Preview: Not Quite October 10th, But We’ll Take It

Good day and welcome to our USMNT-Honduras preview for this Saturday.

Coach USA congratulating the king before he assumed the throne four days later...

Beyond the visage of Jonathan Bornstein and Conor Casey taking the pitch for the home side Saturday, the match is nearly inverse in all ways to the nervous match that sent the States to the World Cup Finals later this year.

TSG will focus almost exclusively on the USMNT here in this preview as the side that Honduras is bringing is not immediately clear.

What we do know is that the first half should show some high quality competitive soccer, and the 2nd half as substitutions are introduced, might drop a notch in quality, but should be no less competitive.

Reviewing from last January, this game might aptly–and hopefully for one participant–be dubbed the Sacha Kljestan Sequel. As we’ve written over the past weeks, it was essentially Kljestan’s affair as the Chivas middle man, showcased his attacking arsenal through a free kick, pk and run-ons against Sweden to close January camp last year.

It’s no doubt in our mind that Kljestan will be again starting in the middle and, per his comments in our interview, hoping for a more of positive trending rise in his performance over the first quarters of 2010 rather than the flash-bang-goodbye he pulled last year.

Ever more compelling storylines as we delve into our customary preview.

As always, we’ll follow the following format:

TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
11 at the Whistle
*Disclaimers

TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”

» On the forefront of everyone’s mind: Robbie Findley v. Jeff Cunningham. Who’s got Charlie-In-A-Bottle?

Fans everywhere have been putting stock in capturing a lethal striking option ahead of 2010. It’s probably not going to happen.
The suddenness with which Charlie Davies changed the complexion of the front line is probably not going to be handed off like a baton to
either Cunningham (perhaps too slight) or Robbie Findley (perhaps too inexperienced).

(Note: I began writing this on Sunday and because of Dempsey’s injury my storyline changed.)

That being said, with the USMNT now having only two spots absolutely set set for South Africa and both of these being owned by more hulking frontliners in Big Jeezy and CC, the USMNT desperately needs a pacier forward like a Saviola, Del Piero or Defoe to provide a speed option up top if only to open up space for Lando or as a late game tactic against an opponents’ fatigued defense.

With Eddie Johnson over in Greece still a slight possibility (though not by this writer’s accounts) and Kenny Cooper still lurking (though not the definition of pace), this is the opening salvo of 2010 for Cunningham and Findley.

We witnessed some David and Goliath battles between these two in camp...

At stake is likely a trip to the Netherlands in March if either can deposit in the back of the wickets.

» Eyes on the central defense pairing for both 2010 and 2014.

TSG came away exceedingly impressed with Omar Gonzalez in camp practice. That being said, central defense is typically a spot where tactics and experience outweighs physical abilities, all things be equal. Flipping it again, TSG does feel that Gonzalez is a dark horse….certainly not experienced but with such a physical presence that he should be in consideration for the 23….this year.

Other players we’re looking at here are Clarence Goodson who is, at best, flying standby to South Africa at this point and Chad Marshall who will be evaluated primarily on his ability to contain speedy forwards as his balky knee makes its way back. TSG thinks the rest of Mr. Marshall’s game is rock solid as is his roster spot in June 2010.

» Back to the midfield, can Eddie Gaven impress the USMNT fan base?

Memo: Eddie Gaven is still just 23 precocious years old. Repeat, Eddie Gaven all of 23.

From the pitchtime that we saw, it was Gaven typically paired with Dax McCarty in the middle on the B-team. Something Gaven did really well from our observations was get up the pitch in the

Time to step up....

middle and be a striking factor from the middle for his side.

Gaven has grown into an an above-average MLS player and continental all-star, but the not the mega star that was forecasted when he came on the scene at all of 16 years. If Gaven is ever going to make the step up, now’s the time.

Will it get him to South Africa? He can probably still sniff out a boarding pass, but for a player that has been a casual contributor at best on the national scene, it’s time for him to do more to warrant continued looks.

