to know what it’s like.”
“Yeah it really is fun, but it’s not new,” Brooks said. “We’ve played in Hertha together. We’ve been roommates before. It’s nothing new, but it’s always a good time.”
Their dream of playing in the Olympics will meet its ultimate test in March when the U-23 MNT meets Colombia in the deciding home-and-away playoff. The two know that together they’ll be a key cog in the team achieving victory in the playoff.
“We played from the beginning and I know how he plays and he knows how I play, and it makes it a lot easier for us to connect on the field,” Brooks said.
“You always fight for your brother,” Kiesewetter said. “John’s like my brother, but so too is everyone on this team. We’re all one team. I work hard and he works hard and we really just want to help this team make the Olympics.”