Ahead of the CONCACAF Under-20 Championships, Goal.com's Noah Davis takes an extended look at one of the US's rising stars.
While one American, Oguchi Onyewu, has made headlines with his desire to get away from the league in Belgium, a younger United States prospect is making a name in the land of moules and Trappist ales.
Last year, Jared Jeffrey, who will turn 19 in June, parleyed his captainship of the disappointing United States team at the 2007 U-17 World Cup into a three-year deal with Club Brugge. Although he has yet to see the pitch for the perennial Jupiler League favorites -- the club currently sits in third place -- he has started appearing in the team's 18 and manager Jacky Methijssen speaks with high praise about his teenager. The multi-dimensional, two-way player who's drawn comparisons to Michael Bradley should start seeing time as a right midfielder in the near future.
However, the Richardson, Texas native has another concern immediately on the horizon: helping the U.S. at the CONCACAF U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament in Trinidad & Tobago. American coach Thomas Rongen made sure the former Dallas Texan was one of the 20 players he called and Jeffrey will use the time he spent with the U-17s in South Korea to help spur a relatively inexperienced offense as well as bolster a solid backline.
The young American has been a presence in national team camps since 2005, when he joined the U.S.'s residency program in Bradenton, FL. He made 39 international appearances for the squad in three semesters, the most of any player during that span. Although the Red, White, and Blue played below expectations during the '07 Cup, Jeffrey still drew the eye of the 13-time Jupiler League champion, which was scouring the U.S. for prospects. After visiting the club, he inked a deal that will keep him in Belgium until his 21st birthday.
The U.S. squad, which travels to T&T today, kicks off the qualifying round on Friday with a match against Jamaica. Either Honduras or St. Vincent's will be the team's second opponent, and it will finish group play with match against El Salvador.
With talented midfielders including Brek Shea and Bryan Arguez filling out Rongen's roster, Jeffrey will face stiff competition to see the field, but he doesn't seem concerned. Once you've been in Brugge, everything else seems a bit simpler.
Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.