One of the main story lines for the end of 2019 for the USMNT was the rise of Sergino Dest. He played very well on the U20 World Cup team, helping them in a memorable come-back win against a French team that included a now very in form Dan-Axel Zagadou. Parlayed that performance into a strong preseason for Ajax, eventually resulting in a senior debut in the Dutch Super Cup and a senior debut for the USMNT in September.
While Dest was certainly a bright spot of that team, there were definitely other very talented players on the roster. Richie Ledezma looks to be on the verge of the PSV first team. Chris Gloster hopes to take advantage of the lack of left back options at PSV as well. Alex Mendez has been making strides with Jong Ajax. Tim Weah is on the road back to the Lille first team after a hamstring injury. I wrote up a little about three guys that were also on that U20 World Cup team that are making strides of their own and are looking to be some key players as the United States looks to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2008.
David Ochoa – GK – Real Salt Lake
An 18 year old Ochoa, which is extremely young for the position he plays, already has a trophy to his name. Ochoa started and went the distance in the USL championship game for the Real Monarchs, making six saves in the final. Making the bench throughout the year for Real Salt Lake, Ochoa hopes to take advantage of the departure of club legend Nick Rimando.
Though RSL did just acquire 28 year old Zac MacMath from the Whitecaps, Ochoa will hope to ride the momentum of a championship USL season and U20 World Cup experience to win a starting spot for RSL at the beginning of the 2020 MLS season. Ochoa is certainly one to watch, being a seasoned pro at such a young age and already showing great shot stopping ability. While others may have Brady Scott above him, Ochoa certainly has the skills to put himself into the running for a spot on the Olympic team.
Konrad de la Fuente – Winger – Barcelona
Many USMNT fans remember the name Ben Lederman. There were numerous write ups about the young American who left the country to move to Spain and train in La Masia, Barca’s storied youth academy. Unfortunately for Ben, it was never to be. It is very tough for anyone to break through for Barcelona, let alone an American. But somehow, it feels different for Konrad. After spending time in the Juvenil A division, the U19 Barca team, Konrad recently made the step up to Barcelona B, which competes in the Segunda Division B, the third tier for Spanish leagues.
Konrad has also been playing consistently in the UEFA youth league. Konrad is a pure winger, who isn’t afraid to take on defenders and is also very talented on the ball. In addition to his natural speed, Konrad is a fantastic dribbler and has compared his style of play to Ousmane Dembele. Konrad will look to be a key piece in Olympic qualifying and hopefully be a menace this summer in Tokyo.
Sebastian Soto – Forward – Hannover 96
Out of the three players mentioned, Soto is the only one who has a senior debut in a top four league to his name. Soto debuted for Hannover in April and ended up making three appearances for the relegation bound side. Soto then parlayed that Bundesliga experience into a fantastic U20 World Cup, starting the last three games and scoring a brace against France. Since then, things haven’t exactly gone well for Soto. In the midst of a contract disagreement, he saw his playing time dwindle at the beginning of the 2 Bundesliga season.
Recently, Soto made the bench in Hannover’s last three games but didn’t get any time and has only made one appearance this season. Though this setback is concerning, it is due to a contract dispute and an apparent failed move to Dortmund that fell through over the summer. Despite all of this, Soto has the talent to break through. He has shown the ability to make smart runs and be a pinpoint finisher and should be an asset to the team for the Olympic team.