We had such a good time with our poll yesterday, that we thought we’d come back to the same format today.
Results from yesterday? (As of 10:30 PST, November 10th), 56% of TSG readers do not want Sacha Kljestan, based on his on-field behavior not necessarily his ability, to represent the USMNT.
Today, we have a decidedly more upbeat, airy poll for you, prodded on by TSG reader Dylan’s comments in our preview piece.
TSG has already illuminated possible stand-ins for Charlie Davies. And we’re also keen to see an in-form Robbie Findley post the MLS playoffs.
This week’s Slovakia camp will give Coach USA a chance to, at least preliminarily, evaluate Eddie Johnson and Jeff Cunningham and how they interact and play within the team. The game on Saturday may give one or both strikers the opportunity to show Bradley just how they compete versus a somewhat formidable international side.
Who are you most excited to witness and why?
Per Dylan’s comments–being that he was probably born when I was already in high school–he has not seen a ton of Eddie Johnson before. When he mentioned that this morning, I remember thinking one thing: how every message board, blog, text message and more lit up like 5th Avenue during World Cup 2006 that Eddie Johnson would be somewhat of savior should Bruce Arena throw him out there against the likes of the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana.
A somewhat difficult and insurmountable situation for the Florida-born Johnson who was all of 22 at the time. EJ finally did make a late cameo against Ghana.
So here is a tale of the tape. Vote and add your commentary.
Summary: The 33-year-old, 5’8” striker tallied an astounding 17 goals in 28 appearances in 2009, for an absolutely ludicrous goals to appearance ratio of 60%. Wait, I’ll make that stat more impressive for you.
» Cunningham only started 23 of those games. Yowzers!
» Cunningham was not the de facto penalty kicker taker, nor especially proficient I might add. The PK responsibility fell to Kenny Cooper who went 2-for-2. Upon Cooper shipping overseas, Cunningham took 3, but only made 1
To put that goals to appearances stat in perspective, Fernando Torres for Liverpool was 72% in his killer 2007-2008 EPL campaign and 58% last year for the Reds.
The much traveled Cunningham can be considered a poor man’s Jermain Defoe, quick enough to squirt and dart between defenders for goals on the run. Where he falls short of Defoe (who has bulked up even more this year) is on-the-ball strength, will the strong and able defenders who will be like weeds in South Africa (like a Glen Johnson on the wing or a Chiellini in the middle) be able to knock him off the ball? Cunningham goes about 165-170lbs.
While Cunningham is producing right now, he’s failed to do so for the USMNT (except by me in FIFA ’06 but I digress…he has just a wicked speed rating in that game) accounting for 0 goals in 10 appearances with his last cap coming in 2005 (I think, check me on that one).
Questions of attitude and commitment also dog Cunningham.
Summary: The 25-year-old EJ just crosses the 6’0 ft mark. Having recently been recalled to the Fulham mother ship, EJ is spending more time on the pitch in the reserves rather than on Saturdays at Craven Cottage. As we mentioned above, EJ was looked on as sort of an offensive knight in shinguards for the 2006 World Cup as Ba-Ba-Booey Arena (sorry the nickname is sticking…at least temporarily) continually trotted out 4-5-1
formations that left Brian McBride to fend for himself. But I digress.
EJ’s career started off with a bang sonic boom as the youngster detonated on the scene at the World Youth Series for the USMNT becoming the tournament’s top goal scorer despite the US being knocked out in the quarters by Argentina.
From there it was on to the senior side, where Johnson’s early games bear a mirror-like resemblance to Jozy’s, including a hat-trick in World Cup qualification. EJ is still one of the goal scoring leaders for the USMNT in World Cup qualification.
On the club side, after a series of injuries, failed attempts to get over to Europe and uneven club and country play, EJ found himself at Fulham in 2008. Since that time he’s been loaned to Cardiff City and recalled and struggled to be achieve a consistent place in Fulham’s starting 18, battling the likes of Eric Nevland and Diomansy Kamara for the right to deputize for Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora. EJ has typically found himself 5th in that pecking order.
As for Eddie on the pitch, pace is something that EJ does when he is resting. Just like MLB announcer Tim McCarver might describe a pitcher’s fastball as having “pop” or “looking faster as it gets to the plate,” so is EJ’s deceptive speed as balls that seem out of range or an easy win for the defender are rendered fair game. What I like about Johnson’s game is his ability to finish off the dribble or pull-up and drive a laser shot. That skill cannot be taught.
The knock on EJ beyond his past three years of falling production? I’ll answer with commentary from TSG reader “Berg” who contributed this in our preview piece:
“I’m excited to see if he’s changed at all over the last 2 years. He’s got some wheels but what I remember about him is that he, A) needed a ball to be almost perfectly played to him in order to do something with it and B) Looked disinterested in the game if he felt he wasn’t involved enough. He basically had to get some chances in the first 15 minutes in order to stay in the game mentally.”
I’ll add that I hope Johnson has learned to challenge the offsides line smarter (I can’t count the times that I remember EJ taking off either too early and earning a flag or too late and the goalie eating the ball) and show a general better feel for the game–which I think echoes Berg’s comments of “disinterest” above.
So, you make the call. Simply, who are you more excited to see and why?