Kickin' It New School: Examining U.S.A. Soccer's Future For 2010 World Cup and Beyond
It may be somewhat surprising to many U.S. soccer supporters, but the national team is aging. And aging quickly.
Landon Donovan is 27. Oguchi Onyewu is 27. Clint Dempsey is 26. Jay Demerit, even though he is a new face, is 29.
Frankie Hejduk is 35. Steve Cherundolo is 30. By the next World Cup, Brian Ching and Carlos Bocanegra will be 31.
For Hejduk, Dolo, Ching, and Bocanegra, this could be their last run for the national team.
Donovan, Dempsey, Onyewu, and Demerit are likely reaching their peak right now, and should not be in top form for the 2014 World Cup.
With that said, this article will look at the future of U.S. Soccer. The slides will contain players who have made double-digit caps with the senior team, and will point out players who have burst onto the scene and may have six caps or fewer.
Most of these guys are ones you will hear battling for bench spots for the 2010 World Cup, but some are ones who already have made a name for themselves around the world and soccer community.
After you read the last slide, mention a player you would like to see as a cinderella or sleeper choice for the United States in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
I guess Jozy doesn't really have next because he already has made 17 appearances for the national team, but he deserves to be mentioned.
He's only 19, and has been labeled as the forward of the future for the Americans. He has scored seven goals in 17 caps.
Altidore was signed by Villarreal in 2008 and became the first American to score in La Liga when he scored against Athletic Bilbao.
Jozy has been loaned out twice since his move to Spain. He did not make an appearance for Xerez and currently he has been sent to the premiership to play with Hull City, where he should see the field.
Altidore has yet to show himself overseas, at least club wise, but I'm sure the world was paying attention when he turned on Capdevilla, his Villarreal teammate, against Spain in the Confederations Cup.
The sky is the limit for Altidore and U.S. Soccer fans do not like seeing him on the bench when games start
(Ex: Mexico, Aug. 12).
It's hard to believe that Spector has actually made more appearances on the national team than Altidore.
Spector has been capped 18 times and before the Mexico game on the 12th, he started the previous six games for the national team.
Spector was found by a Manchester United scout in 2003. In the game he was spotted in, Spector was playing defense for his team because of injuries.
The scout was impressed with Spector's defensive abilities and he informed United about him, despite Spector playing striker at that time in his career.
After making three appearances with United, Spector was loaned out to Charlton. When the year completed, Spector moved to West Ham and ended his spell with the Red Devils.
He has seen a vast increase in playing time with the Hammers and Spector typically will make an appearance on the field, whether it be a start or off the bench.
His first cap with the national team came in 2004 against Jamaica and Spector has been used all over the backline by Bob Bradley.
Prior to 2009, injuries would hurt any consistent playing time he would receive, and Bradley would typically choose a veteran over the versatile defender.
With veterans Steve Cherundolo and Frankie Hejduk injured, Bradley chose Spector to start in the Confederations Cup.
This is where Spector burst onto the scene, assisting Clint Dempsey on long crosses from the RB position in both the Egypt and Brazil games.
Experts of the national team say that Spector has the talent to become one of the best defenders the country has ever seen.
He has all the tools, physically and mentally, to go along with regularly playing for an above-average team in one of the world's best leagues.
After Cherundolo's unconvincing performance against Mexico in the Estadio Azteca, many feel the RB position is Spector's to lose for the 2010 World Cup.
Davies is another player who has seen recent time with the national team. (I promise, more fresh faces are to come).
Charlie Davies looks to be the forward for the United States who will dawn the No. 9 shirt.
Unlike the previous two, Davies played college soccer. In his 2006 season at Boston College, Davies was named a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, the country's top player.
He finished his college career with 24 goals and 10 assists in 37 games.
Davies made his debut for the national team in a friendly against China, in the summer of 2007. He has four goals in 14 appearances with the senior club and has been a favorite of Bob Bradley since his goal against Egypt in the Confederations Cup.
Davies is blessed with breathtaking speed and is surprisingly strong, as well. He is a nightmare for backlines and very few players can match his pace.
The youngster from New Hampshire, signed his first professional contract with Hammarby IF in December of 2006. Davies scored 21 goals in 56 appearances with the Swedish side.
He moved to Ligue 1, signing with French side Sochaux in the summer of 2009. In his second appearance with the club on Aug. 15, Davies scored his first two goals with the club.
The Houston Dynamo must have had a lot of confidence in Holden prior to the 2009 season. The Dynamo traded away Dwayne De Rosario, who lead the team to two straight MLS Cup titles—giving the 23 year old Holden the reins in the midfield.
Thus far, Holden has passed with shining colors, as the Dynamo are in first place in the Western Conference and clear of the Sounders by seven points.
Holden was capped 11 times for the U-20 national team. Then was called up to the U-23 team in 2007 and represented his country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
There, Holden opened the scoring for the States in the opening game against Japan.
Holden has tremendous vision and is one of the more creative attacking midfielders in the National Team's pool, despite being 24 years old.
He became a household name during the Gold Cup where he made the Gold Cup All-Tournament Team by scoring two goals and having three assists.
Bradley brought Holden to the Azteca to play with the actual national team, as the Gold Cup roster was considered to be a "B" team.
Surprisingly, Holden came on as a substitute in the 2nd half and nearly assisted Charlie Davies on a cross.
The Scottish-born Holden adds the dimension of creativity to a team that desperately lacks it.
For now, it looks as if Holden has become Bradley's new favorite midfielder, passing the struggling Sacha Kljestan.
If you haven't heard his name by now, it's time to get out of the cave.
