Photo by ISIPhotos.com
Yes, it is only one game, and no, we won’t know whether Eddie Johnson is going to stick around as a regular fixture for the U.S. National Team for the foreseeable future, but his impressive return to the fold is still a development that plenty of people can gain inspiration from.
Consider where Johnson has come from in just the past year. After a failed stint at Fulham, and after being let go by Greek side Aris FC, Johnson’s career appeared to be in free fall. After a failed attempt to sign with Puebla, and a damning rumor that a failed physical killed the deal (a false rumor spread by Puebla’s bosses in an attempt to cover up internal strife at the club), Johnson looked like he was out of options.
Less than a year later, Eddie Johnson is on top of the American soccer world. He’s scoring goals in bunches for one of the top teams in Major League Soccer, and he made a successful return to the national team. In doing so, he has shown a plethora of former U.S. national team players that it is possible to overcome career adversity to regain a place in the national team mix.
The American soccer landscape is filled with players who, at one time or another wore the U.S. colors, only to see their careers take wrong turns and detours away from the kind of glory currently being enjoyed by Johnson. And no, Johnson isn’t the first American in recent years to see his career come back from the dead. Fellow U.S. striker Herculez Gomez also blazed a similar path, and continues to show that a national team career can be revived at the age of 30.
With success stories like Johnson’s and Gomez’s in mind, here is a look at some players who aren’t currently in the national team mix, but who could work their way back into the mix after roller coaster careers:
Heath Pearce– It wasn’t too long ago, about for years ago to be exact, when Pearce was regarded as the best left back prospect in the national team pool. A return to MLS and lengthy stint at centerback later, Pearce has become a bit of an afterthought in the national team mix. Still one of the better defenders in MLS, Pearce is 28 and definitely has the qualities to make his way back into the national team mix in 2013.
Tim Ream– Few American players have seen their stock drop faster in the past year than Ream, who went from national team starter in the summer of 2011, to struggling to even make the bench for League Championship side Bolton. His big-money transfer to the Trotters fulfilled a dream for him, but it has become a nightmare since the club was relegated. He needs to find a club where he will be able to play and continue developing because his skill set could make him top centerback prospect for Klinsmann one day.
Freddy Adu– An up and down year with the Philadelphia Union saw Adu flash the brilliance that helped him make an impact for the national team at the 2011 Gold Cup, but the Union’s struggles for consistency mirrored his own. He remains one of the most skilled playmakers in the U.S. national team pool, but Klinsmann has already stated that Adu needs to be a consistent force for his club team before he will receive serious consideration for a return to the national team. At 23, it would be foolish to count him out.
Benny Feilhaber– It has been five years since Feilhaber struck that unforgettable game-winning goal against Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup final, and while he played well off the bench for the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup, he has slowly faded from the picture since signing with MLS and joining the New England Revolution. He has struggled much the way Adu has, but like Adu, he has continued to create quality chances and show flashes of the technical skill that so few Americans possess.
Ricardo Clark– When Clark left the field in the first half of the U.S. team’s World Cup Round of 16 loss to Ghana, it felt like it would be the last we’d see of Clark, but he made a memorable return by scoring a winning goal against Venezuela in a friendly back in January. He has fallen back off the national team radar, but a successful return to the Houston Dynamo should help the 29-year-old work his way back into the mix, though the depth at defensive midfield could precipitate a position change if Clark is going to stick around.
This list could go on and on, and you’ll notice there is nobody 30 or older on the list. That rules out the likes of Jay DeMerit and Brad Davis, who are clearly standouts in MLS, but who have probably seen the last of their days with the national team.
As for players like the ones listed above, who are still young enough to revive their national team hopes, 2013 is going to be a very important year. With the Gold Cup set for this summer, and Hexagonal round World Cup qualifying take place, there are going to be countless opportunities for both new faces to impress Klinsmann, as well as familiar faces we thought we might never see again.
Players like Gomez and Johnson have reminded us that we can never really count out a player when it comes to the U.S. national team. You never know when a new story of redemption will be written, or when a familiar face from the national team’s past is ready to regain his place.
What do you think of Johnson’s return to the national team? What USMNT reclamation project would you like to see make his way back into the national team fold? Which of the players listed above do you see having the best chance of being a key part of the national team one day?
Share your thoughts below.