There are notable figures you may hear more about in 2016, but will they provide us with sufficient stacks of intrigue? In other words, are they supplying plot? Are there impending twists in their tale?
We’ve picked out our 10 most intriguing men and women in US Soccer this year. (We left Jurgen Klinsmann off the list because the national team manager is intriguing by default; nothing new about 2016. Besides, he’s more “controversial” than “intriguing.” If we scratch out a “10 Most Controversial” list for the year, yeah, that man will be Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4.)
They are in alphabetical order:
Michael Bradley …
If it’s a stretch to say “As Michael Bradley goes, so goes the national team,” it’s not an egregious one. The past year was disappointing for the national team; Bradley himself says so. And he surely wasn’t happy with his club’s concluding moment of 2015, Toronto FC’s sad, sloppy performance as a first-time MLS playoff participant. Part of Bradley’s ongoing strength as a player is his constant craving for across-the-board improvement. Generally speaking, he has grown and gotten better each and every year – until last year, that is. Bradley wasn’t terrible for club or for country, but too many afternoons graded out at just “so-so.” In a year of World Cup qualifiers and an important Copa Centenario, Bradley’s ability to tip the balance (more sizzle, less “so-so” fizzle) would certainly help. What makes him particularly intriguing is that between his two coaches of 2016 (Jurgen Klinsmann and Greg Vanney at TFC), neither has seemed to nail Bradley’s absolute best use.
Peter Gruber, Henry Nguyen and Tom Penn …
We’re making these guys one “person” for the purpose of this list. Our list, our rules. Anyway, they are the three biggest branches on this tree full of LAFC owners. Things happening around this club have the feel of something special. They reveal colors and a logo, and it’s a talker. They name more owners (some famous ones), and it’s a talker. They seem to be taking all the best practices from around MLS, acutely attuned to the lessons, good and bad, of 20 years. Everything they do is intriguing, including the stadium location in a sketchy part of town. On top of all that, Los Angeles is now a city awash in professional sports, which makes everything happening out there more interesting. Finally, pro sports haven’t always enjoyed greatest success in that strange little land just off the coast of Planet Earth, so watching LAFC build its brand will be fascinating, indeed.