Three for Thursday: USMNT candidates no one is talking about, but soon will be
Summer's here, and even as MLS rolls along, this is the part of the year when international play comes to the forefront. Friendlies, World Cup qualifying, Confederations Cup, Gold Cup and more – all the best international action is happening in the next two months.
And even as the US national team roster takes shape – World Cup qualifiers are days away and the 35-man preliminary roster for the Gold Cup was recently revealed – the argument rages on about who missed out, who deserves to be there and who doesn't.
With that in mind, here are three players, young and old alike, who won't play for the USA this summer and are not getting as much recognition as they deserve in this grand US roster debate. They haven't gotten much attention in the debates surrounding US rosters, but their play in MLS, as well as their upside, indicates they should be in the discussion in due time.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
ANDREW WENGER (Montreal Impact)
GOAL: Wenger beats MacMath on the corner
A few weeks ago, I highlighted Wenger as one of the potential breakout players of the Amway Canadian Championship, and since then, he's parlayed his good showing there into regular MLS playing time.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 SuperDraft, touted at the time for his vast potential but with his position yet to be defined, has very clearly established himself as a forward under Montreal Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum.
The dynamic attacker started all four of the Impact's league games in May, racking up a goal and three assists as Montreal made it clear they wouldn't be budging from the top of the table.
Wenger, of course, is surrounded by talent on the team, but even so, his individual attributes have shown through, whether it's finishing (he also had a goal in Montreal's ACC rout of Toronto FC, and four in 2012 league play), hold-up play or even creating from wider positions, as he did to set up one of Marco Di Vaio's strikes in Montreal's recent 5-3 thumping of Philadelphia.
Though USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of options up top, Wenger's work rate, upside and ability to wear many hats in attack make him an intriguing, even unique, choice to pair with a variety of strikers beyond the 2014 World Cup, so long as he keeps up his impressive progress with the Impact.
ANDREW FARRELL (New England Revolution)
OK, another No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick with abundant talent and an undefined position heading into his rookie campaign, but one who has hit the ground running since the New England Revolution traded up to get him five months ago.
Farrell has established himself as the starting right back in a young and rapidly improving Revolution side, having started and gone the full 90 in 12 of the team's 13 games so far in 2013, notching one assist so far.
He is far from the polished product, but has already displayed flashes of what he can offer on both sides of the ball with his exceptional athleticism and strong passing ability, a rare combination for a defender of his age.
With the right back position for the USMNT in a state of flux, you can bet that come next January, Klinsmann could start casting his eye on players that can contribute past the 2014 World Cup. DeAndre Yedlin, a much-talked about right back when it comes to the future of the national team, should offer Farrell some stern competition, but the Louisville product's versatility and superb all-around game could present a different look compared to Yedlin's more direct style.
JUSTIN MAPP (Montreal Impact)
GOAL: Mapp knocks one in from way out
The oldest in this bunch at age 28, and already a US national team veteran, having last played at the 2007 Copa América (remember that team?). But if he keeps up the way he's been playing with the Impact – and consistency has been an issue with him – he'll have a good case to end that six-year international appearance drought.
In just 690 league minutes so far this season (due in large part to Schällibaum's expert squad rotation), Mapp has established himself as an important cog in the Impact attack, racking up two goals and four assists. And that doesn't take into account his stellar Canadian Championship, in which he earned tournament MVP honors thanks to his man-of-the-match performances in a 6-0 semifinal rout of Toronto FC and the 2-2 draw at Vancouver that clinched for Montreal.
What makes the former Chicago and Philadelphia man so dangerous is his not just his speed and creative abilities from out wide, but also his ability to drift inside and generate offense from that position if necessary.
Mapp's versatility, creative abilities and soccer smarts would make him an interesting candidate for a recall to a national team that has struggled to consistently create scoring chances, especially out wide. If he keeps up his early season form, it certainly wouldn't be a stretch.