5 USMNT Players Whose Stock Increased at 2014 World Cup
The United States men's national team's performance in the 2014 World Cup was a living, breathing and sweating example of why sports are unpredictable.
Here are some of the names you probably hoped you would later see in this post-tournament piece before the World Cup started: Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Geoff Cameron.
None of those men enhanced his profile in this World Cup, and three of them (Bradley, Cameron, Altidore) were either injury non-factors or underperformers.
And the Americans still survived the "Group of Death."
They survived because some players for whom expectations were low or nonexistent before the World Cup started launched themselves into the American picture.
These five players all saw their football profiles expand and increase in the 2014 World Cup.
5. Tim Howard
With apologies to Bradley and Dempsey, Tim Howard might have been the American footballer with the biggest name entering the World Cup. It is pretty hard to improve on that.
Howard made it happen, though.
His 16 saves against Belgium nearly dragged an overwhelmed American side into a World Cup quarterfinal, and it inspired a deluge of Internet memes.
Before this tournament, Howard was thought to be a veteran playing his last World Cup in red, white and blue. Now? It is hard to imagine picking a team in 2018 without Howard on it.
4. John Brooks
For a player who only played a couple of handfuls of minutes, John Brooks announced himself as a player to watch.
Brooks' goal against Ghana gave the Americans three crucial points in Group G, a head start that the Americans clung to desperately on the way to the knockout round.
If Brooks develops as expected, he could supplant Matt Besler or Omar Gonzalez to make the American starting XI in Russia in 2018.
If not, at worst he projects to be a 25-year-old impact substitute by then.
3. Jermaine Jones
Nicholas Mendola of NBC Sports masterfully captured the two sides of Jermaine Jones in this pre-World Cup profile of the American midfielder:
Jermaine Jones arrived on the United States radar within the past half-decade, so it’s easy to forget this is the veteran’s last true go at a World Cup. ... (Jones) made three appearances for Germany in 2008 after a long time of development in his birth country. Since switching allegiances in 2009, Jones has drawn the admiration and/or ire of many American fans with his hard tackles, on-the-edge play and constant danger… of a card.
Jones played hard and for the most part clean in this World Cup, and at times during the tournament he was the Americans' best player.
As reported by Brian Straus of Sports Illustrated, Jones' "highlight was the stunning second-half goal that pulled the U.S. even with Portugal. The 25-yard curler that beat Beto to the far post will make every World Cup highlight video. ... Jones also played a critical role in helping the Americans establish midfield dominance and contain Cristiano Ronaldo."
At 32, Jones is unlikely to parlay his tournament performance into a long-term contract for long money. But he may be able to come home.
2. Julian Green
When Julian Green came on for the Americans in the second 15-minute session of extra time against Belgium, the chances of him making this list were beyond remote.
The Americans were down 2-0. Green had not played a minute in the World Cup. To all the world, it looked like Jurgen Klinsmann putting green on just to be able to say that he had done so in the press conference afterward.
It took Green less than three minutes of World Cup action to score.
Were Belgium caught off guard? Yes. Did Belgium look like a side who felt the job was done after their second goal? Sure. Does any of that really matter? Absolutely not.
Green's goal announced his presence as a keystone of the future of the USMNT. Any plan Klinsmann has for 2018 has to include Green in the midfield making magic happen.
1. DeAndre Yedlin
DeAndre Yedlin received a once-in-a-lifetime chance to shine in the 2014 World Cup, and he grabbed the chance with resolve and certainty.
After Fabian Johnson went down injured against Belgium, Klinsmann inserted Yedlin and (let's face it) hoped for the best. Which is exactly what Yedlin gave—the best Klinsmann could have asked for.
"Yedlin’s surprise early appearance against Belgium and his subsequent solid play in the round-of-16 game catapulted the 20-year-old into the national spotlight," wrote Ashley Scoby for The Seattle Times.
The question now will be whether the Seattle Sounders can convince Yedlin to stay in Major League Soccer. Now that Yedlin has played well on a world stage, the world may come calling for Yedlin.