» There’s an opening here for the wingfulls with experience: Heath Pearce and Marvell Wynne stand up and be counted.

As we mentioned in our practice recap, Heath Pearce did not show well in the ones we attended.

Pearce looked a little clumsy in first touch reception on tougher passes and had, what they call at the NFL combines, “tight hips”…meaning
he doesn’t turn quickly or fluidly. In a forward run in one scrimmage, Pearce challenged Geoff Cameron and despite making a move to beat him, was caught from behind; the two jostled and Cameron came away with the ball.

Marvell Wynne doesn’t get the press, but he was once solidly in Bradley’s flank rotation. Wynne, with injuries behind him and hopefully pitch maturity will need to show the goods.

Kevin Alston has battled some dings all camp and Bradon McDonald needs more time, young grasshopper.

» The pace, the moves, the 1-on-1 ability….any chance Alejandro Bedoya is the name we’re talking about after this one.

Not a lot of corner-rounding talent for the USMNT. Bedoya has it…the only question is he too young at 22 to put it altogether….quickly.

11 At the Whistle:

Summary:
Coach Bradley will go with the experience to start-out the game, in our opinion, and aggressively work in as many subs in the second half. You can be assured with HDC being the stomping grounds that Coach USA will have Kljestan in the eleven and likely bring in Gonzalez in the 2nd half and maybe even have Thornton make a cameo.

(Note: Check out TSG contributor Connor’s line-up in the first comment….he might have it more spot-on.)

G: Troy Perkins

The skinny: The new DC United keep is head and shoulders above Hartmann and Thornton and more polished than Rimando

How about a cameo for the HDC native?

DEF: Marvell Wynne, Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Bornstein

The skinny: Not sure about that right back slot, but I think you’ll see the rest follow suit. Alston’s been nursing a bum wheel for some of training and Wynne has experience. 2nd half cameos to be made by Brad Evans, Heath Pearce, and Omar Gonzalez among others.

MIDFIELD: Eddie Gaven, Sacha Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber, Robbie Rogers Taking Connor’s midfield here: Kljestan, Beckerman, Benny!, Rogers

The skinny: TSG wrestled with it’s best guesses here.

A tough selection process here in the midfield as experience tells us that Bob Bradley will do with the vets. One problem with this line-up? Kyle Beckerman’s ten caps comes in third behind Kljestan and Feilhaber in the middle and we just don’t see Bradley pushing Feilhaber outside for the scrimmage. Another issue? The aforementioned Gaven, was practicing in the middle in camp and plays internally for the Columbus. We’ll go out on a limb and suggest Bradley throws him outside and then slots in Dax for sure and likely Beckerman early in the 2nd frame.

STRIKE: Conor Casey, Jeff Cunningham
The skinny: Cunningham looked the part in camp, but Findley wasn’t a slouch. Justin Braun probably watches this one and Conor Casey needs the reps.

*Disclaimers

• A re-jiggered midfield of Kljestan, Rogers, Feilhaber and Beckerman

Feilhaber scoots out wide. Beckerman teams with Kljestan in the middle. Rogers continues on the flank.

Likelihood: 50%

• Any number of right back options get the nod: Cameron, Evans, even Brandon McDonald

Wynne based upon his prior experience and prior high level of play probably is your starter, but any of these guys would do just as capably.

Likelihood: 35%

Findley runs out the tunnel ahead of Cunningham.

