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January U.S. camp may spur Crew SC/National Team renaissance

Columbus is spotlighting some national team quality talent.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The U.S. Men's National Team January camp is Major League Soccer players best bridge into the senior team. It's very good - if not unexpected - that Wil Trapp was called in. He's one of the brightest prospects that the U.S. has in midfield. He isn't the only Crew SC player that should get a look though. Several players have emerged in 2014 into serious candidates for the National Team under Gregg Berhalter's tutelage.

Steve Clark

The U.S. has always had strong goalkeeping and Steve Clark is another fine example. He was an unheralded PDL goalkeeper before jumping overseas. He bounced around England on trial before heading to Norway and landing with Hønefoss BK and sharpening his game. He decided to come back stateside in 2013 after his contract expired and Berhalter quickly moved to scoop up his rights in a trade with the Seattle Sounders.

A Michigan native, Clark settled in quickly. He started 34 games and was a finalist for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Like many American ‘keepers, Clark is a very good shot stopper, but also has great distribution skills and is good with his feet. Competition is fierce for time with the National Team, but at 28 he's only now entering his prime.

Ethan Finlay

Drafted in 2012, Ethan Finlay had struggled to adapt to life in MLS. He appeared in 34 games, but only made six starts and appeared to be pigeon holed as a super sub. Under the tutelage of coach Josh Wolff, Finlay broke through in a big way in 2014.

Finlay started the season on the bench, watching Crew SC dismantle D.C. and wouldn't get his first minutes until the third game of the year as a substitute. It would take until May 24th, the 12th game of the year for Finlay to get his first start. He'd start 21 of the remaining 23 games on his way to scoring 11 goals and seven assists. Finlay's excellent play eventually unseated injured starter Hector Jimenez and allowed Berhalter to trade Dominic Oduro to Toronto in June.

Finlay has always been fast, but his reading of the game has grown by leaps and bounds. He attributes this to the instruction from Coach Wolff and adapting to Berhalter's 4-2-3-1 system that gives the midfielders a lot of attacking flexibility. At 24, he's not a prospect anymore, but there is certainly enough time for him to make an impact on a team that can use more depth on the wings.

Tony Tchani

The tools were always there, but Tony Tchani never seemed capable of harnessing them. He finally did in 2014, setting career highs in starts, minutes, and assists. Tchani was picked by the New York Red Bulls as the 2nd pick in the 2010 draft. He lasted a season just over a season before being traded in to Toronto and then Columbus in quick succession in 2011. He struggled during Robert Warzycha's tenure, but like others on this list, blossomed under Berhalter.

Tchani's 2014 performance was everything that coaches and fans have expected out of him since leaving the University of Virginia. He was a physical presence in the middle of the field, often charged with neutralizing the other team's best midfield player. He showed off some excellent vision as he started sprinkling in long range passes into his game when teams tried to press Crew SC. He was a workhorse, starting 33 games in league play and only missing one due to suspension.

Tchani, at 25, is another player who took a little longer to develop, but he is an absolute force as a central midfielder. Few players combine his strength, skill, and fitness when it comes together. It all came together down the stretch. Tchani, a naturalized citizen since 2013, should get a chance to play for his adopted country.

After a fallow period during the abortive rebuilding of 2011, Crew SC could be home to several U.S. internationals. The Berhalter appears to feature some American stars.