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Ranking the USMNT Talent Pool: Strikers

With the game of soccer currently on hold around the world, it is a good time to take stock of the U.S. Men’s National Team talent pool as we wait for the sport to resume.

SBI is taking a closer look at each position in the USMNT player pool, ranking the top options, based both on recent form, and potential.

The striker position has plenty of young talent in the pipeline, though few options playing regularly in top leagues.

Here are the top 10 strikers in the USMNT Talent Pool:

Jozy Altidore

The 30-year-old striker had himself a tough 2019, with injuries cutting into his availability at key moments, but when he was healthy, he remained the imposing and dangerous attacking threat he has been for the past decade.

The challenge for Altidore in 2020 will be to stay healthy and maintain a high level as he prepares to face a challenge from a looming generation of prospects ready to take his starting spot with the USMNT.

Josh Sargent

The heir to the throne, Sargent had a roller-coaster 2019, enduring a disappointing first half of the year before enjoying a much better second half of 2019. His year was cut short by injury, but the 20-year-old still showed before the injury that he is very much worthy of the label of “Striker of the Future”.

Sargent’s successful run at Werder Bremen helped him earn a starting USMNT role in Nations League, and if he can continue to earn regular minutes in the Bundesliga Sargent will have a good chance of supplanting Altidore as the top USMNT option at striker.

Gyasi Zardes

The veteran striker suffered through what became a forgettable season for the Columbus Crew, but he continued to deliver goals for club and country, scoring 13 goals for the Crew and a team-high six goals for the USMNT.

The 28-year-old will be facing a tough challenge in 2020 as Sargent and Altidore look to stay ahead of him at strike, but with the Crew having revamped their squad, a Columbus revival could help Zardes boost his stock.

Jesus Ferreira

Though there is still some question about what position he’s best suited to play, we’ll slot in Ferreira as a striker for now after an impressive 2019 season spent mainly in a striker role. The Colombian-born FC Dallas standout filed a one-time change of association to play for the United States, and made an impressive USMNT debut in January.

He was set to play a key role for the U.S. Olympic qualifying team before the qualifying tournament was postponed, but should return to his key role with FC Dallas once MLS returns to action.

Andrija Novakovich

After two good seasons in the Netherlands, first with second-division side Telstar and then Eredivisie side Fortuna Sittard, Novakovich finally stopped waiting for a chance with Reading FC, making a transfer move to Serie B side Frosinone.

The move has helped the 23-year-old Novakovich earn regular minutes in a tough defensive league. Goals haven’t been as easy to come by as they were when he was playing in the Netherlands, but the 6-foot-4 forward has helped Frosinone vie for a potential promotion to Serie A.

Sebastian Soto

One of the stars of the USMNT Under-20 World Cup squad last summer, Soto has become a bit of a forgotten man due to being buried on the bench at Hannover after refusing to sign a new contract, but his recent lack of playing time doesn’t change the fact he is still one of the best goal-scoring prospects in the American pipeline.

A move away from Hannover seems inevitable at this point, and his next move will dictate just how quickly he can develop into a threat to move further up this chart. His movement and finishing ability make the 19-year-old a prospect to watch.

Jeremy Ebobisse

The Portland Timbers striker has seen his share of time for club and country in wide roles, but he’s a striker at heart, and if he can see more consistent playing time as a number nine, Ebobisse has the qualities to stay near the top of this list.

Offseason knee surgery cost him a chance at taking part in the January USMNT camp, but the 23-year-old was called in to the U.S. Olympic qualifying squad.

Haji Wright

A move away from Schalke has helped Wright earn some regular playing time for Dutch side VVV Venlo, where he’s been playing in a wide forward role. The minutes have been steady, though he’s still searching for his first league goal.

The 21-year-old striker brings a 6-foot-3 frame to the number 9 role, and is eligible to compete in the 2020 Olympics if the Americans qualify.

Bobby Wood

This might feel like a high placement for a player who hasn’t seen much playing time for club or country in the past two years, but the 27-year-old feels like the kind of prospect who could rocket up the list if he made the right move to land some regular minutes.

