USA 2018: Attackers

Submitted by Brian on July 3rd, 2014 at 12:30 PM

This three part series and then we're done for four years, haterz. This three part series: projecting the USA's 2018 roster. All sections ordered by likelihood of inclusion.


The USA's single outfield player older than 32 since 2002 was Brian McBride in 2006, who was a starter at 34. That should eliminate Brad Davis, Chris Wondolowski, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley, and Clint Dempsey, along with various others in the player pool (Gomez, Donovan, etc) who didn't make the 23.

In addition, Tim Howard will be 39 in 2018. It's not unheard of for a goalie to make it that long, but with the US in possession of Brad Guzan it seems likely Howard will retire internationally, as will Nick Rimando.

Then there are three guys in the age danger zone: Bedoya and Zusi were already weak points at 27. If they're on the roster in 2018 the US will not have progressed as far as we want them to. Cameron will be 32, obviously workable but less than ideal.

There is some chance one or two of the old guys hangs on. Dempsey is the most likely, as there seems to be an obvious we-need-a-goal sub role for him. Beasley, amazingly, would be next since left back is a bitch to fill and he may be immortal.

That leaves the US with approximately 10 spots to fill, 8 of them outfield players.


  1. The US plays a four-man backline.
  2. Michael Bradley returns to a defensive mid role, because he can't cover as much ground at 30 and the shape of the player pool changes pretty dramatically this cycle.
  3. The end result is either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.
  4. There is a kid no one's ever heard of who will be on the team.


JOZY ALTIDORE – Sunderland (England) - 28 in 2018 – 71 caps


Jozy's obvious. Hopefully he'll get away from the crap end of English football to someplace where the ball comes to him every once in a while.

TERRENCE BOYD – RB Leipzig (Germany 2nd) – 27 in 2018 – 13 caps

Assuming that the US does go with a single central striker most of the time, Klinsmann won't make the same mistake he made in this cycle by leaving without a like for like replacement for his starter. The 6'2" Boyd is capable target forward coming off scoring nearly a goal every two games in the Austrian league who's just transferred back to Germany. While the fact that he's in the 2.Bundesliga is a bit of a disappointment, RB Leipzig is ripping up the divisions after Red Bull purchased them and gave their director a pile of money to rip up the divisions. By 2018 they very well could be a Bundesliga club.

Anyway, Boyd's the most like-for-like guy on the US radar right now, and as a bonus he's pretty good.

JUAN AGUDELO – free agent – 25 in 2018 – 18 caps

Juan Agudelo (9) of the United States is interviewed after the game. The United States (USA) and Argentina (ARG) played to a 1-1 tie during an international friendly at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, on March 26, 2011.

Agudelo's in a bit of limbo at the moment since he couldn't get eligible for his club. England restricts non-EU players to exceptional talents. If you've got some percentage of your international team's recent caps they'll let you in, and they'll also make exceptions for particularly young players who have broken through. (Players like Marc Pelosi avoid this process thanks to possession of an EU passport.) Stoke thought Agudelo counted; the board has said no twice. He was forced to play in Holland on loan as a result.

That and ill-timed injuries (he was supposed to be on the 2013 Gold Cup squad) have seen him drop out of the national team picture. He's too talented to remain out of it. His 14 appearances for Utrecht saw him collect three goals and three assists for a relegation-threatened club in desperate need of offense. As of late May he was supposed to be joining Bundesliga outfit Hannover 96.

------------this line demarks the sadness of being left out---------------

ARON JOHANNSSON – AZ Alkmaar (Holland) – 27 in 2018

It's 50/50 whether Johannsson gets on the next roster after only being deployed against Ghana, and then passed over for one of the USA's marginal wing midfielders. Has been bagging goals in Holland, but that's just what happens in Holland.

GYASI ZARDES – LA Galaxy – 26 in 2018 – 0 caps

Despite a late debut as a pro after a four-year career at UCSB that in fact featured a redshirt(!), Zardes has impressed with a combination of size and speed at LA Galaxy. He may be a prime example of a guy who the US development system hurt,  but looking through the pool for Lukaku types who can change a game by being large and mean and fast and you land on Zardes.

RUBIO RUBIN – FC Utrecht (Holland) – 22 in 2018 – 0 caps

Speaking of Holland, Rubin is there for a mid-table club trying to break through, impress, and get sold. It's not a bad plan; Rubin was a youth star for the MNT.