Freddy Adu has supposedly had next for the U.S. National Team ever since he was drafted in the MLS at age 14.
Adu was born in Ghana, emigrating to the United States at eight years old and becaming a citizen in 2003.
At the time, the American public was skeptical of Adu's actual age and the joke still goes around.
Adu played with D.C. United and Real Salt Lake during his three years in the MLS.
At the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada, Adu captained the United States and was simply magical.
He assisted Altidore on two Altidore goals as the Americans went on to beat Brazil, a team that had Jo and Alexandre Pato, in the group stage.
He scored 3 goals and had two assists leading the USA to the quarterfinals, falling to Austria 2-1.
Either way, the tournament was a success for the U.S. and Adu, Altidore, and another (he's in a later slide) became more notable young stars.
Now at 20 years old, Freddy Adu is struggling to find regular playing time in Europe. Adu signed with Benfica in 2007 and made 11 appearances, scoring two goals.
He was loaned to AS Monaco in July 2008 on a season long loan, but only played in nine games.
Adu returned to Benfica on July 8, after playing in the semi-final game against Honduras.
It is believed that Bradley told him to go play with the club because that is what is keeping Adu from seeing regular time with the national team.
Adu has been scouted by Manchester United, Inter Milan, Juventus, and many other big name clubs. His name is synonymous with the future of U.S. Soccer and many supporters would like to see him get more playing time—even if he is not in good form with his club.
One thing is certain: if Adu isn't called for the 2010 World Cup, many fans of the Stars & Stripes will be disappointed.
If you don't recognize that face, get familiar with it.
Robbie Rogers is extremely skilled on the wing and will likely start to wear that No. 7 more often, as DeMarcus Beasley has fallen out of favor.
(But with Bradley who knows? Beasley could start against El Salvador in less than a month.)
After one year of college soccer, Rogers signed a contract with Heerenveen in the Dutch Eredivisie.
He never made an appearance and was drafted by the Columbus Crew in 2007.
He played an important role with the Crew's championship run last year, and was named to the MLS Best XI.
He is comfortable on either wing and is very skilled with both feet, to go along with above-average speed. He also played in the U-20 World Cup, recording two assists, and appearing in every game.
At 22 years old, Rogers only has six caps with the senior team. He made the starting XI in a friendly against Sweden and his caps were in the Gold Cup, where he scored his first goal against Grenada.
He came out a winner in the eyes of many, scoring a goal and adding two assists.
Rogers plays a major role with the Columbus Crew and could be poised for a move to Europe in the future, which would be a delight to many (except Crew fans).
With the U.S. low on attacking options off the wing, Rogers could be the primary backup behind Donovan and Dempsey.
Jose Francisco Torres
The trend of young attacking options continues.
Torres chose to play for the United States over Mexico. He is a citizen of both countries and plays with Pachuca in the Mexican first division.
Another youngster who is supremely gifted with the ball at his feet, Torres brings a flare to the team when he steps onto the field that not many others can.
For the future, Adu and Torres are probably the most skilled and talented on the ball, with Holden being right behind them.
He has been playing with Pachuca since 2006 and has two goals in 46 appearances.
Torres made his first appearance with the national team against Cuba in 2008 and received his first start against Trinidad & Tobago the next game.
He was named to the Confederations Cup roster and traveled to Mexico with the national team for the match on August 12.
Torres is listed anywhere from 5'5"-5'7" and 135 pounds, but either way is on the small side. His skill sure makes up for it and his touch is second to none.
Torres will be 21 when the 2010 World Cup comes around. With a rising stock and the U.S. needing all the creative players it can get, Torres looks to be on track to making the roster.
The last one and the other player from the Freddy Adu slide. Before a case is made for Szetela, notable players who were not mentioned but also "have next" are Maurice Edu and Benny Feilhaber.
Future candidates could be Michael Orozco and Marvell Wynne.
He probably has the longest road to go to make the World Cup roster and even get a legitimate look before 2010, but if there is a sleeper, Danny Szetela would be my choice.
The 22 year old from Jersey, a childhood friends with Guiseppi Rossi, went from being a starter in the 2007 U-20 World Cup and Beijing Olympics to Brescia of the Italian Serie B.
Szetela was drafted by the Columbus Crew in the 2004 draft, but didn't see much of the field in 2005. The next year, he was injury plagued and only played in four games.
Still, Szetela's talent was without question and he remained a future candidate for a role in the midfield or forward.
In 2007, he signed with Racing Santander of La Liga. By early 2008, he was loaned to Brescia and after a season, he extended his loan through June 2009.
With 26 appearances over two years, the kid from Jersey only scored one goal and had two assists during his stint in Italy.
After Racing declined to sign him, Szetela returned to the MLS, where his contract was picked up by D.C. United.
Danny has since made two appearances as a sub in his two games with the club, coming on in the second half.
Szetela was one of four players who scored for the U.S. at the U-20 World Cup in 2007. Altidore had four goals, Adu three, Szetela three, and Michael Bradley had one.
Those first three names played outstanding during that run, and Bradley wasn't too bad, either.
Life has been tough for Szetela. He lost his father at a young age and had to move at a young age, as he went to the IMG Soccer Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Europe didn't do much to help his stock and Szetela said being back home was the best way to get his confidence back.
Bob Bradley encourages his players to play overseas as that will help them become better players. Europe probably set Szetela back as far as the national team pool.
Szetela has made one appearance for the national team and set up Michael Bradley's game winning goal against Switzerland in October 2007.
Since playing in Beijing, Szetela has not had a single cap.
The road may be a difficult one for the 22 year old midfielder, but if there is a cinderella pick that I'm rooting for, Danny Szetela would be my choice.