It would be a mistake to rule out a career resurrection for a striker who has had so many memorable moments in the USMNT lineup, but it may be time for Wood to consider a move to MLS, or simply away from Germany, to kickstart his career.

Khiry Shelton

Few players enjoyed a better start to the 2020 MLS season than Shelton, who rejoined Sporting Kansas City after a stint in Germany. The 26-year-old has looked outstanding in his two matches for SKC, forming a good partnership with Mexican striker Alan Pulido.

There is no guarantee that Shelton can keep up his torrid early pace, but with defenses paying attention to Pulido, Shelton could be in for a big year, which could help him catch Berhalter’s attention.


  1. Yes & no on Ives’ statements,”The 30-year-old striker (Altidore) had himself a tough 2019, with injuries cutting into his availability at key moments, but when he was healthy, he remained the imposing and dangerous attacking threat he has been for the past decade.”

    Ives had it partially right to say Altidore’s strings of injuries cutting into his availabilities at key moments. History showed that it wasn’t only limited in 2019 and Jozy has had a long history of getting injured at key moments. Remember the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? Altidore lasted all 22 minutes only against Ghana during the 1st game of the Group of Death group stage and went out for the rest of the campaign with a hamstring injury.

    Yes, when Altidore was healthy (such as during the 2017 MLS season when Toronto won the cup and rightfully so along with Sebastian Giovinco, Bradley etc.), he remained the imposing & dangerous attacking threat for the past decade.

    My EXACT point is if a team/manager puts all its money and hope on Altidore that he’s gonna be there to contribute during key competitions, he’s gonna be scrambling like Klinsmann during the 2014 World Cup, or Vanny in the 2019 MLS season.

    I’m glad to see DENNIS brought up “I do agree that he does need to lose some weight and become less injury prone.” I did suggest exactly that many years ago when Altidore couldn’t cut it in the Premier League and came back to MLS. Jozy’s injury history list just goes on & on.It’s not his fault, but his team/manager has better have a plan B.

    Season Injury From Until Days Out
    18/19 Heel Bone Injury May 15, 2019 May 17, 2019 2 days 1Toronto FC
    18/19 Muscle Injury Apr 21, 2019 May 10, 2019 19 days 3Toronto FC
    18/19 Knee Problems Feb 1, 2019 Mar 15, 2019 42 days 3Toronto FC
    18/19 Ankle Injury Oct 22, 2018 Jan 31, 2019 101 days 1Toronto FC
    18/19 Muscle Injury Oct 1, 2018 Oct 5, 2018 4 days –
    17/18 Foot surgery May 8, 2018 Jul 12, 2018 65 days 11Toronto FC
    17/18 Muscle Injury Apr 27, 2018 May 7, 2018 10 days 2Toronto FC
    17/18 Ankle Injury Apr 12, 2018 Apr 16, 2018 4 days 1Toronto FC
    15/16 Muscle Injury May 16, 2016 Jul 16, 2016 61 days 12Toronto FC
    15/16 Muscle Injury Feb 25, 2016 Mar 15, 2016 19 days 2Toronto FC
    14/15 Muscle Injury May 19, 2015 Jun 4, 2015 16 days 2Toronto FC
    13/14 Muscle Injury Jun 17, 2014 Jun 30, 2014 13 days, plus the 2014 WC
    11/12 Knee Problems Jun 19, 2011 Aug 1, 2011 43 days

  2. Ike Opara is the leading American goal scorer in MLS so I’ve been told that’s the only indicator we need so it’s settled Ike Opara will be our starting striker whenever the US plays again

  3. I like Soto as a young prospect. He needs to start playing again.

    I haven’t counted on Altidore for many, many years now

    The #1 name that I was expecting to see on your “Top 10” was Jesús Ferreira

  4. What a depressing article. We suck. Sargent is the only guy to get excited about.

    What about Dwyer? Lol. Yeah he sucks. And I’m from KC.

