FourFourTwo's USMNT Top 50: 40-31
Day two of our countdown sees us inch closer to the mid-way point of our 50 ... and into the range where some actual, full-time internationals start to rank.
If you missed the first 10, you can catch up here, but today, we start with somebody who's been on the cusp of a regular national-team place since his teenage days with the Red Bulls.
40. JUAN AGUDELO
It wasn't so long ago that Juan Agudelo was American soccer's great new hope. The next Jozy Altidore, with similar strength and athleticism, but faster and with more sublime skill. The future. Before he turned 18, in November 2010, he'd beguiled us with a wonderful playoff performance for the Red Bulls, then scored the lone goal in his national team debut, against South Africa. He was can't-miss, in the way too many young players who do miss are branded.
The Colombian-born forward earned 14 caps in 2011 but has played just six times since for the U.S. while bouncing to Chivas USA and New England and then to Stoke City, which couldn't get him a work permit and loaned him to a Dutch club. Don't give up on him yet: Agudelo returned to the Revolution last year, and he has since netted 14 goals and shown decent versatility. The best front line partner for Kei Kamara? Sure. And at 24, he might be ready to take his next step forward.
-- Scott French
39. WIL TRAPP
One of the top young Americans in Major League Soccer, Trapp has shown steady progress over his four seasons as a pro. It’s his methodical approach from defensive midfield that has made him very much the heart of the possession-based system in Columbus, and what has him rated him among the top midfield prospects in this country. Trapp has progressed steadily through the U.S. system, playing for the U.S. Under-20 and U.S. Under-23 teams, and the 23-year-old will now try to prove he is the best option to replace two of the senior squad’s most trusted veterans, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones.
Trapp prefers to sit deep and distribute, a role currently filled on the U.S. team by captain Michael Bradley, and he may need to become more of a two-way player to step into the national team. There has been speculation that Trapp will soon make a jump to Europe, and that move might help him take the next step in his development. This summer’s Gold Cup could be the perfect stage to get him more minutes with the senior team.
-- Paul Tenorio
38. Alfredo Morales
Alfredo Morales is one of these guys who seems to belong in the “next up” bunch, the coming generation, young bucks soon to replace the Beckermans and eventually even the Bradleys and Beslers.
Then again, Morales is 26, which is closer to pro players’ peak years than formative years. So the Berlin-born central midfielder, now with FC Ingolstadt 04 in Germany’s Bundesliga, needs to migrate up the U.S. depth chart soon or get permanently snared in the program margins.
Morales was eligible to play for the United States, Germany or Peru; his father was a Peruvian-born American citizen who served in the U.S. military. Alfredo Morales chose the United States after first being introduced in the system by Thomas Rongen with the under-20s in 2008.
More recently, Morales has been in and out of the lineup for Ingolstadt, likely headed for a relegation scrap in the Bundesliga.
-- Steve Davis