FourFourTwo USA's 50 Best American Men's Players of 2017: 50-41
45. Jordan Morris
Without any context, it would be unfair to classify 2017 as a sophomore slump for Jordan Morris, who played only 33 total minutes after Sept. 10 as the Seattle Sounders marched to a second consecutive MLS Cup final.
Morris missed nearly three months at the end of the season after straining his hamstring, capping off a relatively frustrating year in which he scored only three goals in 23 regular-season appearances for Seattle. It was a noticeable dip in form following a historic rookie campaign in 2016, when he tallied 12 goals and four assists as the Sounders won their first MLS Cup.
Seattle’s Homegrown Player finds himself at a familiar crossroad for many American players at the moment: Caught between his ideal position and where he might best fit with his team. Clint Dempsey’s revival in 2017 was always going to complicate the picture at the club level, and that dilemma will remain in 2018.
Equally, will Morris be asked to play wide or centrally for the U.S. men’s national team? Will he be an integral part of the program? That, at least, still seems very likely. But with no coach being hired until after the federation’s new president is elected in February, those answers are not imminent.
- Jeff Kassouf
44. Justen Glad
It doesn’t take a deep dive to realize the big impact Glad had on Real Salt Lake in 2017.
A quick comparison of RSL’s record with and without the young center back in the lineup speaks volumes. When Glad was in the starting XI, Real Salt Lake was 9-5-4 with a plus-14 goal differential. Without him, RSL was a dismal 4-10-2 with a putrid minus-20 goal difference. Other factors played a role in that jump (the May arrival of Jefferson Savarino certainly helped), but that’s a serious impact.
Glad still has some filling out to do, but the 20-year-old reads the game very well, is a solid distributor, has some speed and has the height of a prototypical center back. He was excellent for the U.S. Under-20s in their run to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in May and June, and will almost assuredly get an invite to the senior team’s coming January camp.
Assuming he continues his upward trajectory, more national team calls, more MLS plaudits and a potential move to Europe should be in line for the RSL academy product.
- Sam Stejskal
43. Kelyn Rowe
Not very much went right for the New England Revolution in 2017, as the Revs finished one spot out of the MLS playoffs for the second consecutive year, costing manager Jay Heaps his job.
But not all was lost. Kelyn Rowe’s climb into further MLS regard, along with a bit of ladder climbing up the U.S. national team ranks, was among the better tales around Gillette Stadium for 2017.
Rowe was a surprise selection to Bruce Arena’s Gold Cup group, debuting in the U.S. shirt in July. In fact, more than just earning a milepost first cap, the versatile midfielder was among the standouts in a win over Ghana. Later in the summer, Rowe raised even more eyebrows with a clever assist against Panama and then a well-taken goal against Nicaragua.
The fall wasn’t as productive as the Revs’ veteran spent time recovering from a knee injury. He did get back into the lineup at the end of the campaign, and Rowe made the very most of that one; his only goal for New England in 2017 was a lulu. In fact, that dipping, long-distance bomb against Montreal wasn’t just the game-winner, but probably the best goal from any New England player in 2017. It was a fitting punctuation mark on a darn good year for Rowe, who also added seven assists to his 2017 MLS bottom line.
- Steve Davis
42. Zack Steffen
The most exciting player of the 2017 MLS postseason was the goalkeeper on the most interesting team in the league. Columbus Crew SC got hot on the field at just the right time, and just as team owner Anthony Precourt’s public declaration of interest in relocating the Crew to Austin, Texas.
The face of Columbus’ playoff run was Zack Steffen, who played hero on numerous occasions, including one of the most entertaining scoreless draws in recent memory: the knockout-round game in Atlanta, which Columbus won in a penalty-kick shootout. Steffen saved two spot-kicks, in addition to his eight saves from open play.
Steffen’s performance over those five games came under the national spotlight, and his 16-12-6 record in the regular season was a necessary complement to the Crew’s potent attack. At 22, Steffen has a bright future in front of him, with U.S. youth-level experience and time in Germany already behind him.
His heroics, combined with the U.S. men’s national team’s recent woes, leave us wondering how Steffen can factor into the next World Cup cycle. If 2017 is any indication of his base level, he should have a say in a wide-open battle for the No. 1 spot.
- Jeff Kassouf
41. Chad Marshall
Even at 33 years old, Chad Marshall remains an integral part of the Seattle Sounders’ defense. His central partnership with Roman Torres is hardly the fastest or most agile one in MLS, but in Marshall, Seattle has its general in the back.
Marshall is one of the most decorated defenders in MLS history, and his consistency remains remarkable. He played in almost every game for Seattle as the Sounders won MLS Cup in 2016 and returned to the final in 2017. He was integral to the Sounders’ six-game shutout streak at the end of the regular season and into MLS Cup, which the Sounders ultimately lost in the rematch against Toronto FC.
Cerebral and good in the air, Marshall is one of the ultimate bargains in Sounders history, having come over from Columbus for allocation money and a third-round draft pick in late 2013. His four seasons to date in Seattle already give him a distinct place in Sounders lore. The good news? He looks like he still has plenty left in the tank.
- Jeff Kassouf