On 11th October 2017, The United States played their final qualification game of the World Cup 2018 in Russia. Their opponents were the side sitting bottom of the group, Trinidad & Tobago. The USA would dominate the game in terms of possession and shots. But unable to convert their chances, they would fall into a 2-1 defeat. That crushing result would mean that The United States of America, would not battle it out with worlds elite for the first time since 1986. It would be a result that would also see the end of manager, Bruce Arena’s, second stint at the helm come to a sudden end after less than a year in charge.
There is no denying the United States is a proud sporting nation. A country that prides itself on being the best and at the forefront of major sporting honours. Many could argue that the one sport they haven’t excelled in would be soccer and that the Trinidad result, combined with failure for the World Cup, was a long time coming. The team has a good base, but in areas, the team is old and lack any real quality. Then again, many could argue that the outcome was a blessing in disguise. The USA side clearly needs freshening up and gambles need to be taken. Players that before, would get their call-up based on merit, would have to warrant a call-up and young, emerging talent to be given the opportunity to pull on the shirt for the Stars and Stripes.
The USA is a huge country and the MLS’s reputation is enhancing along with the quality of the game. That, in turn, is beginning to produce some talented young stars, some of which have been snapped up by some of Europe’s top clubs. The rebuilding starts now whoever takes over the top job. Old players need to make way for the young talent to build a squad worthy of representing this proud nation. Below I have compiled a starting 11 of some potential stars who, hopefully, start to break through and you never know, could lead the USA to the next World Cup in 2022 being held in Qatar and beyond.
Now, I’ve gone for a 4-3-3 formation and before the arguments begin, I focused on players you have yet to receive a full cap;
Jesse González (Age 22)
This is certainly one area that needs new blood. 3 goalkeepers were selected in the 23-man squad for the final game against Trinidad, having a combined age of 109. There are some great keepers in the MLS but Gonzalez stands out for me. The 6ft 4 stopper had an outstanding season for his club, FC Dallas. Ranking among the best in the league in both goals-against average and in save percentage. Born in Carolina, Gonzalez played for Mexico at Under 20’s and 23’s level. Qualifying for them through his parents. Ironically, it was former manager Bruce Arena who convinced him to change allegiances to the USA.
Matthew Olosunde (Age 19)
Olosunde is a product of the New York Red Bulls Academy. Starting his career as a right winger, Olosunde is equally as apt at right back, centre back or even in the holding role. In January 2016 he made a dream move to Manchester United to join up with their Under 23’s squad. It’s a tall order to break into such a huge side, but Olosunde did himself no harm with an incredible solo goal in his homeland during the Dallas Cup, that illustrated his potential. Capped over 30 times at youth level, Olosunde versatility will be key to him fulfilling his potential.
Cameron Robert Carter-Vickers (Age 19)
Despite being born in Southend-On-Sea, Carter-Vickers has represented USA at U18’s, U20’s and U23’s. Although yet to make a league appearance for his club, Tottenham Hotspurs, Carter-Vickers has made appearances in both the F.A Cup and Europa League. Now on loan in Championship, the highly-regarded centre-back has helped his new club surprise many as they battle for a promotion spot heading into the international break.
Erik Palmer-Brown (Age 20)
Palmer-Brown signed his first professional contract for Kansas in 2013 at the young age of 16, making his their youngest ever player. The Ohio native has had a lot of attention from Europe’s top clubs and in 2014 a $1million bid from Italian giants, Juventus, was rejected by Kansas. The same year Palmer-Brown was voted number 39 on UK website TeamTalk’s top 50 Wonderkids. Palmer-Brown has broken into the Kansas first team this year and his performances have seen him sign a pre-contract for former English Premier League Champions, Manchester City.
Sergino Dest (Age 17)
Little is known about Sergino Dest by many, so let me fill you in. Born in Almere, Netherlands, capable of playing either left or right back, Dest is currently on the books at Dutch giants, Ajax’s famed academy. Qualifying for the USA through his parents, his father is a New York native, Dest has secured himself as a regular in U17’s defence.
Tyler Adams (Age 18)
Born in New York and now with the privilege of playing for them. New York Red Bulls youngster, Adams, has made the breakthrough into the first team this season and impressed not only his fellow teammates but also the opposition. Making 25 appearances this campaign, you can be sure to see him lining up for the Red Bulls from the start next year and pulling on the Stars & Stripes at senior level having already done so at U17 and U20 level.
Gedion Zelalem (Age 20)
This is the first of a Germany – USA connection you will see in this piece. Zelalem was born in Berlin to Ethiopian parents. Moving through various youth teams in Germany, Zelalem emigrated to the States with his father after the tragic death of his mother. Continuing his football in the States, Zelalem was scouted and snapped by Arsenal in 2013, after being seen playing in the Dallas Cup. In 2015-16 season Zelalem made a loan move to Scottish side, Rangers and helped them to a Scottish Championship and League Cup double.
Weston McKennie (Age 19)
The Germany connection shows itself again here with Texan, McKennie. Born in Texas, McKennie begun his career with FC Dallas, playing in their academy side since 2009. In 2016 McKennie moved to German side Schalke 04. After less than a year in their academy, he was promoted to the first team, making his debut in the May of 2017. Making 8 first team appearances so far this season, the young lad, who can play anywhere down the centre of midfield, has done enough to convince the board to tie him down to a new 5-year deal.
Ayo Akinola (Age 17)
Born in Detroit, Akinola currently plays for Toronto FC II. A pacy winger who can also play as a striker. A keen eye for goal has seen Akinola bag 10 goals in 17 appearances at youth level. Akinola’s brother plays with his in Toronto but strangely plays his international football for USA rivals, Canada.
Tim Weah (Age 17)
Son of footballing legend and FIFA World Player of the Year 1995, George Weah, Timothy has huge shoes to fill to emulate his father. Currently playing his football for the French club, PSG, Tim has been making huge strides this year even grabbing himself a stunning hat-trick in the U17 World Cup against Paraguay. Born in New York, Weah came through the New York Red Bulls academy before his move to PSG. Capable playing out wide, Weah has also netted 4 times in 7 games in the UEFA Youth League.
Josh Sargent (Age 17)
For many who know of his undoubted ability, it would be only a matter of time before Sargent made a move to Europe and got a call-up to the USA senior side. Well, as if by magic they’ve both happened. The striker from Missouri has been nothing short of prolific at youth level. 29 goals in 49 games to be exact. These performances have seen him sign for German (yes, they’re back again) side Werder Brenem. Not able to join them until he turns 18, Sargent will continue to play for St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club. There is a lot of excitement surrounding Sargent and he has been included in the senior side for the friendly against Portugal.