US Men's National Team: Uncapped Prospects Abroad to Watch out for
With the 2014 World Cup less than two years away, there's no telling how the United States Men's National Team will truly look.
Of course, stalwarts such as Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan will be present in Brazil (assuming they qualify), but a huge chunk of time remains before the tournament begins. In essence, a completely unknown prospect could rise from obscurity and garner a spot on the squad.
With that in mind, let's take a look at 12 uncapped prospects that could rock the red, white and blue kit soon...
Ventura Alvarado: Centre-Back for Club América
Ventura Alvarado is a definitely one to keep your eye on.
The Phoenix native was a staple on one of the biggest club teams in the state of Arizona (Tuzos Soccer Club), before departing for Mexican side Pachuca at 13 years old. After a two year spell, he then made the leap to Mexican powerhouse, Club América, as a 15-year-old.
Now, the centre-back is 19 years old and earning first team minutes. He just recently started in a Copa MX cup competition match, and had a very positive showing. He's not the biggest centre-back in the world at only 5'11", but he's extremely fast.
He came to Mexico as a midfielder. When he was moved to defense, his technical ability and passing prowess stuck.
Alvarado might be a ways away from earning a cap with the national team, but he's squarely put himself on the radar. Playing at a position of need—and getting first team minutes at only 19—is something that will surely excite Jurgen Klinsmann.
*Alvarado is eligible to represent both the United States and Mexico.
John Anthony Brooks: Defender for Hertha Berlin
John Anthony Brooks has perhaps the highest ceiling of any uncapped player going forward.
At 19 years old, the central defender has grabbed hold of a starting spot for his club Hertha Berlin. Thus far in the season, he's performed very well.
The left-footed player is an impressive 6'5". He's not only dynamic in the air, but one of his major strengths is his passing ability out of the back. Brooks doesn't get overly excited and anxious with the ball at his feet, but rather composed and calm.
Brooks has participated in numerous US U-20 camps thus far. However, as someone born and raised in Germany, he has the option of theoretically representing Die Mannschaft. With his profile rising, he recently was invited to a Germany U-20 camp. There's no guarantee that he'll switch fully to Germany, but it's definitely a cause for concern from a US prospective.
Will a cap come soon? It could, as Terrence Boyd—coming from a similar circumstance—was capped while playing in the fourth tier of German football. With options at centre-back limited for the United States, Brooks might be in line for a call-up soon.
Sean Cunningham: Defender for Stabæk
Much like Brooks, Sean Cunningham is a rare commodity in the national team pool—a left-footed defender.
Unlike Brooks, however, Cunningham is very versatile. The Michigan native can play both in the center and outside. He started his career as an outside-back, but has since transitioned to the center.
The 19-year-old has been starting as a centre-back for his club Stabæk in the Norwegian Tippeligaen. While not extremely quick, he often puts himself in the right position and reads the game quite well for a younger player.
At 6'2", he offers the versatility and is somewhat reminiscent of a bigger Carlos Bocanegra. With a dearth of quality options on the left flank, Cunningham could see a call-up as a left-back sooner rather than later for the national team.
Josh Gatt: Outside Back/Winger for Molde
A lack of pace and creativity on the wings is an aspect that the national team hopes to improve upon.
With Josh Gatt, he'll offer pace and more pace.
The Michigan native is an absolute speed demon out on the flanks for his Norwegian side Molde. Not only is he a threatening force on the wing, but he attacks with exuberance and enthusiasm.
At 20 years old, he's still a relatively raw prospect. With that said, he does offer great versatility in the sense that he's comfortable playing as both a winger and as an outside-back. He currently patrols as an outside-back for his club side.
An amalgam of pace and versatility definitely bodes well for Gatt's chances at being capped. With former Manchester United legend and current Molde manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær personally mentoring the young player, Gatt's comprehension and understanding of the game is surely growing each and every day.