Don’t see it, but stranger things have happend at the striker position against Honduras

Likelihood: 5%


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15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Evan on 2010/01/18 at 11:48 PM

    I would like to see Geoff Cameron get a good amount of playing time over someone like Clarence Goodson. It seems to me like Goodson is the kind of player who is a solid if unspectacular player with little upside; Bob Bradley should already know what he is getting from Clarence. However, Cameron seems like the kind of player who could really bust his way onto the scene this year and maybe earn a spot in the 23; he has more upside. When I watched them both in MLS, Goodson never really impressed me, now it has been a few years since he has played in MLS and thus a few years since I have seen him on a regular basis, but he seemed solid in the air with decent but not great speed (he is not by any means a slow player) but he seemed to struggle at reading the game at times and that is most likely why for his last few years, he was not a sure starter in the FC Dallas 11. Cameron meanwhile was robbed by Chad Marshall for defender of the year last year, Marshall playing in many fewer games while not being at his best form in even the games he participated in, that being said Marshall is still the better player for now, but isn’t finding the players with the best upside and giving them opportunities what this camp and these exhibitions are all about? I wasn’t there to see them in training but if Cameron looked anything like he did in the 2009 MLS season, he deserves a good and long look.

    Reply

  2. I’ll take a shot at this 11 at the whistle bit…I’d rather ofcourse see other guys playing but we all know Bradley Sr. has his faves so here are my 11:

    ———————–Perkins

    Wynne—–Marshall—–Goodson—–Pearce

    ———–Beckerman—–Feilhaber

    Kljestan————————————Rogers

    ———-Cunningham—–Casey

    Perkins is the easy call here, who backs him up will be interesting.

    A couple changes from the one you listed, but overall its the same. Pearce is the more experienced between he and Bornstein so he gets the nod. Alston is too young to start and has picked up a knock through camp so Wynne is the obvious choice. Marshall and Goodson get the nod over veteran Conrad and rookie Gonzalez. I expect Conrad to get at least a half though.

    Bradley likes some bite in his midfield and Kljestan and Feilhaber just don’t seem like the type to get in on some tackles. Which see’s me move Beckerman into the middle, paired with the attacking flair of Feilhaber. Kljestan, who flourished late in the season on the wing gets the nod on the right wide where he can cut inside and use his one v. one ability. Robbie Rogers gets the nod on the left. Cameron and Bedoya are two guys I really want to see get some significant minutes as well. Possible that Brad Davis gets some play on the left side as well. I’ve just never been impressed with Gaven at all whenever I’ve seen him play (which I have to admit, isn’t much). I don’t see him getting time though.

    Up top, the vets Cunningham and Casey get the nod with Robbie Findley able to come off the bench.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/19 at 6:28 AM

      Connor:

      Excellent line-up.

      I hadn’t considered Kljestan out wide…but I think the line-up makes more sense than the one that I threw out there….Bradley loves his vets.

      On another note….probably the player with the most skill able to pick up the slack and play a similar game to Deuce’s in South Africa….Sacha Kljestan.

      Fingers-triple-crossed…thanks for the addition to the piece.

      Reply

    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/01/19 at 8:24 PM

      I have all of my disagreements in the back. First of all I would love to see Pearce play again because I remember liking him more, but I’ve been lost in Bornstein. BB hasn’t really strayed away from Bornstein, so I don’t see him doing that here. In central defense, I’m a little puzzled on who BB might trot out there, but I think it should be Marshall & Cameron. Cameron provides the speedier back that I remember being discussed somewhere by TSG. I think Cameron can play central defense and start (from the guys at camp), but I’m going to repeat to not play him in midfield. Too often he finds room, and then forgets to pass, so I don’t even want to see it.

      Reply

  3. Tough column to write boys. Frankly the line up is full of “pick ‘ems” so trying to nail down Coach Sweatpants selections is admirable.

    I’d like to seek Findley get the starting run out for the Nats over Cunningham only because I feel like one is all about the future and the other all about the past (even though JC’s Nats past is short). If Findley needs experience this game is the perfect chance for him to get a solid, starting run out with a solid B-side to maybe make the plane to SA and not just as a baggage handler.

    If we’re going to find a true striking option for SA and our goal is to find that “lightning” Findley seems to have the most potential.

    Sidenote…. how much are we all hoping that Stu Holden was stateside for the January MLS camp so we could see him run Honduras ragged to allay our Dempsey fears?

