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Who is this year’s U.S. national team breakout player?

Jan 28, 2013, 7:30 AM EDT

2012 MLS Cup - Los Angeles Galaxy Training Session Getty Images

At this time last year Geoff Cameron was a fringe figure around the U.S. national team. An intriguing figure, sure, but he was mile and miles from an elevated role in Jurgen Klinsmann’s designs.

Now look at the guy. He’s a presumptive starter for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. (Those start in just a little over a week, you know.)

Most years will create a breakout player or two, and these surging men frequently launch that breakthrough in January in California during the year’s initial national team camp.

For 2012 it was Cameron foremost. Graham Zusi elevated his place, too, although not quite to the former Houston Dynamo defender’s level. Brek Shea was the guy back in 2011.

Here we are in 2013; the team traveled Sunday in Houston, where they meet Canada on Tuesday at BBVA Compass Stadium.

A good question to ask now as the U.S. gets set to line up for the first time this year: Who is this year’s Cameron or Zusi? Who is the USMNT breakout man for 2013? Some possibilities:

Omar Gonzalez is the obvious top candidate. Barring injury or something unforeseen, we can expect him to start Tuesday, probably alongside Matt Besler, who seems to be catching the coaches’ eyes.

Gonzalez clearly has all the physical elements in his game. What he must show Tuesday is the ability to organize, direct and lead. As I’ve said before, the need exists. The ability exists. It’s on Cameron now to run with this thing.

(MORE:  U.S. defense could have a relatively easy night ahead)

(MORE: Opportunity factor high in January for Gonzalez)

Or perhaps even Besler himself: The Sporting Kansas City man has been on a mostly steady rise since arriving into MLS in 2009, and he was a worthy Best IX last season. That put him in position to get into a national team camp, and reports say he has taken full advantage so far, looking slick and quick in Home Depot Center workouts. Trouble is, there are two other center backs in camp, so Klinsmann may want to look at someone else in this one.

Tony Beltran has a chance, if only because of Steve Cherundolo’s advancing age and the need to build more depth at the right back position.

Mix Diskerud seems to have an increasingly bright future, although he plays a position (central midfield) where the U.S. is already fairly deep. (And getting deeper thanks to Sacha Kljestan’s increasing contributions to the program, and with Stuart Holden perhaps re-inserting himself into the conversation.) Still, Diskerud is young (22), skillful and versatile.

(By the way, I am excluding Benny Feilhaber from this conversation because he has already “broken into”  the national team, as it were.)

  1. dfstell - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    Omar…..easy answer.

    I’d say Josh Gatt could be a breakout star too. I mean…..he fits a need (speed on the wing) and he should have gotten his jitters out getting his first cap on the road at a Top 10 national team.

  2. tylerbetts - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    How about Brad Guzan? With the congested schedule, he may actually get not only some PT, but some starts. He’s looked good (well, make that a qualified good – as good as you can behind that defense) since moving to the starter for his club, and could take the “unquestioned” away from the US’s “unquestioned #1 Keeper” Tim Howard.

    But, honestly, Gonzalez is the answer. He’s likely starting against Canada. He’s probable to start in the Gold Cup matches. He’s probable for a winter move to Europe. Given the choice of Omar vs. the Field … you are really tempted to take Omar.

    • Steve Davis - Jan 28, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      Guzan is a great call. I was looking at the current roster specifically, but I probably should have expanded the outlook a bit. And if I had … you are absolutely correct. Guzan will surely be the man in the pipes during Gold Cup. It will be a big, big chance for him.

    • sdbeisbol - Jan 28, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      I wish Guzan got more starts for the US but Tim Howard is just that good I guess. We’re lucky to have such good keepers, imo.

      • wfjackson3 - Jan 28, 2013 at 1:24 PM

        I wouldn’t call it luck. We have had good keepers in the US for quite some time. If there is anything that we seem consistently able to produce at a world class or just below world class level, it is keepers.

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