Fans of the USMNT have been clamoring for the inclusion of Gatt for some time now. It’s not a matter of “if”, but rather a matter of “when”. With a major glut of central midfielders, the national team is in desperate need of some flank play and pace.
Gatt will bring that.
Joseph Gyau: Winger for Hoffenheim
Much like Gatt, Joe Gyau offers sublime pace in droves.
The Hoffenheim product is absolutely electric out on the flanks. Unlike most young American prospects, Gyau has a willingness to attack defenders one-on-one—utilizing his technical ability and marvelous agility.
The 19-year-old recently signed a professional contract for Hoffenheim, and at worst, looks like he could play the role of a super-sub this upcoming season.
Gyau needs seasoning (and professional experience), but the sky is the limit for the pacy winger. He, along with Gatt represent the future for the United States on the wings, and the duo could help in fostering in the free-flowing, proactive style of football that Klinsmann is desperately trying to incorporate.
Seb Hines: Centre-Back for Middlesbrough
Seb Hines is yet another dual-nationality player with the option of representing the United States on the international stage.
The 24-year-old centre-back has represented England at the youth international levels, but has yet to be capped to the senior side. With his father being a United States citizen, it opens the door for Hines to don the stars and stripes kit.
Hines is a physical player at 6'2". For his club Middlesbrough, he plays both centre-back and as a holding defensive midfielder.
He's been a very impressive player over the past year, and a possible addition of Hines to the United States' backline would be a boon—especially with the age of Bocanegra, the relative inexperience of Geoff Cameron and the inconsistency of Oguchi Onyewu.
Hines would have to file a one-time switch with FIFA in order to play for the United States, but he's openly willing to play for the United States if asked.
Adam Henley: Defender for Blackburn
Adam Henley might be the most innately talented member on this list. With that said, there's no guarantee that he'll ever represent the United States in any international competition.
Henley was born in Tennessee to a Welsh mother and an American father. He's always represented Wales as a youth international, but hasn't fully committed his future to any country yet.
With his overall talent, there's no question as to why Wales, England and the United States are clamoring for Henley's services.
Last season, the right-back featured for Blackburn—as a 17-year-old. He impressed mightily, to the point where he was starting towards the end of the season. Needless to say, he was the youngest player in the EPL last season.
Now recently turned 18, he was called up to the Wales National Team in a May friendly against Mexico. However, he didn't participate in the match, and thus hasn't had a cap with the senior side.
He'd have to file a one time switch in order to play for the United States. One thing benefiting Klinsmann's squad is that he does regularly communicate with his relatives in Tennessee, and is a frequent visitor to the states.
Alfredo Morales: Midfielder/Defender for Hertha Berlin
Versatility is name of the game for German-born Alfredo Morales.
The 22-year-old is fully capable of playing as a defensive holding midfielder, a right-back and as a centre-back. For his club Hertha Berlin, he hasn't seen a ton of time. If he's to progress and become a viable option for the national team, he might want to look elsewhere for consistent time on the pitch.
Morales has the option of representing Germany and also Peru. His father is from Peru, but served in the United States Military—giving Morales the option of representing the Yanks.
He has represented the United States on the U-20 and U-23 level, and has been called to the senior team as well (although he hasn't participated in a match for the senior team).
At this point, it's key that Morales gets play time in order to aid in his development as a player. He still figures to be in Klinsmann's plans for the future.
Conor O'Brien: Midfielder for Sønderjyske
The Scandinavian leagues—the Danish Superliga, Swedish Allsvenskan and Norwegian Tippeligaen—have been very kind to ambitious Americans navigating the tricky waters of European football.
One of those benefactors includes Sønderjysk midfielder Conor O'Brien.
The 23-year-old midfielder from Bucknell University was not chosen in the MLS SuperDraft, and chose to begin his career across the pond in Denmark for Blokhus FC. He parlayed some strong play at Blokhus into a move to Danish first-division club Sønderjyske.
