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Changing Stars for the Stars and Stripes (Part 2): Predicting the 2018 World Cup Roster

In my last column, I gave my breakdown of which goalkeepers and defenders could make the team in 2018. This column gives focus to the midfielders and defenders and who could return, in addition to some really exciting young players and situations to monitor in the next couple of years. For each player, their current age is in parentheses. At the conclusion of the breakdown of the midfield and attack, the first projection for the 2018 roster and starters will be given.

 

MIDFIELDERS

Unlike the defense, the midfield is full of players who are already past the peaks of their careers. The turnover in the midfield will be plenty over the next few years as Klinsmann tries to find the right group of players to grab these spots in 2018.

Brad Davis (32)

Davis was another surprise on the team, and it came as an even bigger surprise to see him take the pitch against Germany. This World Cup appearance was probably more than he could have ever imagined, so he shouldn’t be too upset knowing he won’t be with the team going to Russia.

Chance of returning: 0%

Kyle Beckerman (32)

Beckerman had a very similar story to Rimando’s, except  he took it to the next level. On nobody’s radar in 2010, Beckerman slowly worked his way onto the national team and became a quiet revelation leading up to the World Cup, where he held together a sometimes-patchy United States midfield. Unfortunately, Beckerman seems to have played his last World Cup match, as thirty-six year old midfielders are not a common sight at World Cups.

Chance of returning: 0%

Graham Zusi (27)

Zusi had a terrific start to the World Cup, sending in the game-winning cross to John Brooks against Ghana. After that play, however, his performance was mediocre at best when he was on the pitch. While he will not be dealing with the same age issues as others, Klinsmann may see more potential to help the team in other players, leaving Zusi as one of the last cuts before Russia.

Chance of returning: 45%

Mix Diskerud (23)

Mix joined Timmy Chandler as the two non-goalies to never see the pitch. While most fans would not think twice about it, Diskerud had actually shown plenty of promise leaning up to the World Cup. The Norwegian-American is not a lock for Russia, but his playmaking ability should bring enough to the table to warrant a spot on the team and to possibly start in the midfield.

Chance of returning: 70%

Michael Bradley (26)

Coming into the World Cup, it was expected that Bradley would need a tremendous performance for the United States to advance. In reality, Bradley played below his high standards but the U.S. still advanced. While Bradley received heaps of blame during the World Cup, there is zero doubt that he is one of the top players moving forward. Expect him to be the captain in four years.

Chance of returning: 95%

U.S. Midfielder Michael Bradley battles against Cristiano Ronaldo in the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Alejandro Bedoya (27)

Bedoya was arguably the weakest starter for the United States in Brazil, filling the last midfield spot where there simply were not very strong candidates. While Bedoya is the incumbent, he could find himself having a tough time holding off a young talented pool of midfielders in the next few years.

Chance of returning: 35%

Jermaine Jones (32)

Jones cemented his legacy for United States soccer with his wonder-goal against Portugal. He always gave it all and was incredibly underappreciated. As with the other players his age, however, this was his swan song for the World Cup.

Chance of returning: 0%

Possible Replacements

Danny Williams (25) has 13 Caps and was in consideration for a spot this year before an injury derailed his chances. Sebastian Lletget (21) has not earned a Cap yet for the senior team but has already had good experience playing for West Ham United. Despite having some club issues right now, don’t forget about fan favorite Brek Shea (24). Luis Gil (20) has had plenty of success on younger United States teams and at Real Salt Lake and many U.S. fans already talk about him for 2018. Other MLS players to keep an eye on are Wil Trapp (21) of the Colombus Crew and Perry Kitchen (22) of D.C. United. Joe Corona (24) is a talented player for Tijuana who was among the final cuts this year but has a lot of potential. Finally, the most exciting player to look out for is Gedion Zelalem (17), who plays for Premier League power in Arsenal. Despite being from Berlin, he has turned down a chance to play for a Germany youth team in order to keep his options open for the United States. In the process of acquiring a United States passport, he could be Klinsmann’s most prized dual-national catch yet.

