First off, I just want to start this post by offering thoughts and prayers to all those affected by, and especially those hurt or killed in, the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent aftermath. I’ve spent the last six years in Boston — I currently live about equidistant between the site of the bombings and the boat in Watertown where police captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and used to work at NESN just blocks from that latter — and thus the last week has been incredibly draining, both physically and mentally. But, fortunately, that is the worst I’ve had to deal with. I know there are many many people who have had a much harder time in the past seven days than me, and they should be the ones on our minds and in our hearts.
That said, it has been 10 days since I last posted something on the blog, so I want to apologize for that. Obviously other things have been on my mind, but I didn’t want to leave my loyal readers hanging forever. As a reward for your patience, I ‘ve decided to break out a new feature: Power Rankings. In these rankings — at least this time, it may change in the future — we will rank various things from the world of U.S. soccer.
Today, we take a look at what has happened in the past week and a half. Or, Since U Been Gone.
(And yes, that is a Kelly Clarkson reference)
1. Boston. All of It. #BostonStrong
Obviously, this is not just related to American soccer, but it’s really about the American spirit in general. In near impossible circumstances, the city — and the country — came together. From the hundreds of police and firefighters, doctors and nurses, people who ran 26.2 miles only to keep right on running to the hospital to give blood, and everyone who stood with Boston, it truly showed a wonderful side of people. From the people lining the streets to applaud law enforcement after it was all over, to David Ortiz’ speech (“This is our F*@%ing city, and nobody gonna dictate our freedom.”), to every other little act of kindness over the past week, it has all been just an incredible show by my adopted second city and all those who have offered their support to it.
Every single one of the great people and moments that have risen from the tragedy are forever No. 1 in these rankings. There is no No. 2 or No. 3. etc. — the gap would just be too great — but now we must move on to the reason you come to this blog in the first place: American Soccer.
2. Jack McInerney
The much-hyped USYNT star has been, for lack of a better word, “meh” since joining the Philadelphia Union out of high school in 2010. Now in his fourth MLS season, Jack Mac seems to be putting it all together, garnering some impressive comparisons in the process. He was close to being labeled a bust, but sits alone atop the league in goals with six in seven games thus far. Oh, and he’s still 20 until August.
USMNT fans who don’t pay much attention to the MLS — as I always note, I am guilty of this myself — might dismiss him. After all, Chris Wondolowski has torn league defenses to shreds the past few years but has looked like Chuck Knoblauch throwing to first base in his games with the national side. McInerney hasn’t had a chance to prove his own worth with the full USMNT as of yet, but could see a call-up soon if he keeps up his current form. He could even be involved in the May camp, even through he probably won’t stick around for the World Cup qualifiers, but a starting berth on the Gold Cup squad could be within his grasp.
3. Freddy Adu
Speaking of players who had a lot of hype at a young age only to become relative busts yet still are younger than we think they are, oh hey! It’s Freddy Adu! The once-promising attacker is somehow STILL younger than me — he’s only 23 — but is currently on his ninth club. At some point he has to get it, right? Right???
Well, now on loan with Brazilian club Bahia for the season, Adu finally made his first appearance in a 0-0 draw. Granted, it was only for a five-minute cameo, but at least he stepped onto the pitch. Hopefully he can keep it up and find some extended success and duplicate his 2011 Gold Cup form for the USMNT. Jürgen Klinsmann has said that consistent playing time is key for his players and Adu has not had that anywhere. He only has more than 10 appearances for five of the nine clubs he’s played for, with three of those topping out at exactly 11.
4. US U17s
Uh oh. Wasn’t this cycle supposed to be the time of a dominant U17 squad and lackluster talent in the U20s? Not so fast. The class that was set to redefine success in American soccer has taken it back to the ether. After falling to Honduras in a 3-1 game far worse than the scoreline indicates, Richie Williams’ charges became the first US team NOT to qualify for the U17 World Cup.
For 15 straight cycles — or as long as there has been a U17 World Cup — the US has had a team qualify. Blessed with talent like Junior Flores, this is an abject disappointment. It’s tough to rip in 16-year-old kids too much, but this squad stands at No. 4 for pure shock value, not for their actual on-field accomplishments.
5. US U20s
Speaking of the other major team in the US soccer program, the U20s continued building toward their appearance in the U20 Word Cup in June, naming the squad for an upcoming camp. The camp is really just more time to bring players together and allow Tab Ramos to see what he has — there is still more than a month until the actual tournament.
While the 23 players named bring in some veterans from the squad that finished CONCACAF runners-up, other promising young players will also join up with the group in Carson, California from April 22-29. DeAndre Yedlin, Omar Salgado, DeAndre Yedlin’s Hair, Sean Cunningham and others join Benji Joya, Cody Cropper and crew. Luis Gil and other club regulars were not called in this time around.
Also Receiving Votes: Landon Donovan’s comeback, Luis Suarez’ bicuspids, Jozy Altidore’s hat trick, John Anthony Brooks continued indecision, Robbie Rogers interview, Sunil Gulati’s promotion, Sepp Blatter’s Twitter hacker.