O'Brien is a deep-lying playmaker in the midfield. He likes to spray the ball around the park and often ignites attacking chances from his deep position as a holding midfielder.
It's a great story to see O'Brien rise from relative obscurity. The pool of central midfielders on the national team is quite onvoluted, to say the least. However, if O'Brien continues to perform at this impressive clip, he should receive a look at the January camp which features MLS players and players who ply their trades in Scandinavian leagues.
Will Packwood: Defender/Midfielder for Birmingham City
Will Packwood is a young player who is finally starting to establish himself across the pond.
As a 19-year-old, has become a full fledged member of Birmingham City's first team. The Concord, Mass. native first made the trek across the pond at 15 years old. After toiling away in the doldrums of the Birmingham City youth set-up, dividends are now coming in strong.
Packwood has been featured thus far in the pre-season, and has been very solid. He's very capable of playing centre-back, but has been showcased primarily as a holding defensive midfielder and even as a right-back.
At 6'3", he's got great size and is a potential dynamic force from an aerial standpoint. He's also a smooth player that can play the ball out of the back and not get flustered with constant pressure.
This season will be one for Packwood to acclimate as a professional. If he can keep building upon his solid start to the season, the youngster's confidence will continue to grow.
Packwood truly has the potential to be a mainstay on the national team for years to come. For now, it's all about his development and picking up the nuances and intricacies of the game.
Caleb Patterson-Sewell: Goalkeeper for Vitória Setúbal
Caleb Patterson-Sewell is probably not a name that most fans of the USMNT know about.
However, he could quickly become a known entity.
The goalkeeper currently plays for Vitória Setúbal in the top tier of Portuguese football. Patterson-Sewell was born in Tennessee, but was raised in Australia.
After an unsuccessful youth career at Liverpool, he bounced around in the USL for years before signing briefly with the New York Red Bulls. He then left for a second-division Portuguese side before securing a deal as the starting goalkeeper with Vitória Setúbal in the top flight.
It's quite remarkable that the 6'3" 'keeper made the jump from the Carolina RailHawks to a Primera Liga side in less than two years. There's also a lot unknown about Patterson-Sewell.
The 25-year-old has yet to represent either the United States or Australia. At this point, it might be a "first come, first serve" scenario, where the nation that calls Patterson-Sewell up first gets the rights to his services as a goalkeeper.
Either way, he's an intriguing story going forward.
Andrew Wooten: Forward for FC Kaiserslautern
With Klinsmann desiring an expressive style of play, having quality options up top is a must. Andrew Wooten is someone that might fit the bill.
The 22-year-old forward currently plays for FC Kaiserslautern in the second tier of German soccer. After developing into a goal-scoring fiend on the U-23 team, he was promoted to the first team.
At 6'1", he's a true goal poacher. He seemingly had a nose for the goal and often puts himself in the proper spaces needed to be effective. Wooten is a strong player that can hold up the ball well, but also can do the dirty work and track back defensively if need be.
Wooten—like Boyd, Brooks and the litany of dual-internationals in Germany—was raised in Germany by a German mother and an American father involved in the military.
While he's not going to unseat Jozy Altidore of a starting spot any time soon, he could provide the team with depth—especially if he keeps getting consistent play time at Kaiserslautern.
Here is a list of some prospects that could factor in as prominent cogs in the United States' engine...
Villjan Bijev: Forward for Liverpool
Thomas Delaney: Midfielder for FC Copenhagen
Royal-Dominique Fennell: Midfielder/Defender for Stuttgart Kickers
Alejandro Guido: Midfielder for Tijuana
Mike Jones: Defender for FC Hjorring
Jerome Kiesewetter: Forward for VFB Stuttgart
Marc Pelosi: Defender/Midfielder for Liverpool
*Zak Whitbread of Leicester City was kept off the list due to his inability to stay healthy.
Follow Jason Fraychineaud on Twitter @JasonFray_23