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Every fan will be hoping to see one of their players fulfill their potential as the next big thing, but here are five up-and-coming players who could be set to break into the big time this month.
Gyasi Zardes, United States
The 23-year-old LA Galaxy attacker has been the biggest breakout star for the USMNT in 2015, appearing in all seven friendlies to date and scoring his first international goal with a well-taken finish against the Netherlands in early June.
Though his club form has waned slightly after a spectacular 16-goal season in 2014, Zardes has not dropped off the radar completely on that front – he’s scored four goals in MLS play for the Galaxy in 2015, including one to go with two assists in a recent 5-1 rout of the Philadelphia Union.
Where he fits in for Klinsmann’s squad is still uncertain, especially given the coach’s proclivity for tinkering with his lineups, but Zardes’ athleticism and improving finishing skills could see him flourish anywhere along the forward line. He could be an option to start or to break down those packed CONCACAF defenses off the bench.
Jesús Manuel Corona, Mexico
After a breakthrough season in the club ranks, the 22-year-old ‘Tecatito’ is finally getting his break with the national team.
Corona, already a three-time CONCACAF Champions League winner with Monterrey, cracked the starting lineup at FC Twente in the Dutch Ererdivisie in the 2014-15 season. He started all 27 league games he appeared in while racking up nine goals and four assists. The right winger was rewarded for his efforts in Europe with a place in Miguel Herrera’s Mexico squad, making his debut Nov. 14 and recently scoring his first goal in a 3-0 friendly win over Guatemala.
Possessing considerable speed and technical skill to go with a solid defensive mindset, Corona will be looking to prove himself after being part of the Mexico squad that endured a rough go of it in the Copa América in June. Given Mexico’s considerable talent in attack, he isn’t a lock to start, but he will certainly be a factor if Mexico are to reclaim the Gold Cup title.
Cyle Larin – Canada
The leading MLS Rookie of the Year candidate has broken through in MLS, and now he’s set to take CONCACAF by storm.
Standing at an imposing 6-foot-2, Larin possesses the physical qualities, goalscoring ability and – increasingly – the smarts to make him the go-to center forward option for Canada this July.
As far as the goals go, Larin’s got plenty of them. He’s netted six times for Orlando so far this season, which at least puts him in touching distance of the rookie record of 11, and has found the back of the net for Canada, too. He got his first international goal in a March friendly against Puerto Rico and followed that up with a goal in each of Canada’s first two World Cup qualifiers against Dominica. It will be a bigger ask against the CONCACAF powers, but one that the UConn product will surely be up for
Alvas Powell – Jamaica
The Portland Timbers’ 20-year-old right back is blessed with blazing speed and has shown an improved skill set on the defensive side as he’s locked down a starting place in 2015.
Powell missed the cut for Jamacia’s Copa América squad, and thus the opportunity to face some of the world’s best players, but he will get plenty of international seasoning in the Gold Cup as Jamaica look to develop a promising young group of talent that will soon aim to put the Reggae Boyz in their first World Cup since 1998.
David Ramírez – Costa Rica
A 22-year-old who can double as a left winger or a more central attacker, Ramírez has finally cracked the Ticos’ senior squad after a stellar youth international career and will be competing in his first major tournament. He most recently scored the first goal in a 2-2 draw with Mexico in Orlando.
Ramírez got his start with national powerhouses Saprissa but was loaned to Ligue 1 side Evian at the start of 2015. He didn’t quite stick there, returning to Saprissa after playing 204 minutes over six appearances for the French side, but after a three-goal showing at the prestigious Toulon Tournament, he could very well be in line for a chance somewhere else in Europe. A good showing against the big boys in the Gold Cup would only increase those chances.