---------------you're not sad at this point because you didn't come that close----------------

Jack McInerney had a couple of promising years with Philadelphia before hitting a rough patch and getting traded to Toronto; he could be a 25-year-old version of Wondo if things break right for him.Harry Shipp has made an instant impact in MLS after a brief career at ND.

Bobby Wood's been playing in the second tier of German football as a 21 year old and got a Gold Cup callup before his team requested he pass on it. 18-year-old Lynden Gooch is impressing on Sunderland's youth side; similarly barely-legal Paul Arriola is playing for Tijuana in the Mexican league. A kid named Dembakwi Yomba is at Atletico Madrid, having popped up on everyone's radar when he signed there.


The US loses no one from this spot since they don't really have anyone. With a lot of the D-mid depth chart dropping out due to age and the clear problems the US had maintaining possession in this World Cup, goal #1 is going to get something resembling a true #10 on the field so Bradley can slide back.

Fortunately, there are a number of attractive options here. There is in fact a pile.

I don't think anyone's necessarily in or out yet. These guys are ordered by likelihood to show up on the 2018 roster.

DARLINGTON NAGBE – Portland Timbers – 27 in 2018 – 0 caps

Nagbe was born in Liberia and moved around the world a bit before landing in Cleveland as an 11 year old; you may remember him from Michigan's trip to the soccer Final Four. Nagbe was the super-skilled attacking-mid for Akron. A few years later he's become the focal point of Portland's attack. He does crazy, crazy stuff. I would like him to become an American citizen.

Fortunately, Nagbe recently married a citizen. That pushes his timeline forward to 2015. Count on him getting a call-up at the first available opportunity. He'll be in the heart of his prime in 2018.

MIX DISKERUD – Rosenborg (Norway) – 27 in 2018 – 20 caps


Diskerud made this most recent World Cup roster and then didn't get a game. Brad Davis got a game. I am worried about him. Diskerud is talented but physically slight and not extraordinarily fast. He's also still in Norway at 23. If he's in Norway at 27 I don't think he's on the roster.

LUIS GIL – Real Salt Lake – 24 in 2018 – 1 cap

Gil has a shocking number of MLS appearances for a 20-year-old: he's currently on 95, all with RSL. He was the focal point of youth national teams for three or four years—he has a whopping 51 youth caps—and showed incredible craft on the ball.

He's found the transition to MLS a little rougher than you'd like, but he is still a regular starter for RSL and, remarkably, is entering his fifth season as a pro. He got a call-up in the last cycle and will get a heavy look in this one.

------------------------line of sadness----------------------------

JUNIOR FLORES – Borussia Dortmund (Germany) – 22 in 2018 - 0 caps

Flores was impressive enough to sign a four year deal with a major German club when he was just 16. Since U18 kids can't transfer abroad he had to wait until just a few months ago to sign. Flores led the US to a 3-1 win over Brazil's U20s in some Nike thing or another in which he was clearly the man of the match; he is a true #10, if he can only develop.

Flores can also play for El Salvador but turned down a call-up from them.

GEDION ZELALEM – Arsenal (England) – 21 in 2018 – 0 caps

Zelalem is the other hot prospect USA fans are in vapors about. Born in Germany to Ethiopian parents, Zelalem spent a good chunk of his childhood in the US before Arsenal signed him. His citizenship quest was thought to be a lost cause, but a few months ago someone figured out that if his dad became a citizen before Zelalem turned 18 he would automatically become one without losing the German passport that allows him to skate by England's restrictive foreigner laws.

Zelalem's already made his debut for Arsenal in an FA Cup match and was on the substitutes bench for three league games. That is kind of a big deal at 17. Here's a completely reasonable evaluation of him:

'dribbles like Iniesta and passes like Xavi'

All right then.

Obviously, acquiring US citizenship is hurdle #1 here. Then it's getting a good loan somewhere and establishing himself a EPL-level player.

-------------------line of not that close-----------------------

Joe Corona has 11 caps and will be 27 in 2018 but I just don't see it happening for him. For one, Nagbe's about to blast ahead of him in the pecking order. For two, he just doesn't seem to have that je ne sais quoi.

The "I can't believe you're still that young" twins: Jose Torres and Freddy Adu are just 26 and 24 at the moment, respectively. It could still happen! Really!

There's also this generation's John O'Brien, Stuart Holden. Holden is 28 and what with all the injuries seems highly unlikely to get to 2018 without seeing his physical abilities drop below the international level, but you never know. Fresh legs, that's the ticket.

