Juan Agudelo and the 10 Most Important Players for the Future of US Soccer
With all the hype that American soccer fans give their young players, I thought it would only be fitting to make a list of the 10 most promising American players. With American positional battles wide open at striker and left back as well as players aging all over the back line and on the wings, there are plenty of openings for young prospects to step in and show what they can do.
So with all the hype and expectations placed on these kids, here are the 10 most important players to the future of the US national team.
10. Eric Lichaj
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Club: Aston Villa (on loan at Leeds United)
Position: Right Back, Left Back
Senior Caps/Goals: 3/0
Lichaj has become a regular for Leeds this past half-year, making 12 appearances for the promotion chasers. During his time with Aston Villa, he has a appeared in many reserve matches and has made 5 league appearances. His most memorable performance for Aston Villa was when he was right up against Tottenham superstar Gareth Bale and gave a good performance against the speedy and super skilled Bale.
It is crucial for Lichaj to be playing games at the moment because of the lack of depth at left back for the US. Lichaj has been playing games for Leeds at left back and if Lichaj continues to perform, he could be a serious contender for the left back starting spot this summer in the Gold Cup.
9. Mikkel "Mix" Diskerud
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Senior Caps/Goals: 2/0
Diskerud, a Norwegian-American, is eligible to play for the US through his American mother. Although he has lived in Norway his entire life, he chose to play for US. Diskerud has been very consistent for his Norwegian top-flight club, spending most of 2009 as a very active substitute and claiming a starting role in 2010.
Many US fans wonder if Mix can finally become a player that can play as a playmaking midfielder, otherwise known as a central attacking midfielder (CAM). He possesses an attacking mindset and has shown very good passing ability in his two US appearances so only time will tell if "Mix" can become the new Claudio Reyna for the US national team.
8. Brek Shea
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Club: FC Dallas
Position: Left Midfield, Left Back, Center Back
Senior Caps/Goals: 2/0
After getting used to the pro game in 2008 and 2009 at FC Dallas, Shea started at left wing for the entire 2010 season and was one of the most important pieces for FCD's playoff run to the MLS cup.
On the Generation Adidas trip to Spain in the winter, due to the lack of defenders in the squad, Shea was forced to play center back against the reserve squads of Real Madrid, Rayo Vallecano, and Atletico Madrid and Shea was outstanding in his new position. Shea has been playing center back, left back, and left midfield for Dallas this season and has not been fazed with moving around the field.
Shea could end up being a very important part to the US national team simply due to his versatility and the serious lack of depth at left back. These reasons could even win Shea a spot on the Gold Cup roster this summer.
7. Bill Hamid
Club: D.C United
Senior Caps: 0 (has trained with senior team)
Hamid is a graduate of the D.C United youth academy and the first goalkeeper to sign as a homegrown player for an MLS team. His size and athletic ability stand out to give him an advantage in goal and has shown to have great reflexes and very strong hands during his short professional career so far.
In 2010, Hamid became the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to win a game, breaking the previous record held by Tim Howard (see video). Although he has had a few shaky performances, he has been magnificent on numerous occasions and is looking to keep his position as D.C United's first choice keeper.
6. Tim Ream
Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images
Club: New York Red Bulls
Position: Center Back
Senior Caps/Goals: 3/0
One of the biggest steals in MLS Superdraft history, Ream was selected in the 2nd round as the 18th overall pick in the 2010 MLS super draft. Ream was surprisingly beat out in the Rookie of the Year decision which was won by D.C United academy graduate Andy Najar (who would be have a good place on this list if he chose USA).
Ream's international career has been absolutely stellar so far which started off in South Africa where Ream started the match and help South Africa goalless in a 1-0 victory. Ream played the full 90 against Chile in January in a match in which he clearly took the lead in the Tim Ream vs. Omar Gonzalez: Best young US center back competition. Then in March against Paraguay, Ream was one of the positives from the match from displaying his fantastic distribution of the ball.
Being a teammate of Rafa Marquez can only help a young center back (even if Ream is American). If Ream keeps performing the way he does he could be in the first XI come time to face Canada in the Gold Cup.
5. Teal Bunbury
Club: Sporting Kansas City
Senior Caps/Goals: 2/1
Bunbury, son of former Canadian legend Alex Bunbury, had a good rookie season with Kansas City scoring 5 goals. His performances earned him 2 international call ups in the winter and he played well in both matches and bagging a goal as well.
Bunbury has had a fast start to the 2011 MLS season scoring three goals while having to deal with missed time due to an elbow injury. If Bunbury continues to score, he should easily make the US squad for the upcoming Gold Cup.
4. Michael Bradley
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Club: Borrusia Monchengladbach (on loan at Aston Villa)
Position: Central Midfield
Senior Caps/Goals: 52/8
Bradley has received the majority of playing time recently with the national team, even with the significant improvement of Maurice Edu and the addition of Jermaine Jones. Bradley's recent performances for the national team have been considered poor by many and is not even making the bench sometimes for Aston Villa.
It will be crucial that Bradley finds a good club to play for this summer that is in a good league and where MB can get some games. If he fails to do so, he could be another American riding the pine in Europe and after being the player that many thought could break into a big club, he could find himself benched by not only his club, but by Poppa Bradley as well with the national team.
3. Timothy Chandler
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Club: 1. FC Nurnberg
Position: Right Back, Right Midfield
Senior Caps/Goals: 2/0
Before the matches against Argentina and Paraguay recently, there were pretty much zero US soccer fans who knew who Timothy Chandler was; now they think they have the perfect player to succeed Steve Cherundolo.
Chandler, a German-American, is a part of the German influence which has come to the USMNT. Some of these players include Jermaine Jones, David Yelldell, and young Bayern Munich prospect Fabian Hurzeler.
Chandler's fantastic pace and crossing ability were obvious in the two previous international games, and if he continues to start in the Bundesliga with Nurnberg, he could be a major player for the US for a very long time.
2. Jozy Altidore
Phil Cole/Getty Images
Club: Villarreal (on loan at Bursaspor)
Senior Caps/Goals: 34/10
Altidore, although very sketchy at the club level since his departure from New York, had played very well for the senior national team leading up to the World Cup. His performances for the States have recently been very poor and many are calling for his departure in the starting XI.
Although Jozy has scored some big goals for the US, many fans think he has improved his game very little in recent years and are starting to get worried if this is the second version of Eddie Johnson.
Even though Jozy's club situation is not a good one, he is still young, talented, and ready to take the next step in his career in becoming the player so many people still believe he can be.
1. Juan Agudelo
Club: New York Red Bulls
Senior Caps/Goals: 4/2
Already considered by many to be the first choice striker for the US national team, the hype machine on Agudelo is really working itself up, but for good reason. Agudelo burst onto the scene during the 2010 MLS playoffs where he started both games in the semi-finals for New York and impressed by showing great athletic ability and skill on the ball. Then, he would go on to get called into the US national teams' next friendly against South Africa and score his first goal for the senior national team.
After playing again for the US in a friendly against Chile and performing well yet again, he was called in for a third time to play in the next friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay, but this was the first time with most of the first team players. In the game against Argentina, he scored his second goal and was dangerous throughout his time on the field and against Paraguay, he was one of the best players on the field for the US and clearly outplayed his strike partner, Jozy Altidore.
5 months later from his first international goal, after playing well in all of his 4 international appearances, a goal against Argentina, and a good start to the new MLS season, the sky's the limit for Agudelo.