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Looking ahead to 2018: Center of the park edition

Part 2 examining the next generation

Charlie Crowhurst

During my exhaustive study of the youth pool, once you get out of the back four plus goal, it's difficult to determine just how a youth prospect might fit into the jigsaw puzzle that is the United States Men's National Team.

In this installment, independent of attacking nous, I tried to stick with guys who will play in the center of the park. This could be as a pure holder, a modern two way midfielder, or a player who, while not being a pure attacking midfielder, might lean that way. Here's my preview of the middle of the park.

M: (Dual nationals) Duane Holmes Huddersfield*

Gedion Zelalem Arsenal*

Fabian Hurzeler Hoffenheim*

Kevin Hoyos, Estudiantes (Argentina)

Holmes already has a year of Championship experience and could easily be classified in the attacker category based on his accomplishments for Championship mites. Hurzeler has been on the radar for a few years as has Hoyos who looks prime to tempt like his brother Michael.

Foremost of all of these is Zelalem.  He's not US eligible, but despite lacking the English (Holmes), German (Hurzeler), or Argentine (Hoyos) pedigree, by all accounts, he's demonstrated the most promise.  His formative years of development started in the US of A, and he's on the doorstep at Arsenal.  Despite the fact he's bound to add some physical tools between now and the time he can legally drink stateside, his game is on the edge of primetime.  If we lose this guy to Germany, it would be a shame.

Already in the pool:

Luis Gil Real Salt Lake

Will Trapp Columbus Crew

Emerson Hyndman Fulham

JJ Koval San Jose Earthquakes

Caleb Stanko Freiburg

Collin Martin DC United

Marlon Hairston Colorado Rapids

Sebastian Lleget West Ham United

Alejandro Guido Tijuana

Joaquin (Alonzo) Hernandez Monterrey

Marc Pelosi Liverpool

Joel Sonora Boca Juniors

Mikey Lopez Sporting Kansas City

Russell Canouse Hoffenheim

Junior Flores Borussia Dortmund

As I am writing this, Marlon Hairston cleaned up a spill from Jaime Penedo to score his first MLS goal.  He's pretty fast.  Now, he just broke up an attack with promise. Watch out for this guy. He's a little raw, but he's got massive upside.

There's a ton of guys on reserve contracts these days- a lot more than back in the day when we were intrigued by the Frankie Simek's and Danny Karbassiyoon's of the world, and I included a few on the list. A few like are very close to being game day roster fixtures. Luis Gil looks like he may be ready to be more than Javier Morales's understudy, and Koval and Martin have picked up some minutes at their respective clubs.

Then you have Trapp and Hyndman. Trapp is already a fixture with the Crew. When he was out with an injury in June, the Crew went 0-1-2 with two of those games at home. He has already worn the captain's armband twice despite just being 21 years of age.

Hyndman is one of the younger guys on my watchlist, but he played the full 90 in Fulham's first two games. Hyndman has been one of the bright spots in a poor start to the season for the Cottagers. Felix Magath has gone with an extremely young team to start the year, possibly trying to mimic his success with Wolfsburg from a few years back. It will be fun to watch if he builds on his early success. We'll wrap it up with forwards, wingers, and assorted attackers next week.