FourFourTwo's USMNT Top 50: 50-41
As 2016 comes to a close, we’ve been debating which American players put together the best years.
So, naturally, we decided to rank them.
It’s a tradition at FourFourTwo to rate the best players on the planet each year in the FFT100. This year, Cristiano Ronaldo took top prize ahead of Lionel Messi. No Americans made the list this year – and that’s fine.
But we’re interested in what the U.S. men’s national team talent pool looks like – now more than ever, in light of Bruce Arena taking over for Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach. Arena has said that he doesn’t have time to overhaul the team with pressing World Cup qualifiers looming in March, but he will make some changes. And there’s more talent for the long-term.
So who is the best United States-eligible men’s player? And who are the rising stars? We’re counting down our Top 50 American men’s players (and, next, women’s players) based on their 2016 body of work. Who had the best year? Our FFT staff voted, then discussed, voted, discussed some more, and settled on our Top 50. Our guiding principal: ‘Who would you pick right now if you had to win one game?’
First up is Nos. 50-41 on our list – guys with potential and guys who are still good in their older age. Stick around all week as we inch toward the best of the best American men’s players:
50. Tommy McNamara
Consider the setbacks McNamara’s already faced: a major knee surgery; a franchise folding; an early coaching change with his new club. Recently, there’s even been rumor that’s he’s cut off his famous mullet. Oh, Sampson, there’s always something new trying to stop Tommy Mac.
To this point, nothing’s worked. Even coming into the league, when McNamara’s lack of physicality (read: size, strength, speed) saw him fall out of the 2014 SuperDraft’s first round, the Clemson product was dismissed, but from his first moments with Chivas USA, his superior instincts, both on and off the ball, have made his draft slide seem foolish.
Now with New York City FC, McNamara has already accumulated 11 goals and 12 assists in 55 career appearances. While there are sure to be more challengers for McNamara’s job, to this point, his skill and creativity have helped him best all comers. One day, those traits may earn him a try from Bruce Arena.
-- Richard Farley
49. PAUL ARRIOLA
The 21-year-old winger scored in his national team debut in May, and he assisted a Bobby Wood goal, too. Yeah, OK, it was only against Puerto Rico, but then he netted another in his second cap, a World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago in September.
He's risen steadily since spurning the Galaxy to sign in 2013 with Club Tijuana, just a few miles and an international border from his hometown, and made 28 league appearances this year for the Xolos, although his time decreased during the fall Apertura, when he backed up star Dayro Moreno as the Dogs finished atop the table. He's got good speed, fine instincts and a strong creative side, and he can defend, too. Another one for the future.
-- Scott French
48. Emerson Hyndman
At this point, Emerson Hyndman could go either way: either the next great American midfielder or the next American soccer cautionary tale against quick ambition.
His splashy summer move to Bournemouth hasn’t yet paid dividends. Still, the kid is just 20, so there’s plenty of time.
The grandson of former FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman joined Fulham’s respected academy in London at age 15. A small but technically gifted midfielder, he signed a pro contract a year later and made his pro debut at age 18. Last summer, with Fulham stuck in England’s second tier, he upgraded to a Premier League address. A preseason injury put Hyndman behind the curve and he has played only a few minutes all season for the mid-table club.
Whenever he is seen again, either for Bournemouth or for Bruce Arena’s national team, you’ll see a man calm on the ball, a slick passer and space creator with good vision, something of a Claudio Reyna starter kit. Hyndman has two full national team appearances and captained the U.S. Under-20s at the 2015 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand.
-- Steve Davis