USMNT Player Pool: Give The Kids A Chance, Part One

With the Copa America Centenario coming to a close, and the United States Men’s National Team having their best ever finish at the tournament, it’s time to look forward to the friendlies and World Cup Qualifying matches coming up in the next few months to follow. There has been much debate on the quality of the USMNT player pool, but the youth of the players should make for a note of optimism moving forward. In the first part of this series we will take a look at the goalkeepers and defenders coming through the system.

USMNT Player Pool: Give The Kids A Chance, Part One

Despite the fact that there are a number of players at each position that aren’t exactly youthful warranting a chance, the friendly against a nation of the quality of Cuba, and the World Cup Qualifiers against St. Vincent & The Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago could make for a great opportunity to see what some of the younger players could do for the senior team. A disclaimer to the following should be said, this will focus on players who either haven’t made their USMNT debut at the senior level, or they have and are more frequently on the youth national teams.


Cody Cropper

During his short career thus far, Cropper has managed to make 21 appearances for the U-20 USMNT and seven for the U-23 squad. He was part of the Championship side MK Dons most recently, where he made a total of 12 appearances, 11 starting in net, across all competitions during the last season. He’s a youth product of the Minnesota Thunder, and when he made his move to England he joined the academy at Ipswich Town, from which he went to Southampton, and finally to MK Dons, the only English side he made a senior team appearance for.

Despite the fact that MK Dons has chosen not to exercise the option for the final year of his contract, Cropper will still be taking part in international play and is said to be drawing interest from two future MLS expansion franchises, Minnesota United and Atlanta United. Cropper was quoted in an interview with Wes Burdine saying, “There are really only two teams I have a desire to play for – Minnesota United and Atlanta United.” This is probably down to the fact that he spent the first 12 years of his life in Atlanta before moving to Minnesota. This would make for a good opportunity for the USMNT supporters who are unfamiliar with Cropper to get to know him.

Cropper is a solid prospect at goalkeeper for the USMNT, and will likely get his chances in the future, but it remains to be seen whether or not that will be this year, next year, or maybe even further down the line. He is very good at playing the ball to start the attack, something which the USMNT currently lacks with Brad Guzan in net, and something that would help create more chances. He is also a very big young man, coming in at 6’4″, meaning he can cover more room, and doesn’t lack athletic ability either. However, as is the case with many younger players, he lacks discipline and has seen red before, once coming this season in the Championship for MK Dons. He is also very weak on defending crosses, something that can be covered well with the stronger center backs the national team has, but it must be improved if he is to make a case for a call-up.

The likelihood of Cropper getting a call-up is fairly good, but him getting a start in the net for the senior team will come solely down to how he develops in the next few months. Cropper playing in the MLS, likely as a full-time starter, will do wonders for his development into a future USMNT keeper.

Ethan Horvath

Horvath is definitely one of the most exciting prospects in any position for the USMNT player pool, and rightly so. The 21 year old is currently under contract with Molde FK of the Tippeligaen, the Norwegian top flight of soccer. He is currently the first-choice goalkeeper for the club, as they currently sit fifth in the Tippeligaen table, and has made 21 starts across all competitions for them, including eight of them in the Europa League. The fact that he is the first choice at goalie for a club in Europe at 21 should be plenty enough to get excited about, let alone the fact that he was the third choice for the Copa.

Horvath is, just as Cropper is, a big goalie, standing at 6’3″ and weighing in at around 185 pounds, meaning he covers a good deal of space with his large frame and wingspan. However, one of the major downsides to him is that he is not necessarily quick, in terms of his reaction time. He is a much different goalie than what the USA supporters have come accustomed to with the likes of Tim Howard, and will definitely take some time to adjust to the senior national team.

Despite his apparent downside of a slower reaction time than the likes of Howard, and possibly even Cropper, he is still a very technically sound goalie with good range to him. At this point in time he looks to be the third choice goalie, and will continue to get call-ups behind Howard and Guzan. However, with matches coming up against weaker international sides, it would be very smart to give the young man a chance in net and let him show what he can do. Do not be surprised if you see his name on the team sheet in the near future against countries like Trinidad & Tobago or Cuba.


