BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, July 1, 2011
As the preseason is set to begin throughout Europe and Mexico, there are several young Americans to keeps eyes on as the look to break into their clubs' first team.
A strong preseason by any of these players will have effects on both the US national team and the US Olympic teams.
John Anthony Brooks - central defender/left back - Hertha Berlin
While not familiar to many US fans, John Anthony Brooks is one of the top American prospects in Europe. In fact, with the US not having many young central defenders, Brooks could actually be the top US prospect at the moment.
After making successful strides in the reserve team last year, Brooks is training this preseason with Hertha's first team and he could very well make his Bundesliga debut in 2011/12.
At just 18, Brooks ended last season as a starting central defender and occasional left back for the club's U23 team. His play was so strong that Hertha went on to sign him to a four year professional contract and a contract length of four years is usually only given to top youth players.
Brooks is not only highly regarded at the club level. During last cycle he saw time with the US U-20 national team but his time was limited as Hertha frequently denied his release.
For the 2013 cycle, he is widely expected to be a team leader on the backline. Another strong season in Germany, however, would see him move into contention for the US Olympic team which he is eligible for in both 2012 and 2016.
Joe Gyau - winger - Hoffenheim
Joe Gyau has long been one of the more promising players in the US system but since moving to Germany the hype has slowly been transforming into reality.
Just 12 months ago, Gyau left the Vancouver Academy and headed to Germany to play for Hoeffenheim's U-19 team. While he was there, he polished his skills and quietly moved up to the club's U-23 team despite only being 18 years old.
Last season ended on a difficult note for Gyau who was injured while playing for the US U-20 team in March and was unable to play very much the rest of the season.
This current preseason has begun with good news for the Washington, DC native as he will train with Hoffenheim's first team when camp opens on June 22.
Gyau's next involvement with the US is likely to come next year when the Olympic team gathers for qualifying. A Bundesliga debut before then, however, could see Gyau getting a call from Bob Bradley to play with the senior team.
Moises Orozco - forward/midfielder - Tigres UANL
The talented attacking midfielder/forward was a key part of the last U20 team since he first joined the team at the 2010 Dallas Cup. Last season he was a key player for Tigres' U20 team but an ankle injury limited a lot of his time at the club during the winter months.
This season, Orozco will begin the preseason training with Tigres' first team and could see action with the Mexican club that is coming of a solid Apertura and Clausura in 2010/11.
If he does break into the Tigres team, Orozco should move into prime position to make the US Olympic team.
Adrian Ruelas - forward - Jaguares
The past year has been a whirlwind for Adrian Ruelas.
After enjoying a standout performance with the US U20 team at last year's Milk Cup, Ruelas headed to Scotland where he trained the rest of 2010 with Celtic and played in friendlies with the first team.
After a loan deal with Celtic was not made permanent, Ruelas returned to Santos Laguna where he scored at a rapid pace for the U20 team. As the season progressed, he made two appearances with the first team.
Now Ruelas,20, has gone on loan to fellow Mexican Primera club Jaguares where he will compete for regular playing time with the club's first team.
Ruelas will be in the player pool for the US Olympic team but the competition will be very tight. With just an 18 man roster, he will have to compete with Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore, Teal Bunbury, Bobby Wood, and Conor Doyle to make the team.
While that competition is difficult, a strong season at Jaguares could see him leapfrog over a lot of the competition.
Jann George - forward - FC Nurnberg
Despite suffering a season ending knee injury last November, Jann George will begin the preseason ready to go.
George, 18, was enjoying a breakout season in 2010 before the injury when he scored four goals in just six games for Nurnberg's U-19 team.
Despite the injury, Nurnberg signed George to a three year professional contract and club officials were quick to state he was in the club's long-term plans.
This preseason will be interesting for the young forward as it is still unclear how he has recovered a serious injury. George will likely begin the season with the club's U23 team but it's clear that the club does believe in him.
George is a US citizen through his father who served in the US military but he has never set foot on this side of the Atlantic and has never played for the youth teams of the US or Germany. If he is able to continue to pick up where he left off before the injury, he could see interest from the US Olympic team.
Bobby Wood - forward - 1860 Munich
For the first half of last season, Bobby Wood was a prominent player for 1860 Munich's U-23 team. Following the winter break, he was promoted to the first team where he began to see action off the bench.
In March the season took a downturn as Wood suffered injuries which limited his time the rest of the season.
This season will now be a pivotal one for Wood, 18, as he will likely be with the first team from the beginning. 1860 Munich have had serious financial problems over the years and they will likely play a young team this year.
Wood remains a very important player not just for his club but also for the United States. During the last U-20 cycle, Wood was one of the team's most talented players before injuries cut short his ability to play a significant role in U20 World Cup qualifying. If he remains healthy and gets consistent minutes for 1860, he can fight not just for an Olympic team spot but he show that he can be an important player for the team.
Sebastian Lletget - midfielder - West Ham United
The 2011/12 season will be a very important year for Sebastian Lletget who should enter into preseason healthy and ready to fight for a spot on the team.
Last season began with Lletget, 18, fighting a difficult bout of mononucleosis and it wasn't until the end of 2010 that he became healthy and able to play.
Long regarded as one of the most promising players in the US setup, Lletget will now finally have a good opportunity to show he is ready to play at a high level. West Ham are now in the English Championship and will be looking to rebuild their team after being relegated from the Premier League.
Lletget's preseason will be very important for him as he will look to make the push towards becoming the key player that can contribute at a high level.
Will Packwood - defensive midfielder/central defender Birmingham City
Fresh off of a contract with Birmingham City, Will Packwood will have the chance to break in with Birmingham City who have just been relegated out of the Premier League and will be looking to rebuild.
Packwood, 18, has spent the last few seasons with the Blues on an academy deal but the team has now indicated that it believes in the young American defensive midfielder with the contract.
It is unlikely that Packwood will begin the year with Birmingham City's first team but an appearance with the first team this season is possible. Packwood has played reserve team games already for the club at a very young age and over the long Championship season, young players within the organization will see time.
Birmingham City will no longer be in the difficult relegation fights of the Premier League but instead will be at a level where they rotate players and still compete.
Packwood's development will be very important for the US U-20 national team as he will look to claim the defensive midfield spot from the start of the cycle.