USMNT: 6 Best Young Players Set to Emerge Under Jurgen Klinsmann
Assuming the men's national team makes it to Brazil 2014, some well-established players will take the field for the United States. Tim Howard will be in goal. Clint Dempsey will float between midfield and forward. Landon Donovan will be out on the right wing.
But with the exception of those stalwarts, there isn't a guaranteed position on the field. Some could be filled by veterans like Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu, Oguchi Onyewu and Michael Bradley. But some will likely be filled by players just starting to get a taste of the national team.
Here are the six best young players set to emerge under Jurgen Klinsmann between now and World Cup 2014.
Brek Shea, FC Dallas
It is a sign of Klinsmann's favor that Brek Shea is a very familiar name to U.S. supporters. While the FC Dallas man earned his first cap under Bob Bradley, Klinsmann has made Shea a fixture in the senior team.
Shea has returned the coach's faith with a string of inconsistent performances. While he flashes pace and trickery in just large enough doses to keep people on the edges of their seats when the ball falls to his feet, he can also disappear for large stretches of the game.
He coasted through the U-23's disastrous Olympic qualifying campaign, but bursts of his promise were as evident as ever. With time, he will grow out of the inconsistency.
The 22-year-old's leading role at Dallas will help him grow more comfortable putting a team on his back and taking over a game. With plenty of time to mature and grow into a starring role, Shea will be a dangerous player come World Cup 2014.
Freddy Adu, Philadelphia Union
Is it fair to talk about a player who won his first cap in 2006 as "set to emerge?" In the case of Freddy Adu, I think it just might be.
As the former child phenom globe-trotted around Europe looking for a solid club situation, he fell completely off the radar of U.S. soccer. That resulted in a two-year period where Adu was locked out of the national team.
Still only 22, Adu was the most consistent bright spot for the U-23s in Nashville. Incredibly technical with the ball at his feet and creative going forward, he single-handedly dragged the United States through large parts of their final two matches.
Reunited with Peter Nowak at Philadelphia Union, Adu is back where he might have done better to stay in the first place—getting regular playing time in a professional environment.
If he had never left MLS, maybe I wouldn't now be able to include him in this list, because he just might have locked up his place in the national team years ago.
Timmy Chandler, FC Nuremberg
Timmy Chandler is the best long-term bet to replace Steve Cherundolo on the right side of the United States defense.
Although he will have to fight off Jonathan Spector and Eric Lichaj to win the eventual succession battle at right back, Chandler's form both for the United States and at Bundesliga club FC Nuremberg has him firmly entrenched as Cherundolo's heir.
As consistent as Dolo has been over the years for the U.S., age will be rapidly catching up to him by 2014. The (by then) 35-year-old veteran will have turned a neat trick if he is able to hold off the young speedster for one more World Cup.
Josh Gatt, Molde FK
Josh Gatt has been conspicuously absent the last two times the United States failed to make a major tournament. He was recalled to his club side prior to Olympic qualifying. He was also not available when many of the same group missed out on the U-20 World Cup.
You could say they miss the dynamic speed merchant.
Gatt is playing a major role for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's defending champion Molde FK team in Norway. As a result, the fullback/winger could be in line for a move to a bigger side in the near future.
If Gatt can make that move successfully and continue to contribute, he will force Klinsmann to give him a look in the senior side. The defensive positions are too thin not to.
Juan Agudelo, NY Red Bulls
Juan Agudelo is already the United States' second striker option. That speaks as much to the weakness of the position in the U.S. player pool as it does to Agudelo's precocious talent.
Klinsmann has repeatedly stated his position that a player must be seeing significant time at his club to play a part in the national team. That poses an ongoing problem for Agudelo, who last year found himself behind Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers on New York's roster.
Rodgers' visa problems presented an opportunity, but NYRB's acquisition of Kenny Cooper once more makes playing time hard to find for the young striker.
If Agudelo can return strong from the knee injury currently sidelining him and play a significant role in New York's season, he will have made a good start to maintaining his seat on the plane to Brazil.
Terrence Boyd, Borussia Dortmund
Sometimes players simply announce themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Terrence Boyd did that in the United States' final Olympic qualifying game against El Salvador.
After Juan Agudelo's injury against Cuba and Teal Bunbury's forgettable performance against Canada, Boyd took his chance and ran with it to the tune of two superbly-finished goals against El Salvador.
Boyd's U-23 coming-out party actually followed the Borussia Dortmund player's debut for Klinsmann's senior side. That came in the now-famous U.S. win over Italy in Genoa, when Boyd came on as a late substitute.
Boyd is struggling to break into the first team at Germany's best club side. But if he is able to manage that while continuing his hot start for the U.S., he could very well end up giving the depth chart a good shake before 2014.