FourFourTwo's USMNT Top 50: 30-21
30. Perry Kitchen
Kitchen left D.C. United and Major League Soccer at the end of last season. With that move, he also fell off a lot of fans’ radars. Such is the state of the fallen Scottish Premier League. It’s not soccer Siberia, but it’s just as far north.
With Hearts, Kitchen is facing some different competition, presumably taking better advantage of his prime earning years, but his U.S. national team plight remains the same. He is, in terms of the depth pool, kind of caught in the middle. Good enough to make the occasional national team squad but not good enough to garner meaningful playing time, Kitchen needs something to happen for his stock to improve. Merely impressing Hearts supporters and Scottish Premier League followers is, apparently, not enough.
The bad news: New U.S. men’s head coach Bruce Arena has already affirmed his commitment to Michael Bradley in defensive midfield. The good? Kitchen is only 24, is likely to see Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones fade away from the first-team picture, and now has another chance to impress.
The solidity and consistency Kitchen brings to deep midfield may appeal to Arena more than it did Jurgen Klinsmann. If not, the former United anchor will have to add another dimension to his game to embed himself in the first team squad.
-- Richard Farley
29. LEE NGUYEN
The skilled Texan was way off our radar as he traipsed around Holland and Vietnam the first five years of his pro career, but he has been among MLS' premier playmakers since joining New England in 2012 after Vancouver waived him in preseason -- one of the nuttier MLS moves, it appears. At 30, he still has much to give.
Could that lead to real opportunity with the U.S. national team? We'll see. Jurgen Klinsmann have him six caps, all after his breakthrough 2014 campaign, when he scored 20 goals with eight assists to lead the Revs to MLS Cup and was an MVP finalist. Four of those appearances were in January camps, and they haven't led to much, although he impressed greatly in this year's early gathering. He's sturdy, averaging 32 league games a year, has pristine vision and touch and an enviable creative streak, and he's hit double digits in assists the past two years, although more might have been expected, for him and the Revs, when Kei Kamara arrived in May. Maybe next year.
-- Scott French
28. ARON JÓHANNSSON
There is more to this man than just his resemblance to Kevin Bacon. The Icelandic-American became one of the most talented strikers in the player pool the moment he pledged his allegiance to the U.S. over Iceland. If only injuries hadn’t derailed his promising start.
Johannsson’s the perfect complement to a striker like Jozy Altidore. He’s not about hold up play, rather preferring to play off of a partner and run at defenders. He can make the clever runs and can beat defenders 1-on-1, and his goal-scoring ability showed through in Holland, where he netted 29 times in 60 games. The injury problems cropped up once Johannsson made the jump to the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen, most severely a hip problem, but if he can get healthy he will absolutely be a factor in Bruce Arena’s team selection.
-- Paul Tenorio