This year’s America’s Cup will be closely followed, but what follows Olympic Games in Paris will have just as much to say about the broader state of the US gamer pool. Unlike the women’s side of the Olympic tournament, the men’s competition relies on players under the age of 23, although each team is allowed to field up to three over-age players in the 18-man squad.

If the team that US Olympic coach Marko Mitrovic selects comes close to the program’s best finish of 4th in 2000, it would be a possible indication that the USA can now consistently produce top talent. high level. If the US is in trouble in group AHowever, some will fear that 2026 will be the high point of the program for quite some time.

After the draw in March, Mitrović announced a “big group of players we’re chasing” for possible inclusion. He emphasized that he wants to bring the “best 18 players” he can and has yet to show his hand on areas where he thinks he might sacrifice depth given the limitations of an Olympic tournament squad.

go deeper

GO DEEPER

The USMNT will play France in the Olympic opening tournament

With that in mind, here’s a crib sheet of Olympic-eligible players to track in the coming months. This list focuses on MLS players, and with good reason: Fully half of the most recent Olympic squad currently play in MLS, and most of the rest were developed in MLS academies before moving abroad.

Players who have been called up by Mitrović for the U-23 camps in November and March are marked with a star.


with the first mention.

The goalkeepers Gabriel “Gaga” Slonina* has been the US senior team’s “goalkeeper of the future” for several years now, and he won’t turn 20 until May 15. He is widely expected to be one of two goalkeepers selected for the 2024 Olympics. it would leave a slot available for the rest of the pool. If USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter decides Slonina would benefita spot on the Copa América roster

however, he would open the door for a second.

Either way, the battle for those one (or two) spots is arguably the tightest competition in the entire age-appropriate player pool. Aside from Slonina, three Olympic-eligible domestic goalkeepers are the best option for an MLS club. The two led their teams to top honors in 2023, with Roman Celentano AND Patrick Schulte* winning the Supporters’ Shield with FC Cincinnati and the MLS Cup with the Columbus Crew, respectively. The other goalkeeper in the race isChris Brady *

a Chicago Fire native who inherited the club’s starting spot after Slonina, another academy product, left for Chelsea after the 2022 season.

Their number tells an interesting story.

Celentano has an advantage over his peers in terms of numbers, but it’s hard to separate a goalkeeper’s performance from that of the line in front of him, and Celentano benefited by playing behind one of MLS’ best defenses in Cincy. Brady’s 5.6% field goal prevention rate has him in the middle of that group, but that feat looks Herculean when compared to his backup (Spencer Richey), who has a -19.9% ​​rate in 8 starts since the beginning of last season.

While Celentano’s goal prevention rate looks much better than Brady’s or Schulte’s, that’s relative. Celentano ranked 15th among 36 eligible MLS goaltenders in the stat last season, with Brady 17th and Schulte 22nd. The difference between this trio is relatively negligible considering a range that ran from -20% to +50% across the league.

All three are also used very differently by each of their teams, which shows in the stopping measurements as well as the eye test.

Since the start of 2023, Schulte’s raw passing numbers jump off the page: a completion rate of 75.6%, which is 9.9% better than Celentano (65.7%) and 13.1% ahead Brady (62.5%). Then again, the Crew’s goalie plays far fewer long passes, which makes sense given Columbus’ possession-heavy style under Wilfried Nancy. Brady gets top marks for commanding his area, smothering more crosses than anyone else.

Taking into account shot blocking, distribution and sweeps as a whole, Brady seems to have a narrow edge as the primary option of this trio. The next two months will be crucial for Schulte, who was a revelation last fall but needs to show better consistency between posts. If he can’t, Celentano excels as a shot-stopping specialist—arguably, he’s been in the best form of this trio, if not any MLS goalkeeper, through the first few weeks of the season.

LAWYER

Six defenders have strong cases for the Olympic roster. Conveniently for our purposes, they are split equally between left wing, right wing and centre-back. On the left side, John Tolkien * AND Caleb Wiley*

have been regulars in this squad and are likely to compete soon to be Antonee Robinson’s main back-up for the senior team. Wiley is a regular for Atlanta United at the age of 19, and his ability to play further down the wing is valuable to the limitations of an 18-man squad. Tolkin, 21, is arguably the best left-back in MLS and looks ready to take the next step with a move abroad. On the right side, Nathan Harriel*

is a regular selection of Mitrovic. Another product of the Union’s academy, Harriel leads all MLS right-backs with 6.07 tackles and blocked passes per 1,000 opposition touches – a massive impact even when weighted for possession. He also boasts a 56.3% duel win rate, making him a tricky mark to overcome for wing forwards. Sporting KC Jake Davis

is finally getting his due this season after a breakout 2023, and for good reason.  No MLS right-back averages more 'true' tackles - tackles, plus times a defender is pulled from the ball carrier, as well as fouls committed - per 1,000 opposition touches than Davis' rate of 8.76.  That ballhawk mentality has been vital for Sporting Kansas City and could play very well in an Olympic tournament.  He has yet to be called up by Mitrovic, however, and his emergence may have come a little late in the cycle to make this squad.  It's a shame in my book.

