The Major League Soccer regular season kicks off this week. Are you a United States Men’s National Team fan looking to find a window into MLS this season? Here is one USMNT-related reason to watch each MLS team this season.
Outside of obvious United States Men’s National Team veterans Brad Guzan and Darlington Nagbe, Atlanta United have a couple of the most highly-touted prospects in the USYNT system in Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin. Carleton is an über skilled attacker and Goslin is a versatile central midfielder; it’s worth watching Tata Martino’s squad to see if either of these two youngsters will be able to sniff the first team at some point this season.
For Chicago, USMNT fans should keep an eye on the Fire’s 19-year-old CM Djordje Mihailovic. Mihailovic has the opportunity of a lifetime to learn from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty; it is hard to imagine the wealth of knowledge comprised in those to footballing brains. Hopefully, we will see continued growth (and major minutes) from Djordje this season.
The Rapids are in full rebuild mode. What is the single most important thing when rebuilding? Hiring a solid manager. During the offseason, Colorado brought in Anthony Hudson, former manager of the New Zealand National Team. Only 36, Hudson is the youngest manager to ever coach a team at the Confederations Cup. If he is able to replicate his international success with Colorado, we could be looking at a possible candidate for USMNT manager at some point down the line.
There are a trio of USMNT related reasons for fans to watch the Crew this season. First, Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen could be the U.S.’ future number one. Next, Wil Trapp might be an option to eventually replace Michael Bradley as the U.S.’ number 6. Finally, Crew manager Gregg Berhalter is absolutely a candidate to become the USMNT’s next manager. If those three reasons aren’t enough to get your inner USMNT fan to turn on a Columbus Crew game, then I don’t know what will.
Anyone who watched the United States U-17’s play at the World Cup will be shouting the reason to watch DC United from a nearby rooftop: Chris Durkin. Durkin is a dynamic number 6 with great defensive instincts and very solid positioning and passing. If he plays well in preseason, Chris Durkin should absolutely see some first team minutes with DC United. For USMNT fans, it will be a dream come true.
We know what kind of a player Kellyn Acosta is at this point. However, FC Dallas has two young Americans that we have not seen as much of. 19-year-old right back Reggie Cannon is Dallas’ projected starter at RB and 18-year-old attacking midfielder Paxton Pomykal looks poised to be an important rotation player. We could be seeing a lot of these two young players for FC Dallas this season.
While the Dynamo do not have many quality Americans on their roster (sorry DeMarcus Beasley), they do have a promising young U.S. prospect who is starting to get looks with the first team. Central midfielder Marcelo Palomino, who has been in first team preseason training, was recently called in to the U.S. U-18 camp, will try and break into the first team squad and at the very least will see minutes in Houston’s U.S. Open Cup games.
Two things for LAFC. First, can Walker Zimmerman play himself into a consistent United States Men’s National Team place? So far, when featured for the USMNT, Zimmerman has looked unconvincing at best. Will playing for Bob Bradley at LAFC be the change necessary to catapult Zimmerman onto the U.S. center back depth chart? Second, LAFC have brought United States Youth International and former RB Leipzig academy member Shaft Brewer into the mix. Will Brewer see any playing time this year? Stay tuned.
Los Angeles Galaxy:
Sebastian Lletget figured to be an important piece for the USMNT before going down with an injury early on in the 2018 World Cup qualifying cycle. Now, Lletget is back fully healthy and ready to contribute to the new-look Los Angeles Galaxy. Able to play basically anywhere in midfield, it is hard to imagine Lletget not getting major minutes this season.
Obviously Montreal is a Canadian club. With that in mind, U.S. Soccer fans should keep an eye on how manager Rémi Garde utilizes his domestic talent. If promising Canadians like Raheem Edwards and Anthony Jackson-Hamel can see big minutes for Montreal this season, USMNT fans should expect the same from American MLS teams with similar amounts of young domestic talent.
New England Revolution:
For anyone who watched the recent Gold Cup or the even more recent friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina, the reason to tune into the Revolution is apparent: Kelyn Rowe. Rowe is a playmaker with creative instincts that are very rare in the USMNT player pool. In fact, I’ve written about those instincts before: right here. Hopefully we see Kelyn Rowe come out and dominate for New England in 2018.
