Left Out: American Players Not Headed to Brazil — Part 2

Part 2 of the 10 best eligible United States players that Jurgen Klinsmann has not called up
by Austin Farrow   |   Thursday, June 26, 2014

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

In part one of this series we discussed the likes of Nat Borchers, Jay Demerit, Luis Robles, Chad Marshall and Justin Mapp being players that deserve United States national team looks. Now, however, we examine the very best of those players not rewarded by national team manager, Jurgen Klinsmann. Whether they are better options than players used by Klinsmann, or whether they just simply deserved a call, here’s your top 5.

5. Chris Schuler

We warned you in part one. Big, bad Chris Schuler comes in at No. 5. Bad only describes his fighting spirit, determination, and grit. In terms of performing, Schuler has been the complete opposite from bad since the 2013 MLS season and even before that.

Schuler joined Real Salt Lake in 2010 at 22 years old but just saw a single game in his rookie MLS season. The next season, Schuler played 20 games, impressively filling in for Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers under head coach, Jason Kreis. In his sophomore season, Schuler played a crucial part in solidifying a playoff spot for Real Salt Lake but also in helping RSL to the Concacaf Champions League final. The next 2 seasons, however, Schuler struggled with injuries and played a combined 29 matches in that time.

Due to his injuries, you could argue that he was never really an option for the United States team until the end of the 2013 season. You could say Schuler truly broke out in the 2013 playoffs when he scored two goals to lead RSL to their second ever MLS Cup. They ended runner up to Sporting Kansas City but it didn’t make Chris Schuler any less important.

So if Schuler is truly one of the best centerbacks MLS has to offer, why is he so low on our list? As we spoke of before, injuries have made him less available throughout the years but Schuler was supposedly called to the 2014 January camp. He couldn’t accept the call because he needed surgery done on his foot. So technically, he shouldn’t even be on the list but he’s simply too good not to mention in some capacity.

Make no mistake, Schuler is a quality defender and could potentially play some part in the next World Cup cycle for the United States at the age of 26. Klinsmann has his eye on this one.

4. Dan Kennedy

We can assure you the next four players have not been called into a national team camp by Jurgen Klinsmann. This guy, specifically, doesn’t get enough credit. Dan Kennedy has been a part of Chivas USA for seven seasons now, which in itself is quite an accomplishment. Throughout that time he has largely been looked at as a rare bright spot in an extremely disappointing franchise.

If you want to read Chivas USA slander, though, you should head elsewhere.

395 career MLS saves in 124 games, Dan Kennedy is one of the best keepers MLS has to offer and has been for several years.

If Kennedy and Chivas USA can’t make the playoffs this year, you can count on them both impressing in the coming years once their rebranding is complete. At 31, Kennedy will be looking to make the rest of his career count greatly and perhaps he can even improve himself. As most of us know, goalkeepers are kin to wine after all.

With this being said, Kennedy is one to watch for in the next cycle. Depending on the development of goalkeepers like Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson, Kennedy could be looked upon as a third string or even backup goalkeeper in the next United States World Cup cycle.

3. Steve Clark

Sure, Nick Rimando, Brad Guzan, and Tim Howard were the best three keepers this past cycle and absolutely deserve to be in Brazil at this time. However, the likes of Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid have a total of 5 caps since 2011 and were both called in for the 2013 Gold Cup.

Meanwhile in Honefoss, Norway, you have Steve Clark. Clark saved Honefoss BK nearly single-handedly from relegation in 2012. He then was subsequently named to TV 2’s (in Norway) Tippeligaen team of the year. So with Clark arguably being the best goalkeeper in Norway in 2012, how did he not receive a National Team call over the likes of Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid? Most would admit they are still raw in specific areas of their game while Clark is 28 and improving just as fast. He has so many more credentials and so much more experience. It reminds me of a Jay-Z song from The Black Album, “What More Can I Say”.

What more can I say? Steve Clark couldn’t keep Honefoss from being relegated twice in a row. Perhaps it was inevitable as they were relegated in 2013. He has since moved on to Columbus in MLS and has continued to prove he is one of the best American goalkeepers around at this time. If Brad Guzan is the only goalkeeper left over from the big three after this World Cup, Steve Clark is the next best option in my eyes.

2. Amobi Okugo

Beginning his career at defensive midfield, Amobi Okugo has since moved to centerback with his strong passing ability, silky composure, and confident mindset.

You could argue that Amobi Okugo isn’t quite as prepared to contribute on the National Team as someone like Chris Schuler. Okugo is just 23 years old and already one of the best centerbacks in MLS however. What is even more captivating is that he has unique attributes. He is a possession oriented centerback. Call him the David Luiz of MLS.

Okugo’s national team scenario over the past 4 years is similar to Steve Clark’s. They both should’ve been called in situations like the Gold Cup in order to prepare themselves for the next cycle. This is key for Okugo as he really has a shot to play a part over the next 4 years if he continues to develop.

Having trained with Bundesliga outfit, SC Freiburg, on two different occasions, I believe it’s relatively likely we see Amobi Okugo transfer abroad soon. That location could very well be the Bundesliga as well. We all know this would help his chances with Jurgen Klinsmann.

1. Lee Nguyen

Though he has 3 United States caps, Lee Nguyen said that he not heard from Jurgen Klinsmann.

A total of 14 goals and ten assists in 76 matches for New England Revolution, Lee Nguyen has become one of the most exciting, creative attacking players in MLS.

It’s not the stats where Nguyen necessarily impresses the most though. Nguyen plays a vital part in New England’s build up because of how easily he can play out of pressure. His quick but accurate decision making and explosive movement allow him to help a side greatly in their own 70% of the field.

“Basically, I have it in my head that if you play for the team and we are successful as a team (then) that automatically will lead to individual success,” says Nguyen.

Though he has that great team player component, in the last 30% of the field, we bring out the party tricks and his brilliant individual ability, especially in the corners. If you want to see some of the very best dribbling in American football, watch Nguyen in the corner against an MLS fullback.

This is why he is number one on the list. Nguyen implements a technical approach in his game that few American players seem to. There’s a clear lack of quick midfielders that can play wide in Klinsmann’s current setup as well. At 27, you’d think Nguyen will get his opportunity after the current World Cup.

“Although the national team is obviously something I want to be a part of, I'm just focused on playing well and proving myself with the hopes (that) I'll get a chance in the next cycle. I do want to wish our guys the best in Brazil, and I believe they have what it takes to make it out of their group,” states Nguyen.

Nguyen, like the other nine players in our list, will focus completely on his club team for the time being. “We all have a common goal which is to win an MLS cup and I think if we continue the way we are we will have a chance to win it,” Nguyen states about his club team, New England.

Since starting his career at PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, there have been ups and downs for Lee Nguyen in his career but it seems very positive from here considering how he has played in MLS. Just how good is Lee Nguyen? It’s hard to tell but signs point to him arriving to the potential that PSV once saw in him. There’s still plenty to improve upon still.

“I still think I have a lot more to prove and I challenge myself every day to continue to put in high level performances. I want to be consistent over the entire season and that is really my main goal,” Nguyen says.

Ask any of these ten players and they’ll say the same thing. Consistency for your club is everything. Directly, it helps your club team win championships. Indirectly, it might just get you a call from Jurgen Klinsmann.

Austin FARROW

Nationality:
USA
College:
Indian River State
Club Domestic:
All MLS clubs
Club Foreign:
Manchester City
Bringing you news on soccer players across MLS and American players playing in top leagues around the world, Austin is a journalism major who enjoys the fine arts. He doesn't favor one club over another, but just enjoys all MLS play.
AUSTIN'S SPONSORS