World Football: 10 Players Who Could Be Future Stars for the U.S. National Team
On August 10, the US National Team will suit up for a friendly rematch with Mexico, with a new coach and a new outlook.
After the Gold Cup disappointment, Jürgen Klinsmann will begin to institute young up-and-comers and experienced veterans in preparation for the 2014 World Cup qualification process.
It will be interesting to see what U-23 team the USSF puts together for the Olympic qualification, but it should include many of the players listed in this article. The U.S. may never find its “soccer savior," but the following players will have a chance to become future stars and leaders.
Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden and Sacha Kljestan were not included on this list. Although all are young enough for the list—I’m aiming for U-25, U-24 range—these players are already mainstays on the USMNT roster.
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Omar Gonzalez: 22 years old, Los Angeles Galaxy
Omar Salgado: 17 years old, Vancouver Whitecaps
Yevgeni Starikov: 22 years old, Tom Tomsk—on loan from Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia)
Teal Bunbury: 21 years old, Sporting Kansas City
Gale Agbossoumonde: 19 years old, Djurgården—on loan from Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (Sweden)
10. Joe Corona
2014 WC Age: 23 & 24
Club: Tijuana (Mexico)
Position: Midfielder (Winger)
Joe Benny Corona Crespín led his club side—Tijuana Xolos—to their first ever promotion to Mexico’s Top Primera Division.
In his first game in the Primera, Corona scored Tijuana’s inaugural goal against 2011 Clasura runner-up Morelia. So far, this kid has received no call-ups or attention at any level from the US National Team. Corona was born, raised and played youth football in Southern California, but is also eligible for Mexico and El Salvador.
Besides his immense talent, he makes this list for the urgency the USSF should have to call him up—before he’s snatched away by Mexico or El Salvador.
9. Conor Doyle
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2014 WC Age: 22
Club: Derby County (England)
Conor Doyle came from playing college soccer at Creighton to seeing time in the best second tier league that the world has to offer, all in the same year.
Doyle was discovered by an American youth Derby County affiliate and invited to a trial across the pond. The then 18-year old was given a pro contract and even played in the “Rams” season opener. Doyle played for the Yanks in the U-20 CONCACAF tournament, but also suited up for the Ireland U-21 squad.
Although he has verbally committed to the US, I think it’s crucial for him to receive a senior cap and preserve his commitment.
8. Brek Shea
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2014 WC Age: 24
Club: FC Dallas
Position: Midfielder (Winger/ Forward)
Brek Shea is having an absolutely unbelievable breakout year for FC Dallas. Shea is fourth in the league for goals with nine and was selected as an MLS All-Star First XI. Brek has led Dallas to the second best record in the MLS at the all-star break—and he’s only 21.
Shea came directly out of high school and was drafted by FC Dallas on a generation Adidas contract in 2008. He has two CAP’s with the USMNT and was just called up by Klinsmann for the upcoming friendly with Mexico.
7. Tim Ream
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2014 WC Age: 26
Club: New York Red Bulls
The 23-year-old defender had an up and down Gold Cup for the Yanks. However, Ream has a promising future at the centerback position for the USMNT, earning him a call-up by Klinsmann. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe described the 2010 rookie of the year finalist as a “European-style Centerback, who resembles Rio Ferdinand.” Ream’s agent also reports that Ream has “attracted attention from several European clubs” and “ultimately wants to play in Europe.”
Whether in the MLS or Europe, the 2011 first 11 selection has a bright future ahead of him.
6. Freddy Adu
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2014 WC Age: 25
Club: Benfica (Portugal)
Position: Midfielder (Winger/Forward)
Freddy Adu was the 14-year-old Ghanaian born wonder kid who was said to be the future of US Soccer and the “next Pele." He was transferred to Portuguese giants, Benfica, at the age of 17, only to be loaned out every year, hitting rock bottom earlier this year at Rizespor in the Turkish Second Division.
That’s why many fans found it outrageous when Bob Bradley called him up for the 2011 Gold Cup. Adu made the most of his final chance with the US by way of an absolutely stellar Gold Cup, which featured Adu setting up several goals with perfect passes.
Because of Bradley’s questionable decision, Adu has resurrected his career and found his way back into the USMNT picture and onto this list.
5. Mikkel Diskerud
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
2014 WC Age: 23
Club: Stabæk (Norway)
“Mix” Diskerud was born in Norway, raised in Norway and plays his club football in Norway.
