The United States Men’s National Team is getting younger. Much younger. The last of the old guard are holding out for the Copa America this summer, but given another two years, those same guys will be on their way out, while the young guns that are emerging around the world are going to be making inroads.
Three of the main names that have been the very essence of this USMNT squad in past competitions are Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Tim Howard. These three figure to be major players again in the Copa America, as they’re relevance in world soccer may have returned home to the states, but they are still prevalent names. However, they are 33, 34 and 37 respectively, meaning that come World Cup 2018, they will be 35, 36 and 39. In athlete years, that is getting near the end of the line.
If Landon Donovan can be excluded for lacking fitness, then these guys are no locks. Donovan was right at the age of Dempsey and Jones when he was left out of the previous world cup. In fact, he was younger.
Howard figures to maintain the most relevance, oddly enough, because goal keepers can feasibly play much longer than forward players.
Meanwhile, guys like Michael Bradley (who will be 30) will be the veteran leadership of this new exciting youth movement.
Among those that are looking to move in and raise havoc are Jordan Morris, Christian Pulisic, Julian Green and Gedion Zelalem. While only the former two have been included on the Copa roster, all play attacking roles and will be more than enough to compensate for a deteriorating Dempsey and an injury-prone Altidore. In fact, this new generation of USMNT attackers/midfielders looks inspiring and their relevance is worldwide as youngsters.
Green rose in the Bayern Munich system, Zelalem in Arsenal’s, Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund and Morris at home in the United States. That European training at some of the best systems in world soccer will only benefit the diversity of attacks in the American national team.
Defensively, Matt Miazga is on the rise and by 2018, when America looks much younger and much more athletic, he will be right in the middle. Deandre Yedlin is right there with him, although he has come to international relevance already.
Keeper is a harder gap to fill. Howard has been the heart and soul of the red, white and blue. His heroics in the 2014 World Cup inspired the nation and earned him the temporary title of Secretary of Defense. That isn’t something you can just replicate. Bradley Guzan is a quality option, but he isn’t the hero that Howard is.
The best option at keeper long term is Ethan Horvath, who suits up at Molde in Norway. Again, that international relevance is a boost and at just 20 years of age, he is a name to keep an eye on who could rise up as the next great American keeper.
These are exciting times. The United States is not a team dominated by elder statesmen anymore. The future is bright.