Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
As we reach the final week of the year, and draw closer to 2013, it is time to think back to 2012 and the players who saw their USMNT stock rise and fall the most.
This year has seen plenty of new faces emerge during the Jurgen Klinsmann era, and also some familiar faces that faded from the picture. We’ve had comebacks, and late bloomers, but also shooting stars that saw their national team momentum fade in 2012.
Whether it was Eddie Johnson resurrecting his career, or Landon Donovan fading from the national team conversation, we saw plenty of movement on the depth chart and in the conversation about what the USMNT will look like heading into 2013.
Here are the five players who saw their national team stock rise the most in 2012, as well as the five players who saw their stock drop the most.
USMNT STOCK RISING in 2012
1. GEOFF CAMERON
When the year began, Cameron was coming off a strong 2011 with the Houston Dynamo and was being talked about as a potential national team option and European transfer target. By year’s end, Cameron had moved to English Premier League side Stoke City and had established himself as a regular starter for the national team.
2. EDDIE JOHNSON
At the start of 2012, Johnson looked like a player who might be closer to being out of pro soccer than on the national team, but things began to change when he signed with MLS and joined the Seattle Sounders. All Johnson did was establish himself as one of the better forwards in MLS while also making his way back into the national team picture. He took full advantage of his USMNT return, scoring two goals in a key World Cup qualifying win against Antigua & Barbuda. Now Johnson heads into 2013 in the competition for a starting role in the Hexagonal.
3. GRAHAM ZUSI
The USMNT needed some new blood in midfield, particularly with Landon Donovan fading from the picture. Zusi took a while but eventually forced his way into the conversation. He impressed in national team performances and also continued to establish himself as one of the best attacking midfielders in MLS.
4. HERCULEZ GOMEZ
Though his climb into the national team mix shouldn’t have come as a big surprise, the way he turned himself into a regular starter and effective forward for the USMNT certainly wasn’t expected when the year began. He hadn’t made a national team appearance since August of 2010, but finishes the current year among the team leaders in minutes played. His movement, nose for goal and tireless work rate have impressed Klinsmann and has Gomez holding a starting role heading into qualifying in 2013.
5. BRAD GUZAN
Jurgen Klinsmann’s interest in young goalkeepers like Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson had to be a cause for concern for Guzan, who came into 2012 known as a career back-up in the EPL, someone in jeopardy of becoming a national team afterthought if he didn’t start finding playing time. He re-signed with Aston Villa in the summer, gambling on being about to beat out Shay Given for the starting role. That gamble paid off as he took over the top spot and established himself as one of Villa’s best players. Now instead of fading from the conversation about USMNT back-up goalkeeper, Guzan is starting to be talked about as a serious challenger to Tim Howard’s starting role.
Terrence Boyd, Edgar Castillo, Michael Parkhurst, Mix Diskerud, Eric Lichaj, Sacha Kljestan
USMNT STOCK FALLING in 2012
1. LANDON DONOVAN
Not many could have seen this coming when 2012 began. Donovan was still regarded as a pivotal member of the national team. With each passing game he missed, it started to become easier to envision a national team without him, particularly when he returned in the summer and turned in some less than stellar performances. He did have his hat-trick outing against Scotland, but showed little else the rest of the year. Now that he has made it public that he doesn’t know if he will continue playing, Donovan has gone from national team pillar to a player the USMNT is ready to move on without in 2013 if he chooses to walk away.
2. TIM REAM
Few started the year on a more promising note than Ream, who completed a transfer to then-English Premier League side Bolton and then established himself as a regular starter. Things changed dramatically as the year went on. Bolton wound up being relegated and Ream struggled in the EPL. Ream’s struggles continued when the new season began in the League Championship. He has had a tough time finding playing time and while Klinsmann has mentioned Ream as someone who is on his radar, Ream is losing ground to a new generation of centerbacks and will have a tough time regaining the spot he enjoyed in the summer of 2011.
3. BREK SHEA
When the current year began, Shea’s status was that of being a player who always made it into Klinsmann’s starting lineups. Lack of production and diminishing returns eventually cost him that title. By the summer he had lost his place on the national team and turned heads after a high-profile public clash with FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman. He helped turn things around a bit, and played a key role in the USMNT victory over Mexico, but injuries sidelined him for the year and kept him from truly turning things around.
4. MAURICE EDU
How does a player who started at centerback in a shutout win over Mexico in Azteca make this list? He makes it by making a transfer move to Stoke City that has left him without playing time. The fact that he isn’t even dressing for matches is a serious cause for concern. His versatility should help keep him from falling too far off the national team radar, but if he doesn’t make a winter move to find some playing time, Edu could wind up out of the mix when World Cup qualifying begins.
5. JOSE TORRES
It might seem odd to see Torres on here considering he played quite a bit in 2012, and started in qualifying as recently as September, but his inability to really impress has cost him. Klinsmann has decided to look at other options and Torres looks to be sliding down the depth chart. Now he is facing a new challenge with a transfer move to Tigres. He is still only 25, and can play his way back into the conversation in 2013, but he definitely missed a chance in 2012 to cement a regular place on the national team.
OTHERS WHO SAW THEIR USMNT STOCK FALL
Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, DaMarcus Beasley, Benny Feilhaber
What do you think of these lists? Which player impressed you the most with how much they increased their stock in 2012? Who surprised you this year with how far their stock has fallen?
Share your thoughts below.