Good day and welcome to our USMNT-Honduras preview for this Saturday.
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
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.
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
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:
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
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.
• 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.
• 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.
• Findley runs out the tunnel ahead of Cunningham.
Don’t see it, but stranger things have happend at the striker position against Honduras