USMNT fans have a couple of very good reasons to be excited about New York City FC. First, there is USYNT’er James Sands. Sands debuted (very briefly) for NYCFC last season and has an real chance to see some playing time this season. Second, there is promising young winger Jonathan Lewis. Even though New York City added Jesus Medina, replacing Jack Harrison, Lewis still has a opportunity to play a major role out wide for Patrick Vieira this season.
New York Red Bulls:
While Tommy Redding should not be overlooked, Tyler Adams is the real reason U.S. fans will be watching the Red Bulls this season. Without Sacha Kljestan creating chances in the middle of the field, Adams will have the opportunity to move inside permanently next to Felipe and start carving out a name for himself as a central midfielder.
Orlando City SC:
The naive part of me wants “Pierre da Silva’s transition to the first team squad” to be the reason USMNT fans should watch OCSC this season. Unfortunately, it is not likely that da Silva is going to get many minutes this season, so instead, the reason to watch Orlando is to see if Dom Dwyer can cement himself as a depth option at striker for the U.S. If Dwyer can score 15+ goals, the next USMNT manager has to give him a look. With the recently-added Sacha Kljestan feeding him, Dwyer has a good chance to hit that 15 goal benchmark.
There are a pair of talented young American defenders to keep an eye on in Philadelphia. Both United States youth internationals, teenage homegrown defenders Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty are going to have a chance to earn minutes with the first team squad. Even if it does not pan out for McKenzie and/or Trusty with the first team, they will both be able to make the transition to to the Union’s USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC, to continue their development.
For USMNT fans watching the Timbers, it is all about the kids. There are three young Americans waiting in the wings for Portland: Eryk Williamson, whose rights Portland recently acquired from DC United, young striker Jeremy Ebobisse, and Marco Farfan, who is in competition to be the starting left back, are all worth keeping an eye on in Portland under new manager Giovanni Savarese.
Real Salt Lake:
If you are looking to find a team who genuinely develops and plays their domestic talent, look no further than Real Salt Lake. They have four Americans, Justen Glad, Brooks Lennon, Sebastián Saucedo, and Danilo Acosta, who are primed to play major, major minutes this season. Glad and Acosta will be likely starters along the backline, while Lennon and Saucedo will see their fair share of minutes out wide.
San Jose Earthquakes:
The Earthquakes have brought in a new manager, Mikael Stahre, and with him a new flexible system. San Jose will likely split time between several formations, opening up opportunities for many players on the Quakes’ roster. Two of those players are young creative midfielders Tommy Thompson and Jackson Yueill. Can Thompson and Yueill play their way into a USMNT camp this season?
Jordan Morris is out for the year, so who do USMNT fans look to for the Sounders? Cristian Roldan. Roldan is versatile, efficient on the ball, and has a very high work rate. One of the biggest difference makers for the MLS Cup runners up, Cristian Roldan will be playing alongside Ozzie Alonso in Seattle’s preferred 4-2-3-1, tasked with going box-to-box and making an impact in nearly every aspect of the game.
Sporting Kansas City:
Jaylin. Lindsey. Fans who tuned in to watch the United States’ U-17 team play at the World Cup will know all about the versatile defender. Lindsey can play right back or center back and is one of the brightest young prospects in the U.S. player pool. While he is not likely to squeeze his way in front of Graham Zusi or even Brad Evans on the depth chart, we could see Jaylin Lindsey start in SKC’s 2018 U.S. Open Cup matches.
We know who Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are, for better or worse. One player who USMNT fans may not be as familiar with is Marky Delgado. Delgado does a lot of the dirty work in Greg Vanney’s preferred 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 diamond systems, allowing Victor Vazquez to roam and Bradley to operate as a metronome from the back. If Delgado can continue to build on his two most recent successful club seasons, he should get a real look for the USMNT.
At a time where depth center back slots are up for grabs on the USMNT, Vancouver’s Tim Parker is a player to watch. Parker, who is reportedly on the trade block, was one of the best center backs in all of Major League Soccer last season and a rock for the Whitecaps all year long. Still only 25, Tim Parker is a player who could be a MNT mainstay for years to come.
Do we even have to say it anymore? Christian Ramirez. Christian Ramirez. Christian Ramirez. Minnesota United fans know exactly how good their star striker is, but it’s about time for the rest of the United States Men’s National Team fans check Ramirez out for themselves.
Written by Joseph Lowery. (Twitter, @JoeInCleats)