Matt Miazga

Anyone who has been following along with the USMNT has heard the name Miazga at one point or another, and there’s a very apparent reason why, because he is arguably one of the most exciting defensive prospects in recent USA history. The 20-year old center back made 38 appearances in 2015, four of them off the bench, for the New York Red Bulls before the European giants Chelsea FC came calling. The deal saw the Red Bulls bag $5 million, and Chelsea gained a prospect that could very well develop into a future star on the back line.

During his time for New York he was able to show that he is very strong in aerial duels, and being 6’4″ definitely doesn’t hurt his case there. He was also able to show that he is an excellent tackler, winning 2.2 tackles per match in the 2015 MLS season. He also showed that he’s very difficult to win the ball from when it is at his feet, with Miazga only being dispossessed at a rate of 0.1 times per match. Along with the fact that he’s nearly impossible to dispossess when he has the ball, he also has a very good first touch for a young defender and looks to be extremely technically sound. He has a massive upside as a player, and moving to a club like Chelsea and training with some of the best players in the world will likely expedite his growth as a player.

The two main weaknesses of Miazga are that he is not necessarily the greatest passer on the field, as he was only able to complete 74.3% of his passes in his 30 appearances during his last MLS season. The second weakness is that he lacks discipline at times, something that will likely be fixed with age and maturity, and also by the likes of one of the best defensive minds in all of soccer, Antonio Conte. Both of his weaknesses are something that will either come with time or learning from some of the best players and coaches in the world. Expect to see his name on a very regular basis in the near future for the USMNT.

Tim Parker

Parker has made a decent name for himself playing in the great white north for the Vancouver Whitecaps, and for this he deserves a shot at the USMNT. He came onto the scene in 2015 when he became a regular stalwart in the Whitecaps defense that tied for the league lead in shutouts (13) and goals conceded (36). While these stats are more down to the back line as a whole and the stellar play of David Ousted, Parker did play an integral role in keeping the back line strong.

Parker is a fairly big center back, standing at 6’2″ and weighing in around 200 pounds, meaning he fits the general prototype of favored American defenders. He has shown a good amount of composure for a young man being thrown into the mix in the MLS, which is something that cannot be undervalued in the center of the defense. He is, however, not the strongest tackler for a center back, and this is something that needs to be addressed if he plans to continue his international play to the senior team. Despite his subpar tackling ability, he makes up for it by having a keen eye in the defensive half and is very good at seeing what is coming next and intercepting the pass. If he can learn to tackle more efficiently, expect to see his name in the list of call-ups in the very near future.

Walker Zimmerman

Zimmerman is a defender who fits the bill of big defender, just like the two mentioned above him in Miazga and Parker. He has, over his three-plus seasons with FC Dallas, became a regular in the back line for a defense that has only given up 24 goals and has kept six shutouts in the 2016 season. He has been a prominent name for the U.S. Youth National Team, as he captained the U-18 side, and has also made appearances for both the U-20 and U-23 teams.

The one downside to Zimmerman is similar to the aforementioned Parker, in that he isn’t exactly a prolific tackler of sorts, something that will need improving with time. However, he is extremely strong in aerial duels as he is winning 4.3 per match for FC Dallas this season. And, much like Parker, he has shown that he has good vision in the defensive third and makes a great deal of interceptions for his club. Along with both of these, he is also very composed defensively and does a good job of staying on his feet rather than diving recklessly into tackles. On top of all his strong defensive traits, he also has a good eye for goal for a central defender, and invaluable trait that the USMNT could use.

Other Players Not Mentioned

The players listed here are either ones that have had multiple appearances for the USMNT, need more time to develop to say for certain where they’ll head, or are players that sit in behind the ones listed above.

Goalkeepers: JT Marcinkowski, Jonathan Klinsmann, and Tyler Miller

Defenders: Eric Miller, Shane O’Neill, Aaron Herrera, and Auston Trusty

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