By Stephen Brandt
While we are trying to qualify for World Cup in Russia, some of us have to look towards the future for the Men’s National Team. There’s just enough old players still in the system to worry about for the next cycle. To be honest, some of these players could also feature in Russia 2018. Let’s look at a couple players on each line (defense, midfield, and attack) who could not only make the pool, but star. As an aside, since Christian Pulisic has already made the team, and is a star, he won’t be considered in this article.
One of the problems coming up is, who replaces Tim Howard and Brad Guzan in goal? There aren’t many players stateside who have grabbed the chance. In reality, there’s three goalkeepers that the coaches will have to replace.: Howard, Guzan, and Nick Romando. That’s no small feat. Bill Hamid, and Sean Johnson have had their turns, and missed. Cody Cropper is in MLS, and hasn’t set the world afire with the Revs. Zack Steffen who came back from Germany to sign for the Columbus Crew is still very young and untested. The one prospect we are all looking forward to seeing at the top spot is Club Brugge’s Ethan Horvath. We’ve already seen him in the pool a couple times during the German’s reign at the top. If his career gets going, he could be the one to replace three players.
There’s a number of defenders that are coming through the pipes, and as we have seen, this is another area that needs some improvement. Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers should be by 2018 in the national team, and by 2026, a star. He doesn’t get many minutes at Spurs right now, and that will need to change really fast. He needs minutes, and while Spurs do a very good job in developing talent, they aren’t with him. Another name in the back is Real Monarch’s Justen Glad, who is attached to Real Salt Lake. And we all know if they come out of RSL, they are going to be talented. Glad can play anywhere along the backline, and has played at the U17-20’s with USA.
Another player who should be on the 2026 team is Portland Timbers defender Marco Farfan, who is growing into his position by fire. The Timbers have had some injury problems, so he’s had to start. Lots of former players and coaches are patiently waiting for Orlando City’s Tommy Redding, whom should be with the national team pretty soon.
By 2026, Michael Bradley, among others will be long retired, so the midfield will need significant new blood, and there’s many players coming through. The two major ones, have Glasgow Rangers connections in Gedion Zelalem and Emerson Hyndman, both have already played for the national team already. Zelalem is trapped playing at Arsenal, and has had to go out on loan a couple times to get some match experience. Hydman is at Bournmouth, but applying his trade on loan at Rangers, which will give him the backbone to be a long term. There’s another group who should be with the team after 2018, Schalke’s Weston McKennie, NYRB’s Taylor Adams, and Giovanni Reyna (Claudio’s son) who is at NYCFC, in their Academy.
Upfront, we are pretty young, obviously Jordan Morris is young enough and good enough to be leading the line right now, by 2026 he should be good enough to be in Europe. Schalke Haji Wright should be with the team by then, he was an ex-NY Cosmos player who moved over soon. But adding depth in the forward department should be Liverpool’s Brooks Lennon (on loan to RSL), Atlanta United’s Andrew Carleton, and Stuttgart’s Jerome Kiesewetter. The key will to get more Jordan Morris and less Julian Green out of the forward line.
While there is a lot of inexperienced, and unknown players, but with the right coaching, this should be a good group of players to take us into the next thirty years. Hopefully the next thirty years of the sport will be more fruitful than the last thirty years. USA has been in the growth stage too long, and needs to become a regular top ten nation soon.