However, after playing for U-18, 19 and 20 squads for both Norway and the US, Diskerud has committed to the US. He is eligible for the US by way of his Arizona born mother and was picked from obscurity in 2008 by U-20 coach Thomas Rongen and excelled at the U-20 level for the US—the young midfielder was even featured in a recent Sports Illustrated article about the diversity of US Soccer.
Like many others, I was disappointed not to see Diskerud on Klinsmann's roster. However, "Mix" has a bright future ahead of him in the national team midfield.
4. Eric Lichaj
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2014 WC Age: 25
Club: Aston Villa (England)
Eric Lichaj joined Aston Villa in 2008 after one year in college at UNC. Lichaj has five CAP’s with the Lions and has been loaned out each season to a lower division English team—including a recent stint at Leeds United. The promising young defender, impressed while at Leeds, but was eventually returned to Villa.
Lichaj made a strong statement with an encouraging performance at this year’s Gold Cup. He played the full 90 minutes in the last four matches of the 2011 Gold Cup for the Yanks. Personally, I was surprised that he was not chosen by Klinsmann, but the choice is understandable with Lichaj's EPL season approaching.
However, Lichaj should be in the USSF’s picture for a potential back line leader with their aging defense.
3. Timothy Chandler
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2014 WC Age: 24
Club: 1. FC Nuremberg (Germany)
Timmy Chandler has one of the most interesting backgrounds in the US Player pool. The 21-year-old was born in Germany to an African-American serviceman father and a German mother. Chandler was also raised in Germany, played his youth football in Germany and plays for a German club. He is one of three US players to have this same combination—the others being Jermaine Jones and David Yelldell).
He appeared in a pair of friendlies for the USMNT earlier this year and was superb in both. However, Chandler’s absence from the Gold Cup squad left many US fans wondering if he had gotten cold feet for the US and wanted to play for Germany.
He and his agent reassured fans and the USSF that he had stayed true to his US commitment. The German-born defender has become a full-time player for his Bundesliga side recieved a call-up by his fellow German, Klinsmann.
The young defender has a bright future ahead of him—let’s hope it’s with the stars and stripes.
2. Alejandro Bedoya
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2014 WC Age: 27
Club: Örebro (Sweden)
Bedoya owes his spot on the list—and in the USMNT future—to Benny Feilhaber. Many were surprised when Bedoya was left off of the Gold Cup roster, but he was added when Feilhaber went down in a game for his MLS club. It’s never good to see a player get injured—especially if he’s a big part of the USMNT—but Feilhaber’s injury opened the door for Bedoya to have an outstanding Gold Cup.
The midfielder is in his third season with Swedish side Örebro and was planning to head with his girlfriend on a vacation to Barcelona when he received his Gold Cup call-up from Bradley. His stellar Gold Cup earned him a spot in the future of the National team midfield. His recent play also earned him a contract with Scottish giants the Rangers, whom he will join in January after finishing with Örebro.
Bedoya may not be joining the Yanks in Philadelphia on Wednesday, but he has a promising future for both club and country.
1. Juan Agudelo
2014 WC Age: 21
Club: New York Red Bulls
Juan Agudelo has been an adult for all of seven months. He is already playing professionally under the bright lights of New York City, is an MLS all-star and was featured in an Adidas ad with the likes of Lionel Messi, Kaka and David Beckham. He has played ten times for the US National Team and scored two goals—one of those goals was the equalizer against the fifth best team in the world.
At the age of seven his family moved to the New York area from Manizales, Colombia. While his father wished for him to play internationally for Colombia, Agudelo chose his new home and has played at the U-17, U-20 and Senior levels. As quoted by his coach Hans Backe, Agudelo is “something special."
Agudelo may be the most talented player the USSF has seen in some time—or ever—but it’s important not to rush his talent in both at the club and international level. Just as all good US players do, it’s obvious Agudelo will take his talents to Europe sometime in the future. It is then that we will see what he really has to offer.
This kid has immense talent, but will he be able to live up to all the hype and expectations?
Only time will tell.
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The US has the most diverse pool of players of any national team in the world. Of the 15 players mentioned on this list, seven were born outside of the United States and 13 could have chosen to suit up for other counties including Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Guyana, Togo, El Salvador, Ireland, Ghana, Norway, Poland, Germany or Colombia.
With the USMNT falling to 30th in the recent world rankings, things were not looking up. However, with a new coach and system in place for the 2014 World Cup qualifying, things could change fast.
It remains to be seen what will happen as these young, talented players mature both for club and country.
But after all, who can predict the future?