 

FORWARDS

Clint Dempsey (31)

With all the talk about Howard’s World Cup career most likely being done, Dempsey is not getting enough attention.  It is hard to imagine someone of his caliber not being there in 2018, but four years is a long time in soccer. Most fans will be clamoring for his return, even if it is in the role of a substitute. He will be monitored closely in coming years to see how his body holds up, but it could be a tough road for Captain America.

Chance of returning: 15%

Jozy Altidore (24)

Altidore has been a fixture in the starting eleven for so many years now, it’s hard to remember sometimes that he is only 24 years old. While his World Cup was cut short this year, he will be even hungrier next time around to make a big impact, this time in the middle of his prime. He should be one of the best players in four years.

Chance of returning: 95%

Aron Johnannsson (23)

Johannsson was plucked away from Iceland last year and many expected immediate dividends. While those were not provided, he still has a lot more to show, as proven by his abundant amount of goals at the club level. He should be on the team in four years, but whether he starts or not may depend on how many forwards Klinsmann wants in his formation.

Chance of returning: 85%

Chris Wondolowski (31)

Another MLS-lifer, Wondolowski’s miss in stoppage time against Belgium may haunt fans for years to come and provide a lot of what-ifs. His age will prevent him from getting a chance to redeem himself in a big World Cup game.

Chance of returning: 0%

Julian Green (20)

The way-too-optimistic fan in me had to save Green for last. With expectations for him already incredibly high, his goal against Belgium sent those expectations to the next stratosphere. He is one of the few guys who seem to have a spot in the starting eleven locked up. While he is listed as a midfielder on the U.S. Soccer website, it feels pretty certain that he will move up to forward permanently. With a possible promotion to the senior team at Bayern Munich, the sky is the limit for Julian Green.

Chance of returning: 95%

POSSIBLE REPLACEMENTS

Terrence Boyd (23) was a member of the 30-man roster and should develop enough to finally make it to the final 23 next time around. Currently a free agent, Juan Agudelo (21) has been making appearances for the senior team since 2010. Joe Gyau (21) should get his chance with Borussia Dortumund soon, where he will get a chance to show off his impressive speed, an attribute Klinsmann craves up front. If you want some really young faces to look out for, check in on Paul Arriola (19) of Tijuana in Mexico, Kainoa Bailey (18) of Bayer Leverkusen, and Andrija Novakovich (17) of Reading FC in England. One interesting situation is that of Darlington Nagbe (24), a star for the Portland Timbers who is originally from Liberia. However, he is expected to receive U.S. citizenship in 2015 and should join the senior team soon after.

 

Portland Timbers star and future U.S. citizen Darlington Nagbe

So there is my breakdown of each player from this year’s team and some new players to look out for. To finish my roster breakdown, here is the much-anticipated first projection for the 2018 squad (starters with asterisks)

Goalies: Brad Guzan*, Cody Cropper, Bill Hamid

Defenders: DeAndre Yedlin*, Fabian Johnson*, John Brooks*, Matt Besler, Will Packwood*, Timmy Chandler, Omar Gonzalez, Greg Garza

Midfielders: Michael Bradley*, Mix Diskerud, Gedion Zelalem*, Joe Corona, Danny Williams, Luis Gil*

 Forwards: Darlington Nagbe, Aron Johannsson*, Jozy Altidore*, Julian Green*, Terrence Boyd, Joe Gyau

 

 

nathanalevy View All

United States Men's National Soccer Team Writer. I am currently a student at the University of Virginia. I was raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I dream of a major league sports team coming to the area. I love all UVa athletics, Old Dominion football and men's basketball, the Green Bay Packers, whoever is playing the Miami Heat, and, of course, the USMNT. Follow me on Twitter @nathanalevy.

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