The USA World Cup soccer team won the plaudits of so many people worldwide. Tim Howard has to be considered the most influential player for the US over the four games, keeping the team in games at the most opportune moments, as well as being the vocal leader of the USMNT.
But while Tim Howard already plays in one of the top leagues in the world, the Premier League, which American stars from this World Cup are most likely to be signed by European clubs in order to move up to the next level in soccer?
Here are my 5 picks:
1. Matt Besler
The Sporting Kansas City player is the most likely player to be the target of raids from Premier League clubs. Besler was the standout defender for the United States team in Brazil. His reading of the game has improved tremendously in the last 3 years. And at 27, he still has a few years of top-level defending left in him. A team like Stoke City (where he would join fellow American Geoff Cameron) would be a perfect fit for the in-form defender.
2. DeAndre Yedlin
While the young Seattle Sounders player has been deployed in both defense and midfield for the US, arguably his best position is right back. Yedlin needs to improve on his positional play, but his enthusiasm and acceleration make him a viable option for an attack-minded manager. His crossing, in particular, was on display for Dempsey’s goal against Portugal. Plus, his crossing in the game against Belgium elicited glowing praise from highly respected journalist and author Paddy Barclay, who proclaimed that Yedlin was one of the best right wingers he’s seen in years, and he compared him to David Beckham.
At 20, Yedlin certainly has his best years ahead of him, and perhaps a manager like Harry Redknapp at QPR may be able to turn his raw potential into real ability.
3. Graham Zusi
“Saint” Zusi, as he is now known amongst Mexican fans, is a creative midfielder, who has an eye for the creative pass that other footballers can’t see. Last season, he scored 6 goals and created 13 assists from the three-man Kansas City midfield. Burnley, one of the Premier League’s promoted teams, could be an ideal destination. Zusi would fit in perfectly alongside David Jones. A less likely option would be Everton – certainly their manager Roberto Martinez has praised Zusi on ESPN. In spite of the loss of Gareth Barry and the constantly injured Darron Gibson, getting regular playing time at Everton may be a step too far for the 27-year old Zusi.
4. Michael Bradley
Michael Bradley played in England before for Aston Villa. And, yes, he has also played in Germany and Italy. But, Bradley remains one of the most underrated midfielders in the world. And, at 26, another shot at the Premier League is not impossible. Bradley was unfairly criticized in the World Cup games.
While casual fans have noticed some wayward passes, his workrate and his closing down of opponents is emblematic of the industry and selflessness of the Princeton-born midfielder. His passing ability is also often understated, and was on display in the qualifiers and games leading up to the World Cup. A team like Southampton – known for their intricate, accurate passing — would be a perfect move for Bradley. Certainly, Southampton has sold some important players recently – including midfielder Adam Lallana – and will be looking for new signings.
5. Landon Donovan
I admit it. I’m cheating here. Landon is not in the World Cup squad. However, he’s still a game changer. Landon has the speed, skill and ability to boost the chances of a European team. Plus he has the experience of playing very successful loan spells at Everton. Thus, he’s proven himself at that level.
It can be argued that Landon’s biggest reason for not making his loan moves permanent was the USMNT. With that option off the table, Landon can attempt to try his luck once more in England. One of the promoted teams, or arguably even a move to rudderless Newcastle, may be mutually beneficial. Certainly, Mike Ashley would sanction the deal as it would be cut-rate and help increase the club’s appeal in the USA.