When we look back on what was, by all accounts, one of the most successful years in U.S. national team history, it's easy to overlook just how much of a transformation the team underwent in 2013. Jurgen Klinsmann shook up his side, turning to several new faces and uncovering a handful of gems who have quickly established themselves as national team regulars while once-indispensible players have since been moved out of the picture.
It was a year of change, and a year for players to take advantage of opportunities. Several did just that, seizing starting roles that few could have seen them having a year earlier. Unfortunately, some other players were left behind, or lost considerable ground in the race for national team places ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
In 2013, we said hello to the likes of Matt Besler and Brad Evans as national team regulars, while we watched Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu fade out of the picture.
So who saw their U.S. national team stock rise the most in 2013? And whose took the biggest hits? Here is a rundown by position of those who made the biggest gains, and those who lost the most ground:
Stock Up - Nick Rimando. The case can be made for Brad Guzan deserving this spot after solidifying his hold on the No. 2 position on the U.S. depth chart and becoming Aston Villa's starter and MVP, but Rimando gets the nod for shoring up his No. 3 spot in the pecking order. He enjoyed a strong CONCACAF Gold Cup, reminding us that he is a capable option if needed, and he helped lead Real Salt Lake to two finals.
Stock Down - Bill Hamid. He went from once being Jurgen Klinsmann's No. 3 to not even being called in for most camps in 2013. Though he's still young, Hamid will have a lot of work to do to reclaim the place he once held in 2012.
Stock Up - Brad Evans. Few could have imagined Evans becoming Klinsmann's first-choice right back, but the Seattle Sounders midfielder became just that in 2013. He showed signs of improvement as he grew comfortable at the position, but he will face stiff competition from Geoff Cameron and potentially Steve Cherundolo in 2014.
Stock Down - Tim Chandler. Though he only made one start in 2012, Chandler was seen as the right back of the future once he actually committed to the U.S. He did just that in February, cap-tying himself in a World Cup qualifier against Honduras, but injuries and poor club form have left Chandler out of the mix ever since. He continues to start for Bundesliga side Nuremberg, which suggests we haven't heard the last of him.
Stock Up - Matt Besler. No player enjoyed as dramatic a boost in stock as Besler, who went from uncapped before 2013, to a regular starter and arguably the U.S. team's best center back in 2013. He even won an MLS Cup title to boot.
Stock Down - Carlos Bocanegra. It is crazy to think that Bocanegra was the U.S. captain less than a year ago, and now it has been almost a year since he wore a USA uniform. Whether it's a case of Klinsmann thinking the veteran lost it, or some other motive for freezing out such a long-serving leader, the reality is Bocanegra looks highly unlikely to make up the ground he lost to the new generation of centerbacks.
Stock Up - Omar Gonzalez. Despite a grand total of two caps before 2013, Gonzalez wasn't quite the surprise on the national team this year that Besler was. He had been considered a future national teamer for some time before a torn ACL delayed his ascent. Now he has established himself as a reliable starter, even if he did have some hiccups this year.
Stock Down - Oguchi Onyewu. Though he only played four games for the national team in 2012, Onyewu had been considered someone who might play himself back into the picture in 2013 under the right circumstances. A lack of playing time on the club level has prevented that from happening and now Onyewu looks like a serious longshot to be in Brazil in 2014.
Stock Up - DaMarcus Beasley. A strong challenger to Besler in the "Most surprising stock riser in 2013" category, Beasley went from not starting a national team game since 2010 to leading the team in starts in 2013 with 17, and captaining the U.S. team to a Gold Cup title. Along the way he proved to be a reasonable left back option at the age of 31.
Stock Down - Edgar Castillo. Yes, he did show some flashes of attacking quality in 2013, but what Castillo's eight national team appearances this year really demonstrated is that defending simply isn't his strong suit.
Stock Up - Alejandro Bedoya. Another player who burst into the national team picture after failing to make a single appearance in 2012, Bedoya took full advantage of his minutes at the Gold Cup to climb up the depth chart. A successful transfer to French first division side Nantes only propelled him further, and he heads into 2014 looking like a player ready to contend for a starting role.
Stock Down - Danny Williams. Though he isn't a natural right winger, we'll slot him in here after Klinsmann tried him at right back multiple times in 2012. A struggle for club playing time in the first half of the year hurt him, but his move to English side Reading appears to be paying dividends. In other words, don't write him off just yet as a national team option.
Stock Up - Mix Diskerud. When he scored the equalizing goal in the final national team game of 2012 (a 2-2 tie against Russia) we should have known Diskerud would be ready for a big step in 2013. He took a significant step, playing in 13 matches and showing growth as a well-rounded central midfield option.
Stock Down - Maurice Edu. After playing a combined 23 matches for the national team in 2011 and 2012, Edu slipped off the radar in 2013, managing just one start (albeit in the U.S. team's World Cup qualifying tie at Mexico). His lack of playing time for Stoke City has hurt him tremendously, and now even a move away from the Potters next month may not be enough to push him back into the World Cup picture.
Stock Up - Kyle Beckerman. Set a new career high for starts and minutes with the national team in 2013, earning some respect as a viable defensive midfield option along the way. A Klinsmann favorite, Beckerman has positioned himself well for a place on the 2014 World Cup team if he can keep up his solid form.
Stock Down - Jose Torres. Though he played the same amount of games in 2012 and 2013, this year felt like a lost one for Torres, who faded out of the picture in the second half of the year, losing ground to other options such as Diskerud and Sacha Kljestan.
Stock Up - Graham Zusi. His rapid rise really began late in 2012, but Zusi kept the ball rolling into 2013, providing some pretty strong evidence to suggest he can be a factor on a higher level for the national team.
Stock Down - Brek Shea. Though he did appear in more matches in 2013 than 2012, Shea appeared in fewer minutes (a modest total of 285). He provided some glimpses of being able to make a difference off the bench, but his uncertain status at Stoke City has his national team future up in the air.
Stock Up - Aron Johannsson. Didn't make his national team debut until August, but once he did, Johannsson kept on seeing minutes. He played in all but one of the team's final seven matches of the year, establishing himself as a very promising forward option. With Johannsson scoring in bunches in the Dutch League, he looks poised to take on a bigger national team role in 2014.
Stock Down - Herculez Gomez. Injuries and a club transfer led to circumstances that saw Gomez fade out of the national team picture after being a fixture in 2012 (when he was one of only four players to make 10 national team starts). With Johannsson's rise, Eddie Johnson's continued resurgence, and Terrence Boyd's club success, Gomez will have a hard time reclaiming his place in the pecking order.
Stock Up - Eddie Johnson. After resurrecting his national team career in 2012 with a pair of important goals in World Cup qualifying, Johnson set out to show that his heroics weren't a fluke and he did just that. Johnson finished 2013 with five goals and an assist in a team-high 17 matches, and while Klinsmann is still tinkering with using Johnson on the left wing, the fact is he has played himself into a regular role on the squad.
Stock Down - Juan Agudelo. To understand the high hopes the national team had for Agudelo heading into 2013, consider the fact Agudelo had his own page in the U.S. media guide while the likes of Beasley, Bedoya, Besler and Gonzalez did not. His second straight year without a national team start probably cost him his work permit appeal after an attempted move to Stoke City, and now his future is in limbo as his chances of being on the World Cup squad continue to dwindle.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jurgen Klinsmann