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U.S. national team fans shed tears and let out screams after the USA's loss to Ghana last weekend, but for some, the thoughts turned quickly to 2014 and what they might have to look forward too.
So what might the U.S. national team look like in 2014? It should be a stronger attacking side than in 2010, with many of the key players expected to return. There are major question marks in defense, and there continues to be uncertainty about the forward position, but there is no denying that the American talent pool is deeper than it has ever been, and the number of young prospects emerging seems to grow by the day.
Here is the 23-man squad I can see the United States taking to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, along with a look at all the positions in question, with players to watch for:
SBI's Projected USA World Cup Roster for 2014
GOALKEEPER– Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Chris Seitz
DEFENDERS– Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, Jonathan Bornstein, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Ike Opara, Kevin Alston, Kofi Sarkodie
MIDFIELDERS– Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres, Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan
FORWARDS– Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Charlie Davies, Yura Movsisyan
Some thoughts on some of the picks:
There are a total of 10 players on this squad who weren't on the 2010 team. That might not seem like enough turnover, but the 2010 was a young team, especially in midfield.
Here are some player thoughts:
Seitz- Okay, the memories of his awful start to the season are still fresh, but he's now starting to show the qualities that made him a "Goalkeeper of the Future" label wearer since he came into MLS. The pipeline for goalkeeping prospects has dried up and Seitz is young and playing games.
Sarkodie- He's an exciting fullback who can overlap well and deliver dangerous crosses. He'll be in MLS by 2011 and is one of the most exciting college prospects around. Yes, he's our long-shot young player on the squad.
Ream/Opara/Gonzalez- All three are quality prospects, and while Gonzalez is arguably the best pro right now, both Ream and Opara have more upside for the international game. Ream's technical skills are unmatched in the pool and Opara is a freak athlete who should have no trouble adjusting to the challenges of the international game.
Kljestan- He's skillful and desperately needed a move away from Chivas USA to maximize his ability. Anderlecht is a respected European club where Kljestan's skills can be honed.
Movsisyan- Much like Herculez Gomez, Movsisyan went from top goal-scorer, to ice cold, to out of MLS, to succeeding in a foreign league. He's young and should only get better with time. He's not an American citizen yet, but he's in the process of securing citizenship.
Here is a closer look at the positions in the pool:
Tim Howard will be the starter. Don't buy the retirement talk. He will be there in Brazil in 2014.
Don't forget about– Dominic Cervi. He's been on the bench in Europe for two years, but if he could get some steady playing time over the next four years, he could push his way into the conversation.
Long-Term Prospect– Bill Hamid. He might be too young, but there's no denying he's the best young goalkeeping prospect in the league.
Will Oguchi Onyewu still be around in 2014? My money is on him being around. If not, it will be interesting to see who the United States turns to for some veteran leadership at centerback. Clarence Goodson could still be in the mix, and has really improved, but it's tough to picture him not being slower in four years when he really didn't have a step to lose. Chad Marshall is someone who can't be forgotten, but he needs to stay healthy and show he can dominate the way he did in 2008 before he's considered a strong option for 2014.
Don't forget about– Geoff Cameron. No, Dom Kinnear is probably not going to play Cameron at centerback in 2011, but there's no denying Cameron looked great there in 2010. If Cameron can move to Europe and play central defense, he could definitely be in the mix for the national team.
Long-Term Prospect– Gale Agbossoumonde. Currently at Portuguese power Sporting Braga, Agbossoumonde is likely a long-shot for 2014, but it's exciting to consider a centerback with his physical tools moving to an established European club at age 18.
Left back remains an area where depth isn't a luxury. There are several quality right back prospects, which makes you wonder whether Spector will make a permanent move to left back on the national team (assuming he's not moved to central defense). If someone like Alston could make the move to left back, things would clear up quite a bit. And no, I didn't forget about Edgar Castillo. He's a glorified winger playing fullback who rivals Freddy Adu for club instability. Once he settles down, matures, and shows he can defend, he'll definitely be on the radar.
Don't forget about– Sean Franklin. The Los Angeles Galaxy fullback is fast and has shown improved technical ability. Playing for Bruce Arena can only help him and he should push Kevin Alston for best young American fullback honors (if Kofi Sarkodie doesn't steal the crown).
Long-Term Prospect– Eric Lichaj. He's just 21, is paying his dues in England and very well could play his way onto the 2014 roster. Sarkodie fits in this category, but he made our 23.
The top of the pool is pretty strong with Donovan and Dempsey likely to be around and Bedoya and Holden also in the mix. Robbie Rogers is another popular name, but he needs to work on his game to be seriously considered for this squad.
Don't forget about– Bobby Convey. Remember him? The guy who played a role in 2006 at age 23? He'll be 31 in 2014 and is enjoying a standout season for the San Jose Earthquakes. If he can stay healthy and continue playing well, he'd give the national team pool one of its few natural wing options.
Long-Term Prospect– Brek Shea. Whether he develops into a forward, or continues to be a marauding winger, Shea has loads of talent and potential. He's still just 20, but is starting to really blossom with FC Dallas.
There is no Mesut Ozil on the horizon, at least not one that we've seen emerge yet, but there are plenty of talented young players with upside. Will any unseat veterans like Bradley and Edu? That's tough to project at this point. The chances of that happening in 2018 seem more likely.
Don't forget about– Freddy Adu. He's just 21, and is still one of the most skilled players in the American pool, but his club situation remains unsettled as he looks to be on the way out at Greek club Aris FC. Seems crazy to think we could "forget" about a 21-year-old, but at this point it's tough to project him onto the 2014 team until he settles at a club and establishes some longevity and success.
Long-Term Prospect– Charlie Renken. The prodigal playmaker fell off the radar after being sidelined by knee surgery, but there has been raving about Renken for some time. If he can stay healthy, and find some playing time sooner rather than later, he just might be able to crack the roster. Luis Gil and Sebastian Lletget are others in this category, as is Mikkel Diskerud. One intriguing player is Tony Tchani, who could develop into a difference-maker. He still needs to secure his citizenship though, assuming he wants to play for the United States.
Charlie Davies needs to come back and be the old Davies for this position to look much better than it does right now. There are a lot of question marks here. Can Marcus Tracy stay healthy? Will Mike Grella continue to develop? Will Yura Movsisyan get his citizenship and keep scoring goals in Europe? It's tough to envision Dempsey not making a permanent move to forward by 2014.
Don't forget about– Chris Pontius. The D.C. United striker hasn't had the best sophomore campaign, but the tools are there for him to develop into a quality striker. Marcus Tracy is also a player to consider as long as he can overcome his lingering knee injuries.
Long-Term Prospect– Tristan Bowen. The Los Angeles Galaxy striker is just beginning his pro career, but he's already showing some impressive characteristics and could be part of the youth movement in 2014. He isn't alone though, with Juan Agudelo, Jack McInerney and Joseph Gyau also on the radar as potential stars of the future.
What do you think about the above 23-man roster? Which player do you like seeing on the team? Which player do you think was the most glaring omission?
Share your thoughts below.
Two more players to keep an eye on:
Defender: Zach Lloyd, rookie at Dallas (outside back). Watched him play at UNC both as a center back and at Mid. Tough as nails and sees the game very well.
Forward: Cody Aroux, Great at Wake Forrest – left early and got a contract at Everton. What he lacks in speed he makes up for with grit and an eye for the goal.