Diego Fagundez would not be in this category except for the fact that he's not a citizen yet despite having been in the States since he was five. He recently acquired a green card and will be eligible for citizenship in 2017. That's hypothetically long enough to slot in the team before the World Cup, but at that point he'd have to climb over a number of other aspirants. Also, Uruguay could come calling before then.

19-year-old Duane Long is getting significant playing time with Huddersfield, which is in the Championship. 18-year-old Emerson Hyndman is excelling for Fulham's youth team.



July 3rd, 2014 at 12:51 PM ^

Joe Gyau just transferred from Hoffenheim to Dortumund II (their second team) and he's a winger. I'd add him to his list, too.

Edit: I should also mention he'll be 25 in 2018.


July 3rd, 2014 at 2:52 PM ^

I'd also add Shawn Parker as a potential option should he make the decision to represent the United States (another German American playing in the Bundesliga who Klinnsman is apparently making a push for)

On Johannson, it's clear he was injured and that's why he wasn't playing as it was just announced he is having surgery on his ankle.


July 3rd, 2014 at 12:53 PM ^

What ever happened to your previous visions about starting a USMNT blog? Don't know about others - but I would read it. 


July 3rd, 2014 at 8:53 PM ^

Totally agree, this is some of the best USMT coverage there is. I have been on other soccer sites directing people here because it's absolutely top notch.

I don't know how lucrative this blog is, and I can't imagine Brian does it for the money, but you could no question rival any other soccer blog/site out there with this type of analysis and material.


July 3rd, 2014 at 12:55 PM ^

an attacking midfielder in Klinsmann's scheme? You're assuming he moves to the back, his regular spot, on a more balanced team? Don't understand why Greene's not here, either. Love the info, though.


July 3rd, 2014 at 1:33 PM ^

seriously stop. it's not funny anymore. never was for that matter. it's early fucking's not like anything noteworthy that's Michigan related has happened anyway. And it's your fault for not liking soccer not ours. it's as simple as not reading it....


July 3rd, 2014 at 1:48 PM ^

Exactly!  Brian should be discussing all of the breaking Michigan sports-related news happening on July 3rd instead of this.  Is Jake Butt going back to Columbus for the fireworks or headed to Up North?  That's far more interesting.


July 3rd, 2014 at 1:05 PM ^

It's interesting to play these games, but really, it's just a picture of who is where right now -- not who is realistically going to be on our team in 2018.  In this sport, that's just not possible.

Go back 4 years ago, try and do the same exercise in hindsight.  How many of the 20 would anyone have projected? (Leaving keepers out of it.)  Dempsey, Bradley... and you'd have put money on Donovan.  Would you have thought Beasley was likely to make it?

Any chance that in 2010 you had any of these names on your list of the projected 2014 team:  Green, Zusi, Diskerud, Johannsson, Yedlin, Besler, Bedoya?

This is really shooting fish in a barrel, and all of the fish aren't even IN the barrel.  Who knows what youngster who's just 14 or 15 now will bubble up (next time's Green).  What foreigners are we going to flip (several Mexican-Americans currently on the fence) -- or flip away (Rossi, Subotic) (pains me just to type those two names).  What midling guy who's not quite good enough for anyone to project to the MNT is going to have a burst of opportunity at the right time (Zusi).  What developmental prospect we think is the sure thing who is going to flame out.

Even at keeper -- will Tim be playing internationally?  If not, Guzan seems like the obvious next-man-up -- we've always had them, it's been a long chain of keepers paying their due then stepping up:  Meola, Friedel, Keller, Howard.  But if not Guzan, who?  Some MLS guy?  Or...

Cody Cropper.  If you haven't heard that name before, you've heard it here first.  He's 21, just today signed a new deal with Southampton in the Premier League, been on their developmental team.  He's the next Big American Keeper, probably.  Likely he's Guzan's backup in 2018, but... who knows.


July 3rd, 2014 at 1:23 PM ^

You are right it is really hard to project the 2018.

Back in 2008, I was aware of Bedoya and Mix because of, but I wasn't sure and I'm willing to bet most people weren't sure if they would be in the 2014 picture.


July 3rd, 2014 at 1:51 PM ^

I agree that predicting 2018's Julian Green is lost cause, since no one would have predicted that 6 months ago.  But the rest is at least an interesting exercise.  The point of it isn't to get it all correct, but to have something interesting to read.  Though I think posts like yours make it even more interesting, so I'm certainly not putting you down.  


July 3rd, 2014 at 8:59 PM ^

Fools. Pains me as well. Rossi will retire never having even made a WC roster when he would have hands down started up top for us this WC.

Subotic might never either, UEFA is by far the hardest segment of the world to qualify from. Serbia missed this time and will be lucky to make it next cycle.

