FourFourTwo USA's 50 Best American Men's Players of 2017: 30-21
30. Timmy Chandler
Widely (and perhaps rightly) panned for his history of substandard efforts for the United States, Timothy Chandler continues to stack together solid calendar years in the Bundesliga. Now 27, the rangy right-footer is one of the first names on the team sheet for Eintracht Frankfurt, starting all 30 league games that he was eligible for in 2016-17 and starting all 11 matches he’s been healthy for this season.
Though he’s mainly thought of as a right back by U.S. fans, he’s actually deployed most often as a right winger for Frankfurt. He’s done well in that position, recording two assists in limited appearances this season and tallying six helpers in all competitions last campaign.
He’s had a disappointing run with the United States, missing out on a couple of call-ups due to injury and not even recording an international appearance in 2017, but earned his spot on this list by cementing himself as a key piece for a positively trending club currently battling for one of the Bundesliga’s berths in Europe.
- Sam Stejskal
29. Joe Corona
2017 reads like the tale of two years for Joe Corona, whose strong play for Tijuana in Liga MX’s Clausura helped earn him a spot in the U.S.’ Gold Cup squad. This fall, however, after the departure of head coach Miguel Herrera to Club America, Corona’s fortunes changed, and he finished Xolos’ unsuccessful Apertura having made only 11 appearances.
That’s why, from a distance, it may be hard to get a grasp on what Corona has become. Is he the consistent central midfielder who, willing in the tackle and ever-present in support, served as a steadying presence for Piojo’s final Tijuana sides? Or, at his core, is he still the more attack-oriented, wide-but-occasionally-central option that Bruce Arena tried to conjure this past summer?
It’s a question U.S. Soccer must answer before this, Corona’s last cycle of international relevance. Now on the move to Club America, Corona will be reunited with Herrera, giving him a chance to resume an ascent that got him into the Gold Cup squad.
If that climb continues, the next U.S. boss may be forced to incorporate the 27-year-old, whose loan deal to Mexico City may also prime a move into the middle of the U.S. men’s national team setup.
- Richard Farley
28. Greg Garza
Greg Garza emerged in 2017 as one of the best attacking fullbacks in the U.S. men’s national team program. That much was obvious with Atlanta United in its historic expansion season, as Garza played in 26 games, chipping in two goals and five assists.
He thrived in Tata Martino’s system, which drew wide praise for its refreshing, attacking approach. Garza’s ability to provide width and numbers to the attack was a huge – even if overshadowed – piece of Atlanta’s puzzle. Understandably, Atlanta’s attacking talent drew most of the attention.
Will it be enough to get a more extensive look at the international level? Garza has 10 total caps for the U.S., the most recent coming in the Americans’ first game of 2017. He put in an underwhelming 69 minutes in that match, and hasn’t been called in since, including for a fairly experimental Gold Cup roster which most would have expected him to be a part of.
Garza doesn’t turn 27 years old until August. He still has plenty of upside, and whoever comes in to take over the U.S. men’s national team job would be wise to give Garza a look.
- Jeff Kassouf
27. Wil Trapp
There’s no question that 2017 was an unforgettable season for the Columbus Crew, for reasons good and bad. It was surely a season to remember personally for midfielder Wil Trapp – mostly for good.
Obviously, the Columbus captain would have loved to push one round deeper into the MLS playoffs; Gregg Berhalter’s team was squeezed out in the conference finals on the slimmest of margins by the eventual champion, Toronto FC. But take nothing away from what Trapp and his teammates accomplished, never mind the tenuous and surely distracting situation around the original MLS club’s potential relocation.
Trapp, although just 24, was handed the captain’s armband this year following Michael Parkhurst’s departure to Atlanta. His performance over the season and during the Crew playoff run more than justified Berhalter’s choice.
“It was a huge learning year for me,” Trapp told the Massive Report blog. “I think from the beginning of the year to the end, I made great strides with just how I felt addressing the team, how I felt assuming this role as the captain of the team. And that’s also something I’m encouraged and excited about for next year.”
Trapp, ever calm and assured in his deep-lying distribution, didn’t crack the national team in 2017. But given the growth of his game and the presumed national team turnover ahead, he’s likely to be among the central midfield candidates going forward.
- Steve Davis
26. Jorge Villafana
At this point, you’ve probably heard Jorge Villafana’s story: He was the first-ever winner of the Sueño MLS competition, a reality TV series which gave one lucky winner a shot at a professional contract.
The road from there was a long one: seven seasons with Chivas USA (R.I.P.) before moving to the Portland Timbers upon the Goats’ dmise. It was 2015 when Villafana’s story reached new heights, as he helped Portland win its first MLS Cup before making a move to Liga MX’s Santos Laguna.
Villafana made his U.S. men’s national team debut in 2017, instantly taking hold of a position which has long been problematic for the U.S. men: left back. Villafana played in 15 of the Americans’ 19 games in 2017, starting 13.
At 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, he’s slight of frame, but he has the pace and endurance to be the two-way fullback which modern soccer demands at the international level. Consistency is the next step for the 28-year-old, as there were times where he was a non-factor for the U.S., most notably in a crucial home loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying. He has mostly come along on that front for Santos Laguna, where he’s largely a regular starter -- even if the team struggled in the Apertura after a strong Clausura.
- Jeff Kassouf