    Now we’re on a flow of consciousness… why not Findley and Cunningham up top? Cunningham could play the larger, “target” forward and Findley “the Kid” could play the CD9 roll. I like that a lot better than watching Shrek (Lex Luthor? Trying to find an acceptable nickname to work into your list) up there.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/19 at 6:49 AM

      I think either way you’re going to have a big man in Altidore or Casey starting especially against England….so to me Dan…makes sense to run out only one….plus it’s like a starting 5 for a basketball team….if two new guys are added it’s hard to assimilate than one.

      Remember, collectively, Findley and Cunningham have had very little time with the national side.

      As for the Holden comment…I think most fans who watch are comfortable that he’ll be out their on the pitch as a starter…though he needs more seasoning.

      As I mentioned in Connor’s piece above…though a different game than Deuce….Kljestan is a different x-factor should CLint’s injury impede his World Cup….amazing that I am writing that.

      Reply

      • I see your point.

        My hope was the between the two “lighting in a bottle” candidates Honduras could be an ultimate face off on field to pair with Altidore against the Netherlands in March, especially since Duece is removed as an option for now.

        Altidore is our given size-guy… hoping someone can replace CD9 soon. Wishful thinking I suppose.

        Honestly… I’m worried that calling a Sacha an x-factor just proves what a sticky wicket we’re in with Deuce out for the time being.

        Reply

  4. Posted by Gino on 2010/01/19 at 11:19 AM

    Staying on topic, I think the main point of this camp and the friendly against Honduras is to find some role players and add some depth to the SA roster. Unless Cunningham or Findley step up and exceed expectations, it’s unlikely we’ll discover any new starters (like Stu Holden during the Gold Cup). I’d also like to see more of Cameron, especially as a backup at RB. With Spector getting more PT at LB at West Ham and Cherundolo’s experience at RB, that’s where we need more depth in the backline. Plus, Cameron is versatile enough to play several positions and that’s an invaluable intagible for a bench player. Back in the summer I thought Wynne would be the deputy at RB, but the Confed Cup showed he wasn’t ready and he didn’t seem to redeem himself the remainder of the MLS season.

    Reply

  5. This is the starting line-up I would choose:

    Perkins, Wynne, Bornstein, Marshall, Goodson, Kljestan, Feilhaber, Rogers, Beckerman, Tracy, Findley

    I want to see some of these players for at least 40 minutes:

    Gonzalez, McDonald, Bedoya, Cameron, Gaven, Larentowicz, McCarty, Braun

    Honestly I would prefer to see no familiar faces in this match, except maybe at goalkeeper, one of the center-half positions, and attacking midfield. The objective is to assess whether or not we truly have any depth, or if it’s all just wishful and we’d better hope no one gets hurt (D’oh! too late). It’s always nice to win one over an oldskool CONCACAF foe. But in this instance, both USA and Los Catrachos, would be better served by a tacit agreement of young and/or untried players only – for the starting eleven, and also for the substitutes bench.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Dylan on 2010/01/19 at 8:18 PM

    I want to see a Gonzalez get the start on Saturday. I really am starting to have high expectations for this kid. I’m kind of invisioning him as the replacement for Gooch,(not that I see Gooch’s run over,but in the next few years It’s a convo we will need to have.) I’d like him to be in some camps with Gooch once he’s back on the mend, I really wouldn’t mind Omar taking some of Boca’s minutes until he’s ready to become a full time starter.

    Reply

    • Posted by Dylan on 2010/01/19 at 8:31 PM

      Aw screw it. This is the line up that I would want out there.

      Perkins
      Wynne Marshall Gonzalez Bornstien
      Rogers Beckerman Klejstan Feilhaber

      Findley Cunningham

      I’d like to see them both strikers out there as a sort of an in game try out competition.

      Reply

  7. [...] For TSG’s full preview see: Not Quite October 10th, But We’ll Take It [...]

    Reply

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