go deeper

GO DEEPER

How Jake Davis replaced Graham Zusi as Sporting KC’s right back At the heart of the defense, George Campbell*

has benefited greatly since being traded from Atlanta United to CF Montréal after the 2022 season. He has become a reliable starter who likes to converge on forwards before the ball goes into the box. That mindset shows in the data, too: although his 48.4% aerial rate is very poor for the position, his 11.71 rebounds per 1,000 snaps are among the league’s best. Like Davis, Jalen Neal

has yet to play under Mitrovic. However, the home grown LA Galaxy skipped the U-23 level and already has 6 big games for the USMNT. At the 2023 Gold Cup, he became the youngest center back to appear for the USMNT in a knockout match. The 20-year-old reaped the benefits of playing alongside Japanese veteran Maya Yoshida in 2023 but is yet to feature in 2024 after suffering an abdominal injury in mid-February. If he can work his way into the lineup of a resurgent Galaxy team in time, he could make a case for Olympic inclusion.

MidfieldAidan Morris *

is now among the league’s best doubles, regularly fielding an exciting Columbus Crew side as they won their third league title and are off to a strong start to the season. Nancy’s system has unlocked more of his short passing game and distributional decision-making, molding him into an ideal box-to-box option. New York Red Bulls’ Daniel Edelman* IS a stable leader

at the base of midfield, and he has increased his passing load under new coach Sandro Schwarz. His one-on-one defense has also improved with each season, adding a little more steel to his backline delivery. Philadelphia Jack McGlynn*

is an excellent mover of the ball in any form of midfield and his defensive work has seemingly taken a step forward in the early weeks of 2024. Colorado Rapids’ Cole Bassett* is now in his second year in MLS, where he is responsible for activating his club’s attack under Chris Armas. Quinn Sullivan maybe in the shadow of his younger brother at the moment, but he has been the last local youngster to break into the Philadelphia first team. Having already logged 490 league minutes, he is eager to shoot from outside the area to keep the opposition honest and is electric on the dribble. The 18-year-old Seattle SoundersObed Vargas * will still be age-eligible in 2028 when the Olympics come to Los Angeles, but may have a chance to make two Olympic teams.Benjamin Cremaschi*, a among the program’s biggest stars in 2023,

suffered a sports hernia during Miami’s extended preseason tour. His health will be closely monitored until now

The attackers Orlando City Duncan McGuire*

should still have a strong chance of making the Olympic roster, even if Ricardo Pepi is used here instead of the Copa América. He has seen an increase in sack volume compared to his rookie season, going from 2.05 sacks per 90 to 2.92 over his first five starts.Diego Luna * REACHED a “dream” of his

when he debuted for the USMNT this winter. After being more of a goalscoring threat in 2023, he has become a key creative option for RSL with four assists in just 358 minutes in five appearances this year. Caden Clark

was a regular for the U-23s during Olympic qualification but has seen his role fade since Mitrović took over after his club career stalled following a move to RB Leipzig. He is back permanently in MLS, now with Minnesota United, and is regularly starting as an inverted left winger. If he continues to get time and impact the team’s offense, he may factor in for consideration once again.Brian Gutierrez *

has excelled for the Chicago Fire, overtaking Xherdan Shaqiri as their most important player in the final third. After providing nine assists last year, he has two goals and one assist in 453 minutes this season as he plays even further – from 37.8% of his touches in the final third last year to 46.1% so far in 2024 . Aziel Jackson

was a bargain for St. Louis City SC before their first triumphant season, earning a USMNT debut during the offseason. His early club form in 2024 isn’t quite up to last year’s standard, with a lower rate of passing or progressive carries but a slight increase in his creative metrics. Similarly, Bernard Kamungo*

hasn’t had the same enthusiasm for FC Dallas in the new season, but is among the program’s best dribblers and has shown excellent decision-making in the final third for his age.Esmir Bajraktarević *

is another player who will be age-eligible for Los Angeles 2028, but he has been entrusted with regular coverage in New England this spring. The 19-year-old already has two second assists in 279 minutes, working swiftly to lift the Revs even as the team struggles overall.Indiana Vasilev *

was another smart pickup before the debut of St.

(Featured photos: Alex Bierens de Haan/USSF/Getty Images; Jean Catuffe/Getty Images; Graphics: Jeff Rueter)



Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here