  5. For the US National team in the past we may have focused on physique because a central forward does require a more physical presence to win challenges for balls and win headers. More recently though speed and timing and knowledge of the game have become better qualities. Soto is a great example against several physical teams he was able to score relying on all three traits. Muscles doesn’t Mena anything at center forward. Altidore is overweight that’s why he keeps getting injured he was not fit. Look at his injury since the 2014 world cup. We need to bring in several guys for camp in january at forward to get them motivated for there next career goal. Would like to see. Toye Wright Soto and ebobise basically the u23 Olympic forwards. Qualifying is around the corner and we need to start now with all the best talent we have.

    • Soto needs to be playing, period, as the USMNT is not a charity case given to any player that needs to find his form, so he’s a ways away from the team. Altidore I agree on with regards to weight, but I disagree that the USMNT has relied on “physique” at the ST position in years past. Who were these other “buff” players that you hand in mind? If we look back on the ST that have graced the pitch for us it’s been Altidore, Wood, Dempsey, Johansson, Wondo, Davies, E. Johnson, McBride, Wolff, Twellman. Those are the players i can remember off the top of my head, and unfortunately they don’t align with your comment!

  6. At this moment….we suck!

    Jozy is done.

    Wood,Wright and Novakovich are failing in Europe.

    Toye and Ebobisse are just average players in MLS, while Ramirez has been mostly a bench player.

  7. One of our weakest positions. Sargent and Soto may develop into really good international strikers, but I doubt it will happen until after 2022. Until then, we have to cross fingers Jozy can be healthy and motivated. If not, I’m at a loss at who can help us here against top competition.

  8. Our striker depth chart actually depends on the formation and how people view certain players. Right now I’d rank them as follows…
    Lone Striker:
    1) Jozy, 2) Sargent, 3) Morris, 4) Zardes/Soto. 5) Wright/Ebobisse
    Two Striker formation:
    1) Sargent & Weah, 2) Jozy & Morris, 3) Zardes & Soto, 4)

    I’ve not seen enough Soto to really pick him, but I’ve not been overly impressed with Zardes. Unfortunately we don’t have much evidence of any of our younger players being ready to step up and push some of the older players (Jozy, Wood, Zardes) out of the picture.

    IMO Weah’s current best position with the USMNT would be as a winger. He may grow into a player who can play the 9 role, but right now I don’t see him as a striker unless paired with a more physical presence up top.

  9. The only future striker is Sebastian Soto others are playing winger roles we have that role covered aready. Overall Soto showed all the qualities you want in a center striker or striker. Movement of the ball passing ability timing defensive pressure and most importantly goals. Would just be interested in him making a move and starting to play also Toye looks like a prospect with ebobise needing a look too. I agree Bobby would needs a revival away from Bundesliga but he has showed that without good service in front of goal he can score.

  10. If you’re going to list Toye and Ramirez, you might as well put Brian White in there as well. 9 goals, 2 assists in 21 games in what was his first year of regular minutes. 23 years old; 2 years older than Toye (6 goals, 3 assists in 17 games) and 5 years younger than Ramirez (9 goals, 3 assists in 27 games).

  11. As an LAFC supporter……. I want/wanted to like Christian Ramiriez as a player. He seems a good dude, works hard, puts himself in positions to score. Unfortunately he leaves 9/10 great opportunities wanting. Can’t even put it on frame. Not international level.

    With the perpetual, utter lack of options at forward for the U.S.- US Soccer needs to make it a mission, dedicate a division with talent scouts and specialized teachers specific to finding, developing strikers. It’s urgent. we need a stable of ruthless sharpshooters. Yesterday.

  12. If you list Bobby Wood as a striker, why not Jordan Morris? Right now Morris is better than those you listed no matter where they start on the field. With his speed, he can stretch the field better than the other options and he has recently demonstrated an ability to hold up and bring teammates into the play.

    • I can agree. I like Morris as a 9, he puts pressure on the CBs with his movement. He’s a better passer, than everyone on this list. Younger than Altidore & Zardes, older than Sargent. I think there’s a big age gap, if Sargent is 3rd choice, after Jozy & Zardes. Ives list is a lot deeper than GBs call ups.