I don't feel a drop of guilt for either. Starting spots were here for them.


July 4th, 2014 at 6:24 AM ^

Subotic played in South Africa in 2010. And tbf to Rossi, he was always going to play for Italy. His dad is a coach there, he certainly was always talented enough to play for them, and he played for all of their youth national teams. It would be awesome if he did play for us but there was never any indication that he was going to play for anyone but Italy.


July 3rd, 2014 at 10:47 PM ^

Does anyone know how many of this year's WC team for example played U.S. college soccer?  I have no idea - I'd think maybe Besler did, Gonzalez, maybe Bedoya or Zusi and that's it? Dempsey was a late bloomer.

I sort of feel (maybe with the exception of defense) that if you are playing college soccer as a homegrown U.S player you are really behind your peer group.  I know there are some talented foreigners who come here for education or other reasons.


July 3rd, 2014 at 2:02 PM ^

I've heard there's a strong push to move it to Nov/Dec instead.  Reportedly, Qatar put in their bid that they have the technology to air-cool the entire playing field, and then after they won the bid they were all like "you really thought we could do that?"  My brother-in-law is a big time ticket broker and the WC is his big cash cow, and he'd freaking out about all parts of the Qatar cup, for the record.


July 3rd, 2014 at 2:23 PM ^

That's what everyone outside of Qatar and the FIFA VP (or whoever that was) wants, but do we really think FIFA will do the right thing?  And Qatar has already invested a ton of money into construction, so they won't go down without a huge fight, including lots of bribes.  

If they don't make a decision soon, they'd be leaving the new country without a ton of time to get ready.  Unless they picked, oh I don't know, America where we'd be ready if they gave us 4 months.  Because we already have stadia and airports and so on.  


July 3rd, 2014 at 4:22 PM ^

The last month might have actually provided impetus.  Apparently the brass at FIFA has been noticing the massive crowds and TV ratings in the US following our team.  Based on that, they have already made comments about encouraging USA to bid on 2026 WC (we lost in final four to Qatar for 2022, were the first of the four eliminated IIRC).  If Qatar is pushed to the bubble due to the temperatures and the vote-buying, there is going to be something of a clamor to just hand it to USA.  Frankly, the 2016 Copa America Centennial tournament, to be held in USA, might also give that even more of a push.


July 3rd, 2014 at 11:16 PM ^

The final round of voting in 2022 was the US and Qatar. I think in about a year or two enough people will cause a stir to move 2022 to the US. A winter WC throws off all of Europe, the EPL/Bundesliga/Serie A/La Liga will not be happy with a major international smack dab in the middle of their season.

yossarians tree

July 4th, 2014 at 2:43 PM ^

This might be a silly question, but is alcohol consumption allowed in Qatar? I can't imagine there would be hundreds of thousands of fans travelling across the world to spend weeks in a dry country.

Also, why the need for so many stadiums? Apparently the stadium in the jungle in Brazil cost hundreds of millions of dollars at huge overruns. Seems like a huge waste when you could hold the entire World Cup in about 5 or 6 stadiums.

carlos spicywiener

July 3rd, 2014 at 1:30 PM ^

Brian, why do you only blog about the USMNT each summer if you enjoy them so? Why not each summer, during the tournaments they play?

I enjoy your posts on them, for the record.


July 5th, 2014 at 11:23 AM ^

It probably has something to do with the time consumption of running MGoBlog full time and now being married (people of the wife persuasion don't like being 2nd priority despite the "Yes I fully understand you have a time consuming job and I'm totally OK with it" speech before the engagement.)

I got it . . . he should just wait unitl they have a baby.  Then he'll have plenty of free time.  That's the ticket.



July 3rd, 2014 at 2:45 PM ^

I would very much endorse this idea.  Gold cup next summer, and if they win, then the Confederations Cup in 2017 (and another Gold Cup).  Also that special centenial Copa America is going to be held in the US in 2016, and that's going to be a great international tourney.  We got the Olympics (hopefully the US qualifies this time), although that's restricted to U-23's I believe, it'll be a great opportunity to see how our young player developement is going.  While the Gold Cup really isn't the best tourney around, the other ones are going to be pretty big.  Lots to write about.


July 3rd, 2014 at 2:55 PM ^

Exactly - and based on how many good young players we have, we might fare better under those rules.  A good chunk of the guys Brian mentioned above will be under 23 when the Olympics roll around in two years, and we can keep guys like Altidore, maybe Dempsey, etc. on the squad.