There’s no doubt that soccer in the US is growing. One of the most explicit pieces of evidence of this is the current US talent pool. By 2014 the US talent pool will become substantially larger than ever before.
Expect the USMNT head coach to have a plethora of players to choose from for the next World Cup. Below I listed several “hidden jewels” of US soccer that have still yet to reach their potential with the USMNT. Some of these players may have already had some USMNT experience and some may have had none at all (in fact a couple aren’t even US citizens yet). All in all I strongly believe that these guys have what it takes to become big time impact players for the US side four years from now. (Next to the player’s name is his age)
Yura Movsisyan – 23 – Forward
Movsisyan was born in Azerbaijan and is currently in the process of getting US citizenship. The fact that he is not yet a citizen could be the biggest roadblock for his USMNT aspirations. His physique and style reminds you of a Karim Benzema. Having made the jump to Europe in 2010, Movsisyan has become a regular starter for the Danish club Randers FC and everything seems to be falling into place.
Macoumba Kandji – 24 – Forward/Winger
Like Movsisyan, Kandji is in the process of becoming a US citizen and is currently going through a tremendous growth spurt with the NY Red Bulls. Kandji is currently not even mentioned as a potential candidate for the 2014 USMNT in soccer circles across the US, but I’m convinced that it’s only a matter of time until the USSF realizes that Kandji could be their secret weapon. After a great performance against Tottenham and Manchester City, he is now attracting attention from notable European clubs. Kandji has expressed his desire to play for the USMNT, but depending on the status of his citizenship he may opt to play for his native Senegal. That’s why the USSF needs to act fast.
Stuart Holden – 24 – Midfielder
Probably the most known hidden jewel of the list. Holden made a brief cameo appearance against England this past World Cup, but certainly could have played a more important role. In his first year with Bolton Wanderers FC, Holden is hoping to secure a starting role and become a real impact player with the club. Holden’s vision and composure with the ball is something we rarely see with the USMNT. I have been convinced for two years now that this guy could be the real deal…
Sacha Kljesten – 24 – Midfielder
A bit of an inconsistent player in my eyes, but has a tremendous display of character and potential. I never really gave him a chance, and neither did Bob Bradley after leaving him out for his 2010 roster. But instead of putting his head down he rebounded tremendously by signing with Belgium giants RSC Anderlecht. Kljesten scored in his first Champions League game and is looking to become a key starter for Belgium’s most historic club. Having scored the 11th hat trick in US team history in 2009, something about Sacha tells me that he can become an important player for the US in the near future. It’s no wonder EA stuck him on the cover of FIFA 10 (I just hope he didn’t jinx himself…).
Jermaine Jones – 28 – Midfielder
As a result of a new FIFA rule in 2009 regarding changing national teams, Jones was able to switch allegiances from Germany to the USA, despite capping for Germany three times. Jones is an absolute hardass and is the type of talent that could boost USA’s chances tremendously. Many people are very curious as to how he will perform with the USMNT, as injuries have delayed Jones’ national team debut by nearly a year. When or if Jones gets called up, he will surely help the US big time.
Freddy Adu – 21 – Midfielder
Ok, maybe he’ll never become the next Pele as he once was hailed. But it’s time. This guy has been in the spotlight of US soccer since he was 14 and has been labeled as a giant under achievement ever since. Things look a bit grim for Adu, as he is struggling to find a team in Europe and a return back to MLS may be on the horizon. But we’ve all seen it before: this guy can seriously play. He needs to get regular playing time for club, and then for country, and he is bound to live up to at least some of his expectations. Give him one more chance.
Ike Opara – 21 – Center back
A potential band-aid for the ailing US defense. His composure and size will help the struggling US back line. Having graduated from Wake Forest, the youngster probably has a good head on his shoulders too. And I mean that in every sense of the phrase… this guy is capable of towering over defenders and scoring goals off corners. His ability of eliminating threats in the back and being one up top will surely get him in the USMNT very soon.
Chad Marshall – 25 – Center back
A second band-aid for the US defense, Marshall has been a part of a very successful Columbus Crew team over the past couple of seasons. Having won the MLS Defender of the Year award in 2008 and 2009, Marshall struggled to become a regular on the USMNT. But with the current woes in the back, it’s only a matter of time until Bob Bradley begins the preparation of Marshall for the next World Cup. Fun fact: The only other person to win the MLS Defender of the Year award twice is the current USMNT captain, Carlos Bocanegra.
If you really wanted to, you could probably get a list of another 15 or so players that are “under-the-radar” and could have important roles for the US in 2014. But in my eyes the eight I named should really be given a good luck by the USSF if they want to achieve success in Brazil. And what better time to start calling some of them up than the US-Brazil friendly on August 10th.
P.S. After I constructed this list, 5 out of the 8 guys turned out to be born overseas. Interesting.