62913_isi_mcinerney-okugo_mlshcs20130515033_(1) Howard C. Smith/isiphotos.com
Major League Soccer

ASN Has Developed a Crush On the Philadelphia Union

With Jack McInerney scoring at will, Danny Cruz marauding (and making enemies) down the wing, and Amobi Okugo showing steel in the center, the Philadelphia Union have become a must-watch team in MLS.
BY John Godfrey Posted
June 29, 2013
4:21 PM
PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING we do here at ASN rolls up into the United States national team, its development, and the idea that someday the Yanks will win the World Cup.

So if Federico Higuain scores a pair of goals for Columbus Crew, that's great. And if either Juninho works some magic in Harrison, N.J., or Carson, Calif., we're happy to see it and glad for the teams' fans, but it doesn't exactly make us giddy.

The Philladelphia Union, however, has four American players age 23 and under who have exciting potential on the national front: Jack McInerney, Amobi Okugo, Danny Cruz, and Sheanon Williams. None of them has received a U.S. cap, but that is likely to change very soon.

McInerney, 20, is the man of the moment. He was just named to Jurgen Kilnsmann's 23-man Gold Cup roster and you would be hard-pressed to find an American soccer supporter who isn't anxious to see what Jack Mac does in the CONCACAF tournament.

As an editorial entity, ASN is bullish on McInerney, ranking him high in our ASN 100 and also giving him attention here and here.

But the young striker is not the whole story in Philadelphia.

Okugo, 22, is a mobile, athletic, strong player who can man the No. 8 role or line up in central defense. If this World Cup cycle is Jermaine Jones' last—and it probably is—Okugo seems like a more-than-viable candidate to play alongside Michael Bradley in the United States setup down the road. (Kyle Beckerman will be 36 years old in 2018 in case you were wondering.) Okugo has been flying up the ASN 100 rankings of late, and is the 15th-youngest player among the top 100 Americans.

Williams and Cruz, both 23, are also worth tracking. Williams, a right back, produced this beauty a few weeks ago (fast forward to the 2:40 mark).

The combative Cruz also warrants attention, as his manager recently acknowledged.

“Danny has been one of our most effective players,” Union manager John Hackworth said earlier this season. “He has been one of our most effective players in possession and has been one of our most creative players in getting entries into the final third of the field, specifically the penalty area."

“In addition to that, he brings it every single game. He is the type of player you need to have in this league to be successful. There is no question you need some speed and he brings that, but he brings a competitiveness that is second to none.”

McInerney up top, Okugo in the middle, Williams and Cruz on the outside—all of them American and in the early stages of their careers: American soccer fans who aren't already loyal to an MLS squad could do a lot worse.

This quartet will likely be in the lineup when the Union tackles FC Dallas Saturday (5:30 Eastern, NBC Sports Network). We'll be watching.

John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.

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