AMSTERDAM – During the last World Cup cycle, US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann was very successful at winning the loyalty of dual internationals. The four-year run-up for Russia 2018 has now begun, giving the boss several more intriguing chances to recruit potential impact players carrying more than one passport.
In addition to swooping in for German-born Terrence Boyd, our man Klinsi managed to win FIFA eligibility tug-of-wars over John Anthony Brooks, Julian Green, Aron Jóhannsson, Fabian Johnson and Daniel Williams. Four of those players pulled important duty for the US national team at World Cup 2014, and one who didn't (Williams) may well have were it not for a sorely-timed spring injury.
To the point, it is fair to wonder if players who have switched international allegiance can again make up more than 20 percent of the US roster, account for three big goals and post double-digits in starts at the the 2018 World Cup. As such, we are here to run down the main candidates who could potentially be swayed by that smooth Klinsmann pitch:
Adam Henley, right back (Blackburn)
Status: Wales youth international, last played for the Under-21s in September 2012; would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US, but is also eligible for England.
What's his game? The 20-year-old is a speedy wingback that can play on either side of defense. He has solid all-around skills and fairly big potential. Henley has made 43 appearances for Rovers, seven in the Premier League.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? The US boss did speak to Henley a few years back, shortly after taking over from Bob Bradley. For the last couple of years, Henley has kept his options opens while focusing on his development and standing at Blackburn. In fact, he withdrew from a Wales U-21 call-up last month.
Duane Holmes, attacking midfielder (Huddersfield Town)
Status: Uncapped at any age level.
What's his game? The diminutive 19-year-old is quick, shifty and decisive, making him a real bee in the bonnet to opponents when on the ball. Holmes has a troubling long shot and likes to drive, draw defenders and dish. Of course, he needs seasoning (and also some work on his match stamina), which he expects to get on a three-month loan to League Two side Bury.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? It's not really necessary, so it seems. The Georgia-born playmaker identifies as American and has gone on record as saying he wants to play for the US.
Fabian Hürzeler, central midfielder (1860 Munich II)
Status: Germany youth international, last played when making his U-19 debut in November 2011; would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US.
What's his game? Hürzeler has a wide variety of tools, allowing him to take just about any role in midfield. Still, he is best and prefers running the tempo with plenty of touches in a two-way game.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? Probably not at the moment, but if Hürzeler breaks into a Lions first team stumbling out of the gate this season and starts killing it in the 2.Bundesliga, start watching the sky for Klinsmann's Nat-signal.
Devante Parker, midfielder/winger (Mainz 05)
Status: Germany youth international, played for Germany's U-19's in September; would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US.
What's his game? The 18-year-old recently made his Bundesliga debut having played just six matches for the reserve side. Parker mostly makes his money from clever runs behind the defense, quickly changing speeds on the ball and a pretty good blast from distance. He typically plays on his natural flank as a right winger, but has also enjoyed a bit of success on the left.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? Yes, but only gently so far.
Shawn Parker, forward (Augsburg)
Status: Germany youth international, last played for the U-21s last November; would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US.
What's his game? The 21-year-old, older brother of Devante Parker, is easily the most experienced player on this list, with five goals in 30 Bundesliga appearances for former employers Mainz and 24 youth international goals. A handful of his club appearances have come out wide, but his bread and butter is shifty forward work. Augsburg paid over $2 million for him this summer to give an idea of his market value.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? Openly, yes. Does that have anything to do with Parker turning down a Germany U-21 call-up last month? We shall see.
Darren Randolph, goalkeeper (Birmingham City)
Status: Ireland international with two friendly caps, the last coming in June 2013; would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US.
What's his game? Few 'keepers playing in England move around so well as Randolph, who can dominate a game with his reflexes when on fire. Being that he can also make an impact in distribution, that makes three things he has in common with Tim Howard. The difference is the Brums netminder can (at least for now, at age 27) only boast of being considered among the top backstops in the second flight.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? Not that anyone is aware of. Randolph was called up by Ireland manager Martin O'Neill early in the summer, but missed out due to injury.
Kenny Sayef, forward (Gent)
Status: Israel youth international, made his first appearance for the U-21s in May; would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US.
What's his game?: Think of him as a Rafael van der Vaart type, only two-footed. Does he project as a No. 10 at the international level? Or is he really a pure support forward? That is the question, and it's not clear if anyone has a solid answer yet. Either way, the 20-year-old Florida native is unafraid; he opened his Gent account in just his second Jupiler League sub outing by nodding home the lone goal winner with eight minutes remaining this past weekend.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? Give the guy some time... this one is not German! Just joking, but no apparent Klinsi switch pitch here as of yet.
Jeremy Toljan, left back (Hoffenheim)
Status: Germany youth international, last appearing for the U-20s in March; would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US
What's his game? A freakish athlete, Toljan can play on both bookends of the back line. His name started coming up when the 20-year-old provided 10 encouraging Bundesliga games of left-back cover while the injury bug was chewing large holes in Hoffenheim's squad last season. However, there were a few rookie mistakes and the club bought South Korea left back hotshot Kim Jin-su this summer. Sprinkle in a string of preseason injuries and the youngster is now back with the reserves.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? It seems unlikely considering Toljan has been comfy climbing his way through the Germany set-up, but the US staff has publicly admitted to keeping watch from afar.
Maki Tall, forward (Lille Under-19's)
Status: France youth international, most recently featured for the U-19s last September; would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US, but is also eligible for the Ivory Coast.
What's his game? Tall is a fast, physical forward with some area tricks up his sleeve, so Didier Drogba comparisons are made at Le Mans, where both once played in the academy. The kid (who was born in D.C.) was wise enough at a young age age to vigorously wave this off as high flattery, but one could see how they came to such remarks.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? Probably not at the moment, because Tall is currently dedicated to aiming for Les Bleus. However, that is a crowded field of talent to fight through, so maybe just file his name away for potential reference later. You know, just in case.
Gedion Zelalem, midfielder (Arsenal)
Status: Germany youth international, last played for the U-19's last September; would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US, but is also eligible for Ethiopia.
What's his game? Though still lanky at 17, Zelalem has good, rangy size for a No. 10. For a kid his age, the Arsenal sensation's understanding and real-time reading of the game are off the charts. The same goes for his technique, which he loves to use for putting forwards into the area by any means necessary. Once he physically matures, his work on the defensive side of the ball will probably improve a great deal.
Is Jurgen recruiting him? Oh, you know that's right! If he wasn't, our soccer bubble would be all over him. There's even a Change.org petition imploring President Obama to "do whatever it takes" to get Zelalem eligible for the US shirt, up to and including as much "government corruption" as is required. It may not be perceptible, but you can bet dollars to donuts that Klinsi is on this case.