    • That may be because those managers had better wing options to Weah, but the point stands. I think ST will end of being Weah’s best position as well, but I’m also fearful that his injury this season could linger and become a thing that hampers him going forward(hamstring injuries are the worse for players with speed and quickness, look at Altidore’s career since he started getting those types of injuries)…fingers crossed that it doesn’t obviously

  13. If only 75% of this list can make a move from their current club and find a new, better one, with playing time, or recover from current injuries, or become less Gyasi Zardes- like, the Forward pool would be promising.

  14. “Looking the part helps get the chance to fill it. But if you fill the part, it matters not if you look it.” – by Malcolm Forbes……Note to all young strikers, THAT IS BS!!!!!

    It’s not about your talent or abilities or what you can do on the field season after season, it’s not about productivity or longevity on the field…….it’s only about looking like a jacked athlete and being built. That’s it, as simple as that, look the part. It doesn’t really matter about your performance on the field or the league you play in or your stats over time (which includes doing your job – scoring goals), because all you have to do to be deemed on top of your game is look like a jacked athlete. “LOOKING THE PART” than actually “BEING THE PART”, because you can be in a league and perform less in a 5 year period than other strikers (some of whom should be retired), never crowned the best at anything (ANYTHING), prone to injuries like it was going out of style (don’t forget tho it’s ALL about looking the part!!!!), hardly able to complete a season health, show no form of extra ordinary talent or ability on the field what so ever, accomplish absolutely nothing worthy of putting you in ANY top spot……..YET STILL RISE TO BE THE BEST STRIKER IN THE US POOL.

    FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT and if you don’t…. it wouldn’t matter anyway on the USMNT. Word for the wise

    • Note to bizzy: most #9’s are pretty big.

      Is there anyone that needs to be added to the list? Any Jack McInerny types that you feel are missing?

      • SilverRey,
        if you are trying to be witty or contradicting, at least be smart about it man. Most strikers in top leagues around the world, that know more about the beautiful game, are not jacked athletes (as perceived by the USMNT and others like yourself)….and by the way, have you even seen Zardes, Ebobisse, Novakovich, Sargent, Wood etc???? Which one of these guys are “jacked and really muscular”???? Or are you mistaking the meaning of big and Jacked??

    • I think, it’s because he has 42 goals and the most goals for the US in WCQ. Not many, players score 40-50 goals for their country. Yes, he’s been injured a lot for the US. Yes, he hasn’t lead the MLS in goals. Yes, he is a defensive liability. At 30, he can potentially be apart of 2 WC cycles. Not for, or against your argument, but until he retires, or younger options own that position, his name will always be brought up concerning striker depth. It seems GB has the same 3 players for that position.

      • “I think, it’s because he has 42 goals and the most goals for the US in WCQ.”……Hmmm and that has nothing to do with him having the most opportunity and THE MOST APPEARANCES of any player currently on the list. Put him on the same playing field with Zardes, Wondolowski and Sapong, in the same league, with the same OPPORTUNITY and you know the rest

        “Not many, players score 40-50 goals for their country.”… 115 appearances and yet can’t out score a retiree in a span of 5 years in MLS. Nope, many players can do that

        “……his name will always be brought up concerning striker depth.”…Yes, that I agree with 100% but not as a locked down starter or that he is the best US Striker.

    • Wait Jozy is bad because he didn’t score in MLS games he didn’t play in, but Wondo or Sapong or whomever is better because they would have scored if they had played even though they generally didn’t score in the games they did play.

      • “Wait Jozy is bad because he didn’t score in MLS games he didn’t play in,….” in 5 years who’s fault is that? So now we are evaluating players on “what could have been”?? Output, performance, productivity, longevity

        I guess let’s call in Freddy Adu then…

      • You can’t be label the TOP or Best US STRIKER when in 5 years you haven’t been the best in anything or the leader in anything or first in anything. He hasn’t gotten any recognition in MLS for aything, apart from injuries. That’s just mediocre. He is playing in MLS….not the EPL, Not the Bundesliga, Not in the Serie A or La Liga; MLS, a league where a 36 year old US retiree has been more productive on the field than him in the past 5 years. An “option” yes, “the best”, no way.

