Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: 5 Unheralded Americans Ready for Big World Cups

If you’ve been following any lead-up coverage for the World Cup and the United States National Team, then you definitely know who Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey are. You also probably know Jozy Altidore, Oguchi Onyewu, and Michael Bradley (even if it is because he is the coach’s son). There are still 17 other players on the roster however, and quite a few of those guys could make large contributions to the United States.

Here are five lesser known players who are in position to have big World Cups.

Jose Francisco Torres

The 22-year-old midfielder for Mexican club Pachuca continues to impress every time he sees the field, so much so that he is being considered to start in central midfield alongside Michael Bradley.

Torres’ best asset is his demeanor on the ball. He plays with a lot of poise and confidence with the ball at his feet. While he does admit to having some difficulties with the increase in game speed at the national level, he has worked on becoming comfortable during the game and has improved his defense to become a better two-way midfielder.

He may not get the nod for the starting spot in the midfield, but he will definitely be used as a super sub and looked to when the United States needs to make a late push for a goal.

Jay DeMerit

It’s been a long journey for DeMerit. He went from no MLS team signing him out of college, to playing in the ninth tier in England, to signing a contract with Watford and helping them move to the Premier League.

The 30-year-old defender got his break with the National Team at the 2009 Confederations Cup when he started in place of an injured Carlos Bocanegra. He played the entire 90 minutes in the 2-0 victory in the semi-finals against Spain and made a case to be a starter.

An eye injury kept him out of action until December, but he came back strong and is expected to start at center back in the World Cup.

While he may not be the most skilled player on the field, he is strong, tough, and is hungry to take advantage of the opportunities given to him.

DeMerit enters the offseason without a contract. Many rumors have him going to MLS after the World Cup, but another strong tournament like the Confederations Cup and DeMerit could find himself with another mid-table club in a top-flight European league.

Robbie Findley

He was possibly the biggest surprise to make the final 23-man roster as a knee injury has hampered his performance with MLS side Real Salt Lake.

However, without Charlie Davies, Bradley has gone to Findley to play the role of the speed forward.

In the team’s sendoff match against Turkey, Findley rewarded Bradley for going against common perception and choosing to take him to South Africa.

Coming on as a second-half substitute Findley made an immediate impact, teaming up beautifully with Altidore and Donovan. He connected on a nice pass to Donovan that would then set up the equalizer.

And while he missed some easy scoring opportunities in the final tune-up against Australia, no one got in better position to score than Findley.

Findley looks to be rounding back into form. If he can continue to mesh well with the playmakers like Donovan and Altidore and can get back his scoring touch like the 2009 MLS season, where he scored a team-high 12 goals and helped his team win the MLS Cup, than Findley could be the breakout star of the World Cup for the Americans.

At the age of 24 and on the heels of a trial with a Danish club in the 2009 offseason, Findley could also parlay a successful World Cup into a transfer to Europe.

Stu Holden

The 24-year-old midfielder continues to quickly rise in status for both club and country.

Starting as a substitute for MLS side Houston Dynamo, he made star player Dwayne DeRosario expendable and took his spot on the field when DeRosario left for Toronto. This winter Holden transferred to Bolton of the English Premier League and the Dynamo has had a difficult time replacing him.

On the international scene, Holden went from key player on the Olympic squad (a U-23 team) to substitute, and now could potentially even start matches in the World Cup for the United States.

If Clint Dempsey plays up top, then Holden is the top choice to take his place on the wing. If Dempsey is put at midfield, than expect Holden to be the first choice off the bench.

He is considered to have one of the best crosses on the entire team and provides a lot of energy and hustle. With consistent playing time Holden came really shine in this World Cup.

Maurice Edu

Many fans have been clamoring for Edu to be the starter in central midfield next to Bradley. Even though he hasn’t been featured in many games, the fans like what they have seen from the 24-year-old.

A former MLS Rookie of the Year with Toronto F.C., Edu now plays for top Scottish side Rangers.

Injuries have held back Edu from firmly entrenching himself as a starter at Rangers, but when healthy he routinely makes the rotation mostly because of his strong defense (Edu is so good defensively that he can even fill in as a center back like at the 2008 Olympics).

Unlike Ricardo Clark, his main competition for the starting position with the United States, Edu isn’t just a defensive minded player. Edu is actually considered a good box-to-box midfielder with a good attacking mindset.

Another key attribute is Edu’s ability to handle pressure. Playing in arguably the most intense rivalry in all of soccer, Rangers’ Old Firm matchup with Celtic, Edu scored a stoppage time goal to lead Rangers to a 1-0 victory.

Excited to be a part of the team after he missed the 2009 Confederations Cup, Edu should play a big role in the World Cup.

Photo Credits.
Maurice Edu: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Jay DeMerit: AP Photo/Paul Thomas
Robbie Findley: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

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