Goal.com's Luis Bueno looks at the top American-born forwards in MLS this season and their respective USMNT prospects.
Not since June 5 has a forward scored for the U.S. national team, but the U.S. will have two matches in the next three weeks to try and find a fix for that problem.
But is there a long-term fix available? Or does the near future of the U.S. national team's forwards depend on Charlie Davies and his rehabilitation efforts? Whether or not Davies is healthy and back on the field in 2010 or sometime in 2011, the U.S. national team cannot place all of its hopes on Davies as goal production and depth at forward must be found somewhere.
Can the fix be found in Major League Soccer? Here are the top American scorers in MLS this season and their possible national team prospects.
Edson Buddle, Galaxy. Buddle is not an unknown commodity in MLS. He leads the league in goals with 14 and has 87 career MLS goals. Buddle propeled himself into the national team picture with his torrid start (nine goals in five games) and got onto the field in South Africa. But Buddle has been mostly average since returning from World Cup duty, scoring five goals in 12 games since. Given his recent cold snap - one goal in his last six games - it's debatable whether Buddle even deserves to be called in for the Poland/Colombia matches.
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose. Admit it, you never thought "Wondo" would be worthy of a national team call-up. Perhaps not even his most ardent supporters (i.e. his family and close friends) thought he would ever get a shot with the national team. But Major League Soccer's breakthrough player this year has been Wondolowski. His hat-trick in Toronto on Saturday gave him 12 goals on the season as he is now just two goals off the league lead. Wondolowski started the season strong with six goals in eight games but tailed off badly, scoring no goals in his next seven games. But his hat-trick was encouraging and he showed quite a bit of confidence and skill in scoring the three goals, qualities lacking with national-team forwards.
Conor Casey, Colorado. Casey scored two of the most important goals for the U.S. in qualifying but could not translate that into a call-up to World Cup training camp. Can Casey get past that snub? If he has gotten over the pain of missing out on the World Cup, and in his case the pain in knowing there were at least 30 other players more worthy of the World Cup, then Casey stands to be a viable option for the coming years. Casey turns 30 the month after next year's Gold Cup and has been a steady contributor the last three seasons in MLS, scoring 11, 16 and now 11 goals respectively.
Jeff Cunningham, FC Dallas. The ever-dangerous Cunningham has helped FC Dallas become one of the league's best teams. With 10 goals, Cunningham is doing his part once more. But on the national team level, Cunningham has shown what he can do - which is to say, not much. Cunningham might be someone to call in for a one-off friendly if bodies are in short supply but he is neither a short- or long-term answer.
Justin Braun, Chivas USA. In his third season, Braun has finally started to figure some things out. In 2008 and 2009, Braun's seasons were plagued with bad misses and a lack of confidence. While he has not enjoyed the breakout season Wondolowski has, Braun still has taken a positive step forward in development. Does this mean he can force his way into the US Starting XI? If nothing else, Braun deserves a shot with the national team, but whether that's in the annual January camp or in Chicago and Philadelphia next month remains to be seen.
Robbie Findley, Real Salt Lake. Much like Cunningham, Findley has also shown his capabilities at the national team level. Unfortunately, Findley's performances have been memorable for the frustration they've caused. In MLS, Findley is not among the top 22 scores in the league this season yet he seems to be the only player on this list guaranteed of a call-up. His continued playing time shows both the lack of depth on the national team level as well as coach Bob Bradley's stubornness in sticking not only with a player who has struggled badly but one that seems to fit into a system Bradley prefers to play, one in which a speedy forward is necessary.
* Brian Ching and Chad Barrett are American-born forwards with more goals than Findley but in the interest of space and to keep US supporters from further frustration were omitted from the column.
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