Saturday, September 20, 2014

Searching for the Next Great American Striker

The last two World Cups the MLS has seen Edson Buddle and Chris Wondolowski sneak onto the U.S. roster and actually see the field in big games. While I wouldn't go as far as to say that either one was the solution to our offensive woes up top, the fact remains that MLS is a viable option for the U.S. National Team when it comes to strikers. So as we begin the cycle for the 2018 World Cup, let's take a look at 5 players in MLS who could conceivably work themselves into the conversation:

1) Gyasi Zardes - LA Galaxy - Age 23

Zardes just turned 23 this month, but he leads all American born players in MLS with 15 goals this season. Zardes has 3 2-goal games this year, enjoyed a stretch where he scored in 4 straight games in July and August, and recently had a stretch of three games where he scored 5 times. His emergence as an offensive weapon alongside Robbie Keane is a big reason the Galaxy have gone 7 straight matches without a loss.

2) Lee Nguyen - New England Revolution - Age 27

The oldest player in our list of 5, Nguyen has exploded for 13 goals in 26 matches in 2014. Nguyen play professionally in the Netherlands, Denmark and Vietnam before coming to MLS in December 2011. After getting cut by the Vancouver Whitecaps he was signed by New England and enjoyed two productive seasons with 9 total goals and 9 assists before breaking out this year. Nguyen was capped three times in 2007 and was a part of the Copa America roster that year.

3) Will Bruin - Houston Dynamo - Age 24

Bruin is in his 4th MLS season tallying 35 goals in 111 career regular season matches and 6 more goals in the postseason. The 6'2" striker has tallied 10 goals in 24 games this year and has scored at least 8 times in each of the last three seasons with a career high 12 goals back in 2012. The 11th overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft out of Indiana, Bruin has already garnered some National Team attention with appearances as a substitute against Canada and Guatemala in 2013.

4) Ethan Finlay - Columbus Crew - Age 24

More of a wing than a true striker, Finlay is enjoying his breakout season in MLS. After tallying 34 appearances, 28 as a substitute, in his first two seasons without a goal or assist, Finlay is in the midst of a 7 goal 5 assist campaign and has become a mainstay in the Crew starting lineup since July. Finlay was the 10th overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of Creighton after leading the Bluejays to the 2011 Final Four.

5) Harry Shipp - Chicago Fire - Age 22

A star at Notre Dame, Shipp has enjoyed a solid rookie campaign with the Fire netting 6 goals and 5 assists in 26 matches (20 starts). His offensive prowess was seen on display back in May when he scored his first 3 MLS goals and added an assist in a 5-4 win over the New York Red Bulls. He added a two-goal game against Seattle, but has been held scoreless since early July. Even with his recent struggles, he ranks third on the Fire in scoring and leads the club in assists.


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