By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Aug 6, 2012) US Soccer Players – The 2012 Summer Olympics have featured many wonderful moments. The men’s soccer tournament, for instance, has been loaded with riveting matches, surprise outcomes, and penalty-kick drama in the elimination round. It's also been a shop window of sorts for young Major League Soccer players like DC United's Andy Najar. Though it's always nice to see foreign clubs interested in MLS players, what about MLS clubs potentially signing Olympians?
For fans of Major League Soccer, watching the Olympics could also be an opportunity to scout talent. Even on MLS budgets, there are opportunities from a swath of players that are mostly Under-23. Some would likely require a team to spend Designated Player money, but others might be available within a team's existing cap space. With that in mind, here are my five players (and the teams that could use them) who would be great for MLS in 2013:
Jose Mendoza (Honduras)
The 23-year-old goalkeeper is one of the reasons why the Central Americans did CONCACAF proud by reaching the semifinals. His six saves against Spain helped Honduras seal a 1-0 win in the first round and in the process helped oust La Roja from the tournament. The Spanish media was so stunned by Mendoza’s performance that the sports daily Marca hailed him by saying, “What a night for Mendoza. We are surely going to remember Mendoza for the rest of our lives.” Mendoza gave up just two goals in the opening round, but Honduras’ Cinderella run ended Saturday after it was eliminated by Brazil. Mendoza is under contract with Honduran club CD Platense, but currently sits on the bench behind veteran Junior Morales.
Potential team: The New York Red Bulls have had a goalkeeping carousel over the past two years. Mendoza is young, but he’d give them the stability in the back that the team could really use if it wants to compete for a title.
Jung Sung-Ryong (South Korea)
Another revelation of these London Games is goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong. His long arms and large frame make him an imposing sight in net. The 27-year-old’s saves have helped South Korea make a surprise run to the semifinals and his heroics could end with his side grabbing a spot on the podium. A veteran of the K-League since 2003, Sung-Ryong has played with the Suwon Bluewings since last year. He has also made 42 appearances for South Korea’s senior side, including one game at the 2010 World Cup.
Potential team: Again, the Red Bulls. Otherwise, Toronto FC, which has one of the worst defenses in the League, could benefit from Sung-Ryong’s skills.
Ryan Giggs (Great Britain)
If David Beckham and Thierry Henry can finish their storied careers in MLS, then why not Giggs? The Welsh-born midfielder, who turns 39 this November, has lit up the Olympics with his pace and finesse. The Manchester United star – one of three overage players on the Great Britain squad – can still contribute and his experience is of value to any club and its young players. Ousted from the London Games after losing to South Korea on Saturday, Giggs has played for Man United for the past 20 years and has no plans to stop.
Potential team: The Red Bulls are in search of a third DP. Giggs would team up nicely with Premiership vets Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill.
Pape Moussa Konate (Senegal)
19-year-old Konate, an attacking midfielder, is one player who should be on lots of radars after his Olympic performance. A member of Macabbi Tel Aviv in Israel since 2011, Konate played 29 league games this past season and scored five goals. He scored four goals at the London Games, with Senegal losing to Mexico in the quarterfinals. His speed and skill are a wonder to watch and for that he is one of Africa’s best young players. Konate’s contract with the Israeli club ends in June 2013.
Potential team: The Seattle Sounders would get a nice lift from a player such as Konate. He could use his skills play alongside either Fredy Montero or Eddie Johnson.
Javier Aquino (Mexico)
Mexico is bursting at the seams when it comes to burgeoning talent and the roster put together for the London Games is a reflection of that. The 22-year-old winger, who plays for Cruz Azul, first showed his worth in 2010 for the Mexican club when he played 60 games for them. He was part of the “B” team Mexico sent to the 2011 Copa America and represented his country at the Pan Am Games that same year, where he won a gold medal. His clever passing and pace make him dangerous on the flank and the sort of player that can add flair to any attack.
Potential team: Aquino on the wing with the likes of Marco Pappa and Chris Rolfe would make the Chicago Fire tough to beat.
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