Tampa Play: Thirteen Still In Contention?

Nearing decision time....

Good morning….welcome to our El Salvador – USA preview

We’re less than 110 days to World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

I had this exchange with Soccer Mom on Sunday.

Matthew: “Mom, you watching the US play this week?”

Mom: “When are they playing? I have to make sure it doesn’t interrupt my Olympics.”

Matthew: “Wednesday, 7pm your time.”

Mom: “Ok. Who are they playing? Are they any good? Is that Landon playing?”

Any of you guys want an all expenses paid trip to South Africa?

Matthew: “El Salvador…they’re ok, not great…not going to the World Cup….and the US is bringing a “B” team so to speak.”

Mom: “Well, why would I watch it? Should I still watch it Matthew?”

Well, Mom, everyone…here’s why:

There are no fewer than 8 players in this February 24th squad that are in consideration for the roster for WC 2010 and possibly as many as thirteen in the discussion.

The short list: Jonathan Bornstein, Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Robbie Rogers, Brian Ching, Conor Casey, Jeff Cunningham, Robbie Findley

The long list includes: Sacha Kljestan, Kyle Beckerman, Troy Perkins, and stretching it here, Heath Pearce and Chris Pontius.

This is a big game…for them all.

Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco are out of that discussion already as they’re not traveling.

Without further adu, we jump into our preview with all eyes on the World Cup baker’s dozen.

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”

Called back to camp...and not for the sake of the fans....

» Getting close to closing time: Who’s going? Goodson or Marshall…

After a series of injuries and an uneven game against Honduras, Chad Marshall has left the door wide open in competition for the true centerback back-up spot in South Africa. Sure both Boca (if DeMerit starts) and Spector can fill in, but the USMNT is going to need a true center back back-up and these two are the States best prospects with Jimmy Conrad likely dealt out of the picture.

Goodson has possessed a penchant to win headers, but also fall asleep in positioning on defense. Marshall is tying to return to the form that made him a candidate for some senior team starting time way back in September.

Key match-up here.

» Is Kyle Beckerman, beyond Sacha Kljestan, in play for a World Cup roster spot?

Incredulous a few months ago.

Quick, name a back-up ball-winning tackler who’s to Rico Clark. You could go with Maurice Edu…only he’s started two club games in the last eight months. Can’t go with Jermaine Jones.

Situation: The USMNT is up 2-0 in the 78th minute against England and Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley are both gased….who do you bring off the bench to provide defense?

That’s right USMNT folks, Kyle Beckerman may bethisclose–well actually t h i s c l os e–to being in consideration for a plane ticket to South Africa. We’re not in that court, but remember Bob Bradley + MLS = Every possibility.

Oh, and you heard it here first: If healthy and fit, might Stu Holden get the nod in the middle against Netherlands on the 3rd? Possible? We think so.

Casey: "I'm telling you man...that's the plane..right there...and I'm on it"

» The Striker Spot?

We don’t need to add anymore here. Each USMNT game brings promise, disappointment, a shot at improvement an hope.

_____

» Who’s our sleeper? The guy who goes starting line-up or makes a move in the pecking order?

We’re cheating. We go 66% Chris Pontius, 33% Geoff Cameron. Yours?

11 At the Whistle:

G: Troy Perkins

The skinny: Troy Perkins has the 4th keeper spot locked up — one problem…Team USA is only taking three. After shaky performances lately by Guzan an Hahnemann in the EPL, coupled with daily sessions with Bradley’s staff, does Perkins have a shot?

DEF: Jonathan Bornstein, Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Geoff Cameron

The skinny: The first three from the left are set (Borny, Marshall and Goody), the right side? More of a problem. I’m hard pressed to see Marvell Wynne back in there after he showed he just wasn’t ready against the Honduras junior varsity squad.

I’m going to put Cameron in that position. He’s likely played a lot of right half in camp–we havent been able to attend as we said–but I think he’s got a shot there.

MID: Brad Davis, Kyle Beckerman, Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers

The skinny: I wanted to stick Dax in here, I really did. If Kljestan slides out wide, I think you’ll see it.

