Does the U.S. Men's Team Have the Youngsters to Compete Long-Term Globally?
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When the U.S. women’s team took home gold at the Olympics, the men needed to respond. Not for the sake of pride, for there was great pride in the achievements of their sister side, but for the sake of progression.
The formation of the U.S. Development Academy in 2007 indicated that the country was starting to get serious about the future of its football, but the appointment of Jurgen Klinnsman in 2011 signified the desire to get results now.
Things took a turn for the better in August when the team defeated Mexico in Mexico for the first time in 75 years, but how much talent has been unearthed that can challenge the best teams in the world?
The following pages show a selection of players at each position who currently operate just under the radar of the men’s national side, but have the ability to appear on the world stage and make a real impact.
Tally Hall has been overlooked for the national team, but his performances warrant consideration.
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Tally Hall became only the second Major League Soccer goalkeeper to score a goal when his clearance eluded both striker and opposing ‘keeper in a game against Isidro Metapan in 2010, but that’s not why he makes the list.
After breaking into the Dynamo side as the full-time starter in 2011, Hall displayed great ability and reflexes to keep Dynamo in games they didn’t deserve to win and was named to the MLS All-Star team in midseason. When your goalkeeper has that kind of talent, you keep him around.
Hall’s ascent continued in the playoffs this year, getting his team to the MLS Cup final for the second consecutive year. That’s 2-for-2 as a starter, which should be enough to draw the attention of Klinnsman.
The German legend seems to be looking past Hall to younger players like Sean Johnson, which might be as a result of Hall’s age.
At 27, he might not embody the term “youngster,” but goalkeepers are capable of much longer careers than outfield players, so Hall still has time to stand between the sticks for his country for the next decade.
John Anthony Brooks has found success with Herth BSC. Photo: Getty Images
In 2010, at the age of 19, Agbossoumonde was named the U.S. Soccer Young Athlete of the Year and made his debut for the national side on his birthday in November of that yearr.
Since then, his career has wandered off track a little, with various loan spells in Sweden, Germany and Carolina after starting his career at Miami and then being loaned to Portuguese side Sporting Braga.
He is still only 21, and has the talent to prove himself at national level. At Carolina he seemed to have found some stability, appearing in 17 games and scoring his first senior goal, but has since signed for Toronto FC after being placed into a weighted lottery.
Agbossoumonde had previously turned down an MLS deal, so was prohibited from going through the allocation oder that is typical for returrning American players. Toronto's back four is in real need of improvement, so maybe this can be Agbossoumonde's route back to the national team.
John Anthony Brooks
Brooks holds German and American citizenship and has played for the American and German Under-20 teams.
Born and raised in Berlin, Brooks plays for Hertha BSC. Although he has stated that he wants to play for the U.S., Brooks was invited to the German U-20 camp, which he attended, although he then described it to AmericaSoccerNow.com as “okay, but America was a lot better.”
It seems like Brooks has been highly regarded for years, even though he is still only 19. With the dropoff in American defenders after Carlos Bocanegra and Geoff Cameron, Brooks is well-placed to fulfill his dream and play for the American side.
Other Notable Defenders
Zarek Valentin, Montreal Impact
Amobi Okugo, Philadelphia Union
Sebastian Lletget is now getting closer to first-team football at West Ham.
Flores made waves when he signed with Borussia Dortmund in October of this year. The 16-year-old agreed a four-year deal that goes into effect when he turns 18, as well as an immediate two-year deal with Nike.
Flores is one of America’s brightest prospects, and shined in the Nike Invitational last year to such an extent that many considered him to be the best player of the U-17 tournament. When you’re 15 years old and the other teams include Brazil and France, that’s an incredible achievement.
If Dortmund mentor him well—and they should for their style suits him—we can expect to see Flores in the national side soon, terrorizing defenses across the world.
There is a danger that the same fate will befall Flores that Terrence Boyd suffered, however. Boyd was sold to Rapid Vienna after struggling to make the Dortmund first team.
Only an incredible work rate will see Flores through. Klinnsman will be keeping a watchful eye on his progress, that’s for sure.
Moving from California to East London isn’t the easiest of transitions, but Lletget has risen to the challenge. West Ham’s injury concerns have seen him rise up the ranks and be listed among the substitutes in recent weeks, so he will hope to be given the chance to make an impression.
Lletget is a skillful attacking midfielder who doesn’t immediately fit the mold of a Sam Allardyce-coached team, but there is no doubt that he has attributes that West Ham are in need of.
He’ll need to get stronger to cope with the more physical demands of the Premier League, but his time with the first team will only increase his chances of full international caps.
Other Notable Midfielders
Luis Gil, Real Salt Lake
Marc Pelosi, Liverpool
Omar Salgado has had some injury problems, but is ready to make a comeback.
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He missed four months of action when he fractured his foot in a game with the U.S. U-20 side in June of this year, and his 21 appearances with just one goal are a slight worry for a forward, but he was used a lot on the left wing as a provider so he can't be judged too harshly yet.
Speaking to The Vancouver Sun, Salgado spoke of his frustration upon getting injured:
"There’s no other way of putting it — it’s four months that were just wasted,” he said. “It’s very frustrating but I was happy with the six weeks that I did play (before the injury)."
Next season will be the best time to judge Salgado’s development, but if he lives up to his potential, he could be a very special player.
Twenty-three-year-old Will Bruin has shown a steady level of improvement that demonstrates his growing confidence as a footballer.
After scoring five goals in his rookie year, he operated on a different level this time around, bagging 12 in the regular season and then four more in the playoffs. The Houston Dynamo player finshed second in postseason goals, narrowly behind Robbie Keane.
Bruin’s main asset is his instinct. He has a striker’s brain and his positioning in the penalty area is always good. That’s not to say he’s selfish; he formed useful link-up partnerships with both Brad Davis and Brian Ching, contributing to a successful Dynamo campaign.
He is yet to make a start for the national team, but there’s no question that Klinnsman is aware of his presence. If nothing else, his “Dancing Bear” celebration will have caught the manager’s attention.
Other Notable Forwards
Juan Agudelo, Chivas USA
Terrence Boyd, Rapid Vienna