Tuesday, September 12, 2017

USMNT: Ceiling and Floor are Falling

Jurgen Klinsmann did a good job at making Americans believe that there was a deep pool of US eligible players of which to pull. When he started he had players like Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud and Tim Howard still playing in top leagues.

The key phrase there is "when he started." That all changed in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup when MLS, almost as a response to Klinsmann's urging of players to go to Europe, brought them all back. In the back of our collective minds, many of us thought that there would be other players to back fill the work that those players were doing at the highest levels. There always had been. Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride, Frankie Hejduk, Ernie Stewart, Brad Friedel and Crew SC's own Gregg Berhalter (to name a few). There was a pipeline there, so to speak.

Because of that pipeline, the US had a decent height to the ceiling. Meaning, it was widely regarded that players training and pushing in better leagues are, well, better players. That has changed, however. The events by MLS/SUM starting in 2013 to bring back players is turning out to have a titanic impact on US players in Europe.

The table below is a quick overview of who the US currently has playing in leagues scattered across the pond. Since I am not close to most of these leagues outside of the EPL (and to a smaller degree, Bundesliga) I decided to whip up a quick point system based on the header categories below.

Points >>322
PtsPlayerLeagueClubAge, PositionMins% Pos MinsGAMotMRating
9Bobby WoodBundesligaHamburger SV24, FW26799%117.07
9Christian PulisicBundesligaBorussia Dortmund18, M(CLR)26699%117.50
8Timothy ChandlerBundesligaEintracht Frankfurt27, D(R),M(R)270100%17.20
8Mix DiskerudSwedenIFK Göteborg26, M(CR)187194%3337.00
7Brendan Hines IkeSwedenÖrebro22, D(C)189095%116.84
6Geoff CameronEPLStoke City32, D(CLR),DMC29582%6.00
5Tim ReamChampFulham29, D(CL),DMC540100%6.71
5Josh WicksSwedenSirius33, GK1980100%26.00
5Alfredo MoralesBundesliga IIIngolstadt27, M(C)27060%7.00
4Jerome KiesewetterBundesliga IIFortuna Düsseldorf24, AM(R)16436%6.92
4Lynden GoochEPLSunderland21, Forward6318%6.11
4Danny WilliamsEPLHuddersfield Town28, M(C)6217%6.20
4Weston McKennieBundesligaSchalke 0419, Midfielder259%6.00
4Andrew WootenBundesliga IISandhausen27, AM(R),FW307%17.21
4Fabian JohnsonBundesligaBorussia M'gladbach29, D(LR),M(CLR)104%5.00
4Aron JóhannssonBundesligaWerder Bremen26, FW31%5.00
3Matt MiazgaEredivisieVitesse22, D(C)15042%6.00
3Romain GallSwedenGIF Sundsvall22, Midfielder80341%6.00
3Alex HorwathNorwayBrann30, GK36019%6.80
3E. HyndmanEPLAFC Bournemouth00%
3K. ScottEPLChelsea00%
3D. YedlinEPLNewcastle United00%
3C. Carter VickersEPLSheffield United00%
3B. ScottBundesligaKöln00%
3C. StankoBundesligaFreiburg00%
3J. BrooksBundesligaWolfsburg00%
2Julian GreenBundesliga IIGreuther Fürth22, AM(L)9020%6.4
2Terrence BoydBundesliga IIDarmstadt 9826, FW5913%6
2Eric LichajChampNottingham Forest28, D(LR),M(LR)132%6.11
2Rubio RubinNorwayStabæk21, AM(C),FW10%6
1H. WrightBundesliga IISandhausen00%
1S. AntonijevicNorwayLillestrøm00%
1J. KlinsmannGermanyHertha BSC00%
1D. PayneEredivisieExcelsior00%
1S. O'NeillEredivisieExcelsior00%
1L. de la TorreChampFulham00%
1M. CorbozBundesliga IIMSV Duisburg00%
1M. GainesBundesliga IIDarmstadt 9800%

Once you get past Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic there is a bit of a drop-off. That isn't to minimize their impact because it has been great. Without them, the US might likely not be qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Speaking of qualification for the World Cup. Below is a list of current US players who rank in the top 50 in MLS right now.

RankPlayerTeam, Age, PositionMinsGoalsAssistsMotMRating
6Lee NguyenNew England Rev, 30, AM(CLR),FW21249837.43
7Cristian RoldanSeattle Sounders FC, 22, M(CR)23406247.43
11Graham ZusiSporting Kansas City, 31, D(R),M(CLR)16650517.33
22Sacha KljestanNew York Red Bulls, 32, M(C)21962747.19
24Jozy AltidoreToronto FC, 27, FW193213527.18
25CJ SapongPhiladelphia Union, 28, AM(LR),FW226313447.18
26Benny FeilhaberSporting Kansas City, 32, AM(C)20135127.16
27Kelyn RoweNew England Rev, 25, D(L),M(CLR)18950607.15
28Dax McCartyChicago Fire, 30, DMC19610407.13
31Clint DempseySeattle Sounders FC, 34, M(CL),FW176911337.11
33Justin MorrowToronto FC, 29, D(CLR),M(L)19545137.11
37Matt PolsterChicago Fire, 24, D(R),DMC12771407.09
38Darlington NagbePortland Timbers, 27, M(CLR)19133207.09
40Sheanon WilliamsVancouver Whitecaps, 27, D(CLR)12600207.08
42Ben SweatNew York City FC, 26, D(L)17181617.07
47Ike OparaSporting Kansas City, 28, D(C)20702037.05

After calling players in Europe the ceiling, I'm calling players in MLS the floor. This isn't to say MLS is poor. The league is fine (though, still second best to Liga MX in the region. I did not look players there as I used WhoScored data to filter through players).

Between these two lists, you can piece together a group of familiar names, but not great players. Both MLS and Europe are not providing what the US needs. Perhaps it will be Liga MX that produces what it needs - but Bruce Arena has made it clear that MLS based players is what he wants.

USMNT was in better shape in 2010.

2013-14 and the return of European based players changed that.

MLS isn't producing better players.

The team is stuck in nowheresville.

No comments: