Let’s start off with the things we know.
1. Sure, the goal keeping situation is a complete mess right now.
2. Sure, outside of two….. maaaaaybe three players our entire back line would have trouble getting meaningful minutes in Barclay’s.
3. Sure, our midfield looks more like an MLS All Star team than a semi respectable National Team midfield.
6. Sure, we’d be really – really – really – lucky to make it out of the group stage in Russia.
There are reasons to be optimistic for 2022.
6 reasons to be exact.
1. Christian Pulisic looks like he’s on his way to the senior national team…. maybe starting next week. Apparently the 17 year old is skipping the U-23’s altogether (which, let’s be honest right now – they REALLY could use him) and could end up being cap-tied by this time two weeks from now. The future of American soccer hasn’t been on a teenager’s shoulders more than Pulisic’s since Freddy Adu, Julian Green, Joseph Gyau, or Gedion Zelalem. Ok, those are really bad examples but what they all lacked that Pulisic could have is meaningful minuets at a very big and respectable team playing at a very high competition level. If he can consistently get in the pitch at Dortmund, he’s only going to get better from here on out. Speaking of Dortmund, I find it mildly ironic that I’m sitting here labeling Pulisic as a hope for the future of the USMNT while he’s playing next to Neven Subotić (thanks Thomas Rongen) who despite having a down year would still be the best defender on the USMNT.
2. Sticking with the German theme here, Russell Canouse made his Hoffenheim debut a couple of weeks ago. While most casual fans gravitate toward the Barclay’s Premier League the simple fact of the matter is that the Bundesliga and the Dutch Eredivisie are much more adept to developing young talent, that’s why as a USMNT fan it’s great to see players like Canouse getting first team opportunities. By the time 2022 rolls around either Canouse or Wil Trapp should be (maybe both) mainstays as the USMNT Holding (Defensive or CDM) Midfielder.
3. The future of the Keepers looks like it might be in good hands between MK Dons keeper
Cody Cropper and yet another American playing in Germany Zack Steffen at SC Freiburg. In my opinion at this point neither are ready to step into the Senior National Team. However, Had the U-23 not been preparing for a playoff with Colombia I have to think that either one of
them is a better option than David Bingham who was recently called up to the SR team. It’s worth noting that there’s a certain 6 foot 4 inch University of California Freshman that grew up in the Bayern Munich youth system and that has quietly put together a decent youth National Team resume lingering out there on the peripherals of the future USMNT….his name? Jonathan Klinsmann.
4. Mukwelle Akale and Sebastian Saucedo. Both attacking players have the potential to be game changers at the U-20 and U-23 levels. 6 years from now both should be hitting the beginning of their prime. I’m betting that MLS is really wishing both has stuck with their youth academies as Akale started in the Minnesota United youth program and Saucedo started in the Real Salt Lake program. It’s worth noting that Saucedo has switched his allegiance twice now, starting off in the American youth system and accepting a U-20 call up from the Mexican system only to bail on Mexico to rejoin Tab Ramos’ US U-20 team.
5. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Danny Barbir, Shane O’Neill, and Matt Miazga. Finally, a set of potential dominate center backs. Everyone knows Miazga after his transfer to Chelsea last summer, and lately everyone is really excited about CCV but not a ton of people know about Danny Barbir. Barbir, who’s about 6 foot 5 inches, is the prototypical big bodied centerback who grew up in the Man City youth academy. Although he left City for West Brom, it’s only a matter of time before he breaks into the first team with the Baggies. O’Neill on the other hand came from the Colorado Rapids academy and even though he’s yet to really break out on the European scene his play in the US Youth system puts him right in the mix for 2022.
6. If we weren’t in the middle of 2018 World Cup qualifying this easily could be the U-23 team that (possibly) represents the US in the 2016 Olympics and with the exception of three or four of the guys this very well may be the core of the 2022 World Cup.
GK – Cody Cropper, Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath
Defenders – DeAndre Yedlin, John Anthony Brooks, Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter Vickers, Ventura Alvarado, Kellyn Acosta, Shane O’Neill
Midfield – Wil Trapp, Christian Pulisic, Emerson Hyndman, , Julian Green, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, Russell Canouse, Gidion Zelalem
Forwards – Bobby Wood, Rubio Rubin, Jordan Morris, Khriy Shelton, Mukwelle Akale