USMNT Profiles: Forwards
Starting with former MLS Rookie of the Year (2004) Clint Dempsey through to new-comer Aron Johannsson, the USMNT forwards are a mix of raw talent and frustration.
Dempsey began his professional career with the New England Revolution of MLS in 2004. Dempsey scored 25 goals for the club through 2006 before heading to England to play for English Premier League club Fulham in 2007.
It was at Fulham that Dempsey enjoyed the most success and really elevated his status as the United States’ top export. Dempsey became the first US player to score 50 goals in the Premier League while with the club. Dempsey contributed 60 goals across all competitions for Fulham from 2007 through 2012.
In 2012 Dempsey used all the leverage he had to force a transfer to another EPL club, Tottenham Hotspur. Dempsey stated he wanted to play for a club with a chance to compete in the UEFA Champions League but Tottenham fell short in qualifying and Dempsey struggled mightily, only netting seven goals for the club.
Surprising everyone in 2013, Dempsey returned to MLS with the Seattle Sounders. Dempsey’s transition was not as smooth as many would have liked and there was early speculation that his skills were diminishing. Truthfully, however it seemed that Dempsey just needed time to adjust to the dynamic of the Sounders. Dempsey has already netted eight goals in the 2014 season.
When it comes to the USMNT, Dempsey is looked to for scoring and leadership. Often wearing the Captain’s armband, Dempsey has transitioned well from the lead by example type to a more vocal instructor on the field. Dempsey brings a lot of experience from his play in the Premier League as well as a very obvious passion for the game to the USMNT. Hopefully, Dempsey will be able to impart some needed wisdom and motivation to this fellow forwards.
Like Jozy Altidore, who despite being one of the more gifted athletes to ever pull on a USMNT jersey, finds himself too often in the midst of scoring droughts. The former New York Red Bull bounced around a few European clubs from 2008 to 2011 before settling in with the Eredivisie club AZ Alkmaar. In 67 appearances for AZ from 2011 to 2013, Altidore scored 39 goals. It was the highest number of goals scored by Altidore for any club since his 15 goals scored in 37 appearances for the New York RedBulls.
It seemed that Altidore was poised to become the next breakout US star in Europe with a move to the EPL club Sunderland in 2013. However, one goal in 30 appearances landed Altidore on the bench or off the roster by the end of the season. Despite his tremendous potential, Altidore struggles to find the back of the net far too often to truly be considered an elite forward.
It is clear that he has the talent, he has shown it in spurts, but Altidore needs to develop into a more consistent scorer. Often Altidore appears too eager, or too desperate, when he receives the ball leading to bad first touches that take him out of the solid scoring position he worked hard to get. If Altidore does not start contributing goals soon, he could quickly find himself replaced by either Aron Johannsson or Chris Wondolowski.
Wondolowski has been a model of hard work and dedication since coming debuting in MLS with the San Jose Earthquakes. Wondo, as he’s called, has an uncanny knack for getting himself into solid scoring positions and in his 20 caps for the USMNT has scored nine goals. Not quite the all-around athlete of Dempsey or Altidore, Wondo is never the less a dangerous scorer and a valuable member of the USMNT.
Aron Johannsson is a young up and comer, who has filled Altidore’s goal scoring cleats very nicely for AZ Alkmaar since his arrival to the club in 2013. Aron has already netted 20 goals in his first 39 appearances for the club and two goals in only eight games for the USMNT. Aron is clearly making a case to be the striker of the future for the USMNT while contributing well as a substitution in the present.