It may come as a surprise, but the challenge of coming up with a current list of the 10 best players who come out of Concacaf was almost a total breeze.
Almost. So, so very almost.
When making one of these lists, there's typically a whole lot of back and forth over the last few choices, and sometimes, over half (or even more) of the slots. Not this time, as strange as it seems for such a "best of" collection.
The first handful of picks were essentially no-brainers. Adding on a few more aces who were all but automatic locks brought me up to nine names.
Of course, had Carlos Vela not essentially called it quits from the international game a couple months ago, he would have been a shoo-in for the list. We then would have had a full, fairly incontestable list with an even 10 players. And yet he did, so we don't. But hey, still just one more name to pick and it's a done deal. Should be easy enough, right? Try again.
There were about two dozen names remaining on the scratch pad "short list" for that lone spot. I shuffled several names in and out of the 10th slot, making ohhh about 17 changes before finally settling on that last pick. All told, it was a lot like running 90% of a 100-yard dash in world record time ... and then dragging yourself the last 10 meters by your teeth. In any event, I made it to the finish line and here we all are.
Before we run through the list, let's give it up for the crowd of honorable mentions: Jozy Altidore, Juninho Bacuna, Leon Bailey, John Anthony Brooks, Sergino Dest, Jonathan dos Santos, Alberth Elis, Javier Hernandez, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Kemar Lawrence, Weston McKennie, Jordan Morris, Michael Murillo, Shamar Nicholson, Jonathan Osorio, Diego Reyes, Luis Rodriguez and Carlos Salcedo.
I hope all the Concacaf midfielders out there have enjoyed the rest, because the RB Leipzig ball hawk is coming for you. Adams is the only man here who has yet to take part in a single competitive Concacaf match (though he did bag a friendly winner against Mexico in 2018). Following a long, frustrating spell on the injury shelf, the 21-year-old hasn't been quite as dominating in the Bundesliga this season as he was directly upon arrival from the Red Bulls. Let's call it a match fitness regeneration blip. All have been warned.
The versatile Mexico wide man is nearing the conclusion of his fifth season as an ever-present and dependable two-way performer for Porto. In fact, the 2019-20 campaign has arguably been Corona's best in Portugal. He's logged 18 assists (and counting, as they have five games left) despite spending half the season at right back. He's been so good, Chelsea have joined the gaggle of clubs to ring up his agent.
The Genk strike prodigy has spent two years making a hearty meal out of Belgian defenses (37 goals in 83 matches, including seven in the Europa League). You can bet your bottom dollar David, who can operate anywhere in attack, won't be there much longer. Clubs from all the major leagues are chasing the 20-year-old, who has also scored 11 times in 12 Canada caps.
On the heels of a breakout season with Bayern Munich, the former Vancouver Whitecaps teenager is now probably the first pick of the Concacaf litter for plenty of folks. Davies hasn't sacrificed his old attack fear factor with the transition to left back, notching three goals and 10 helpers across all competitions this term. He also shined in big Champions League wins over Tottenham and Chelsea, cementing his rep as one of the most exciting, valuable young players in the world.
The oldest field player listed here doesn't look set to slow down just yet. At 30, he's more of a gate-keeper for Mexico, with leadership and guile to burn. With others around to do dirty work, Herrera has seen his defensive responsibilities eased a bit in his first season with Atletico Madrid. That has allowed the midfield metronome to spend most of his energy guiding the La Liga power into the final third.
Just a couple of years ago, the Mexico striker was an often underwhelming Benfica man. A lot has happened for Jimenez since his move to Wolverhampton, where he's banged in 41 goals in 91 games. First he led them to promotion, and now his marksmanship has helped them into a race for the club's first Champions League invite in 60 years (back when it was the European Cup). At his current international strike rate, the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup Golden Ball winner will soon threaten the all-time El Tri top 10.
After ringing up 40 goals and a bushel of assists for PSV Eindhoven, the young Mexico winger is now finding his way through life in Serie A with Napoli. Lozano has already celebrated a Coppa Italia triumph with his new club, but then quickness has always been his thing. Believe it or not, he's the only player in this list who's scored in a World Cup (remember that jailbreak winner against Germany?).
The Costa Rica netminder might not be among the first handful of names folks would put down, but maybe he should be. Navas has backstopped the Ticos to consecutive World Cups, and was key to their magical quarterfinal run in 2014. In club life, he's now adding to his overworked trophy case with Paris Saint-Germain after winning three straight Champions League crowns with Real Madrid.
Meet the 10th and final pick I hemmed and hawed over for surely way too long. Pizarro is a worthy one, though. He can befuddle you from the wing (as he did for most of last year's Gold Cup title run) or straight up the gut, coach's choice. Inter Miami CF have only begun to see what he's capable of conjuring.
The Chelsea ace was another "one of the first names on the team sheet" choice. Pulisic has been a terror since returning from a six-month injury layoff, netting twice and winning a spot kick in the Blues' last three EPL games. In a US shirt, his goals+assists per 90 rate in competitive Concacaf games is the finest hair under an even 1.0.