However with the USMNT central midfield in some disarray right now, I would be getting as many observations as possible on the 2010 form of one Mr. Sacha “Victoria’s Secret” Kljestan.

I’ve liked everything I’ve seen lately about Brad Davis and he seems a player somewhat in the mold of Stu Holden…decent ability to get up the pitch and create a little offense, engine to get back and play hardcore defense.

No, No Findley...you're competing for the other cup....

STR: Brian Ching, Robbie Findley

The skinny: Hard to predict here.

TSG is going with Brian Ching, fresh off his long vacation…can we hold up the ball?

We’re also going with Robbie Findley who’s had a few more weeks of direction from Coach Bob and now needs to show he can get it done against a squad that didn’t make the World Cup he’s angling for.

We’re going to mention this next point a few times over the next months. The USMNT is going to face some study defenders from the likes of England, Slovenia, Algeria and possibly Serbia. They’re going to need some sturdy attackers, like Ching, Findley and Casey…where does that leave JC?

Disclaimers

• Dax hubs the middle, Kljestan out wide, Rogers goes lefty and Brad Evans to the pine

Likelihood: 50%

• A striker combination different than the one above

Like we said, difficult to predict here. I think in respect to Cunningham, if he’s still in play, than you need to see him against the Netherlands for sure. That observation will make the difference

Likelihood: 75%

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29 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/22 at 6:26 AM

    The 9% in the defender poll above is going to about 10 Omar Gonzalez votes….

    Reply

  2. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/02/22 at 6:29 AM

    The El Salvador game has me feeling a bit flat, to be honest. If I weren’t going, I’d be even more blah. Maybe it’s just all this damn snow we have.

    I think Marshall has more experience than Goodson does, but he’s made some baffling errors. I think he’s a better player overall than Goodson, but he’s played VERY unevenly recently. The last three months before WC selection is not a good time to be playing unevenly.

    If you ask me (which Bob Bradley somewhat mystifyingly never does) I think Beckerman has moved well beyond Kljestan. He’s the kind of no-nonsense player who can fit in and be useful any time. He puts his head down and plays, no matter how big the occasion. He reminds me a lot of Frankie in that regard.

    Ching is more polished than Casey, although he gets almost no credit for what he brings to the table. When Casey is on, which doesn’t happen a lot, he really shows what a bit man up top can do. I could live with either one in the big man role.

    I’ve changed my mind recently about the 3rd GK spot. I’m a big Perkins fan, but I think Hahnemann gets the third roster spot. He’s had more match experience recently, and is pretty stoic and unflappable in his outlook. That’s a lot of what a veteran 3rd GK’s role is.

    I’d love to see Geoff Cameron get a real shot, but it might be too late for this cycle. Ditto for Pontius and McCarty. I don’t see Evans making the cut at all. (I also wouldn’t be upset to see Kljestan not make the roster, but I suspect Bob takes him anyway.)

    Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/22 at 6:43 AM

    I think about Kyle Beckerman–who himself might be inline for a start in the Netherlands incredulously–
    is that he is rarely rarely out of position and he’s an assured tackler…he doesn’t generate any offense as we know though.

    I’d like to Cameron get a shot at right back…to me he’s not a middie…he’s a little bit too lumbering for that role at the nattie or higher club level.

    I think with Altidore’s slightly change in form and the fact that you are going to haven him in their for the bulk of the game, that Ching is more complementary to Casey right now…but this battle is going down to the wire as well….

    Ask yourself this, “If you cancel out the Honduras game, what has Conor Casey shown through the past 6 months….(even at the MLS level)?

    Reply

  4. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/02/22 at 6:49 AM

    Agree re; Cameron. RB is the only spot on the field where I could see him being useful.

    Although Casey is raw, I don’t think it’s fair to ask that you completely cancel out his best game when you evaluate him. That game showed what he’s capable of, even though we all know he hasn’t hit that level since.

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying about Ching vs. Casey. If you mean that Ching complements Altidore more than Casey does, I’d agree, although some of that just comes from the adaptability born of experience.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/22 at 6:50 AM

      What you said Matt: I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying about Ching vs. