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The U.S. National Team

Travis Clark Discusses the Top 100 U.S. Soccer Players

TopDrawerSoccer.com's Travis Clark is the newest member of the ASN 100 editorial panel, and we got him to talk about the challenges he faced in crafting his 1-100 ranking of American soccer players.
BY John Godfrey Posted
January 06, 2014
11:50 AM
JOHN GODFREY: Travis—thanks for joining the ASN 100 editorial panel. We've admired your work at TopDrawerSoccer.com from afar and were thrilled to have you participate. So tell me: Was it easier or harder than you expected to create a 1-100 ranking of American soccer players?

TRAVIS CLARK: Much harder than I thought, really. I have a lot of experience ranking players as we do the same thing for club and college on our website, but this is a much different animal, as it's about following American players in a variety of leagues, taking into account the national team, etc. I am still trying to figure out the best way to get a handle on it as I'll probably touch on in this conversation.

JG: You have Sacha Kljestan, Herculez Gomez, and Aron Johannsson ranked higher than Clint Dempsey. How come?

TC: Dempsey's form over the last half year triggered that decision. Is it harsh? Yes. Midseason MLS transfers usually have a hard time adjusting, and Dempsey was no different. He was tried in a variety of positions, battled fitness and injury problems while never really looking at his best. With his dip in form, I thought it appropriate to drop him down—though I imagine he'll show well enough by the next update to climb back up in the rankings. I expect that despite the World Cup, he'll have a big year for the Sounders in 2014.

JG: You also have Jermaine Jones at No. 17, lowest among our panelists. What is your take on the Schalke midfielder?

TC: Those who follow me on Twitter know that I've never been a fan of Jermaine Jones' game. Also, I probably hold it against him that he looks much better for Schalke than he ever does in a U.S. national team jersey. Can't remember the last U.S. game (maybe the friendly win against Germany) where Jones was one of the better players on the field for either side. This is also part of how I am still trying to measure players—is it a 50-50 balance for club form and U.S. or should it be skewed one way or the other?

JG: We sidestep that issue somewhat by encouraging panelists act as if they are coach of the U.S. national team and have to make personnel decisions for a World Cup match tomorrow. And then rank accordingly. And since you have Sacha Kljestan at No. 5, something tells me that he makes your World Cup squad....

TC: I'm a fan of Klejstan's simple, tidy play for Anderlecht—how he keeps the ball moving. I like watching the Belgian side play because of Kljestan and former D.C. United standout Andy Najar, who both are on the team. It's the opposite conundrum for Kljestan as it was for Jones—am I giving him too much credit for his club form?

To counter that, I don't know if Kljestan's ever been given the chance to play in the same kind of role for the U.S. national team as he's struggled with the limited playing time in the past few times I've seen him. It'll be interesting to see if he'd make the final cut to Brazil—I obviously would bring him along. JG: Sounds reasonable. So who do you have in your personal top 100 that didn't make the overall list?

TC: Chicago Fire midfielder Dilly Duka finally stayed healthy and on the field for the majority of the 2013 season (31 games, 24 starts, 1,788 minutes). And while that obviously isn't reason alone for his justification in a top 100, I like a player with his skillset on the ball and think he deserves a place in the list. He's the kind of player who if he shows well, can make a massive contribution to his team.

JG: And who on the current ASN 100 needs to be removed?

TC: I would drop Steven Lenhart off if I had the sway. Would much rather have a player like Duka on the list.

JG: No argument from me on that one, although the ASN 100 page would certainly miss Lenhart from a photography standpoint. Thanks for being part of the panel, and for this chat. New rankings are up now, and the next one is scheduled for March 1. Talk to you before then.

OK, ASN readers—give us your thoughts on Travis Clark's thoughts. The Comments section is open for business.

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