24 Under 24: Top 5 Americans under 24 based in Europe
AMSTERDAM – Not wishing to leave the boys playing overseas out of the 24 Under 24 fun, we've built an annex list with the top five US internationals on the Old Continent who are 23 or younger.
As with the currently unfurling ranking for MLS players, we have scored all eligible American exports in five categories: technical, tactical, physical, personality and potential upside:
#5 - Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna)
Imagine if the US national team had a player like former AC Milan and Italy poacher extraordinaire Pippo Inzaghi. Now imagine they had one with pace.
Now, stop imagining, because Boyd is a baby goal shark in the process of cutting his teeth. The ostinato cello you hear is not coming from a John Williams orchestra.
Already a master of appearing in just the right place at just the right time with just the right touch, the 21-year-old Bremen, Germany, native has six tallies in his first 11 games with Rapid, including two Europa League strikes. Not bad for a guy who was with Borussia Dortmund II in the German fourth flight only four months ago.
It's exceedingly rare that a player earns his international debut before enjoying a single first team appearance in club ball, but Boyd did it this winter in an historic win over Italy. Since then, he's been a regular for Jurgen Klinsmann and served the late backheel assist for a historic winner in Mexico.
#4 - Timothy Chandler (FC Nürnberg)
Some folks will scoff (or worse), but facts are facts. As of now, the 22-year-old is both a wildly intriguing young player under 24 and a US international. For the sake of this exercise, let's just ignore that some personal factor has been keeping him from joining the USMNT since last fall.
The reality is that Germany hasn't called, and not only because Chandler – like his club – has struggled for form and fitness since his most recent US game last November. It's worth noting he also rejected a transfer up the Bundesliga chain to Stuttgart, so all-around confidence could currently be an issue.
Beyond the woes and controversy, Chandler still appears a diamond in the rough (otherwise known as FC Nürnberg). It probably doesn't help that the club can't ever decide whether he belongs on the wing or at right back, but no amount of turmoil can hide natural overlapping instincts and precision in the cross.
#3 - Mikkel Diskerud (Rosenborg)
Until that win over Jamaica in Columbus, cries were growing from the USMNT crowd for the Mixmaster to be utilized. This sort of observer wailing can often be unreasonable – perhaps, it can be supposed, even from this space on occasion.
This time, however, the gallery suggestion had an astute point. The US has lacked midfield time-keeping since Michael Bradley was shelved with an injury and this is precisely the bread and butter of young Mr. Diskerud, with more than a dash of final third skill in his recipe.
The 21-year-old Oslo, Norway, native is certainly not to be confused with Johan Cruyff, a flowing mane of hair to envy is not his lone similarity to the Dutch legend. Mix wants the ball, he wants to aggressively turn someone and he wants to push it forward. In his first five games with RBK, Diskerud has done all this well enough to become the league's highest-rated player by Norwegian paper VG.
#2 - Josh Gatt (Molde FK)
With all the players on our list, we could discuss certain important aspects of their development with an eye toward the future. Molde's very own roadrunner wing terror has something, though, that cannot be gradually trained into a player's toolbox.
Of course, we are talking about Gatt's crazy wheels with Honda CRX cornering and a stunt driver's mentality to match. Sure, some might say that the 21-year-old winger is having fun careening around and through Norwegian defenders in part because it's easier than in other leagues.
It says here not to underestimate either his unique physical talent or the upbringing of Molde boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Stateside fans will learn soon enough that this perfectly grounded bolt of lightning has it in him to make defenders of all levels run for cover.
#1 - Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar)
What we have here is the USMNT's first chance at a genuine all-tools, world-class strike monster.
At 22, Ruud van Nistelrooy was winning the Eredivisie Golden Boot. So was Marco van Basten. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar did it one year older and Ronaldo a couple years younger. This season, Altidore has the early league lead and an expanding repertoire a couple months shy of his 23rd birthday.
Under the ever-watchful eye of AZ Svengali Gertjan Verbeek, Altidore is finally starting to use his bulk in the area. Add that to an improving technical game, shrewder runs and a heavily underrated passing ability, and it should be easy to see great things ahead for a US striker like none before him.