    • Jozy has been maddeningly inconsistent due mainly to injuries. However, he is a handful for opposing defenders, is a surprisingly good passer, and plays well with his back to the goal. He has a combination of qualities that set him apart from other forwards in the pool. The main difference is that the U.S. tends to be more effective and dangerous when he’s on the field. That alone makes him the top choice at the moment.

      • “…..the U.S. tends to be more effective and dangerous when he’s on the field.”

        haha, when?? Panda please tell me WHEN?? When has the USMNT, or Altidore for that matter, EVER been effective and dangerous…..hmmm maybe like never; or maybe, just maybe, could it be that we have sucked and been ineffective because, with 115 appearances, HE HAS BEEN THE MAIN STRIKER FOR THE USMNT!!!!! He has been the TOP CHOICE, and 3 coaches later, the USMNT continue to struggle whenever they put their hope and trust in Altidore (and will continue to suck with him taking point for the team). That, among many things, makes him NOT the top choice at the moment

    • “When has the USMNT, or Altidore for that matter, EVER been effective and dangerous…..hmmm maybe like never”

      That statement is pretty clear evidence of why it’s not worth it to try and have a reasonable conversation with you. Hyperbole doesn’t make for a useful discussion.

      • Thank you Panda. I’m glad you can admit praising or talking about Altidore is like making exaggerated statements not meant to be taken literally

      • Also, there are no facts, documentation, stats or data that can support ANY statement you can conjure up to make even remotely believable, that Jozy Altidore is the best US Striker in the US Pool . So please tell me how it is possible to have “a reasonable conversation with you?

      • yeah, it’s apparent this guy hasn’t watched the USMNT at all over the years if his analysis is that Jozy has never done anything internationally LOL

    • I am kinda late in this string of comments. Jozy has scored some memorable goals; perhaps the best was 11 years ago vs Spain when the US defeated them. I think it is unfair to say he has never done well. I do agree that he does need to lose some weight and become less injury prone. Both of those things are hard to do and maybe beyond Jozy’s control.

      I think Sargent is really good now, but he is still a baby, he may become great, or he may stagnate and remain at the level of a talented teenager forever, I don’t know any way to predict the future with accuracy (if I did, there are lots of professional teams that would hire me as a scout, I haven’t noticed them lining up.)

      Still when bizzy seems to take every chance to denigrate Altidore (and Bradley whom he surprisingly failed to find a way to fault in this string of comments), he makes his own case less real and more like that of a troll.

    • I’m not crazy about Altidore and I think he tends to sulk, get frustrated, and fade in and out of games way too often instead of taking them over. He also seems to coast the second he gets comfie and seems to play with an edge only when he feels he has something to prove.

      That said, he’s the USA’s best striker at the moment…which is testimony to how Not Good the pool is at that position as much as anything else, but who do we really have that’s better? I like Zardes as an athlete and I like his attitude, movement, and mentality a lot better, but he’s got wooden paddles for feet and that’s never really gotten any better. I like Bobby Wood alright but he needs some club games again, and the young guys haven’t really established themselves yet.

      Who if not Altidore, right now?

      • Quozzel
        Haha ?, this is what gets me. Please tell me what has Altidore done in MLS in 5 years worth talking about…..You can’t be label the Best US STRIKER when in 5 years you haven’t been the BEST IN ANYTHING or lead in anything in a League like MLS (not EPL, not Bundesliga, Not even Liga MX…..MLS). He hasn’t gotten any recognition in MLS for anything, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The name of the game is scoring goals, putting the ball in the back of the net….not looking muscular in your kit, not having excellent hold up play, not having injuries….ITS SCORING GOALS. Zardes that you are looking down on out scored Altidore in 2018 and 2019.What do you call an injury prone striker that cannot even outscore weaker competition (Zardes, Wondo)…..haha, Noscore Altidore.

        Can’t wait to have him on the field. It brings us all closer together went we suck and have to share the heartache ???

    • Bizzy I got you.

      These fools still promoting Altidore and expecting better results than last last time. We’re doomed. Only hope is the young talents taking this squad over and have too much talent for us to fail even if GB insists on continuing with a few of the washed out types.


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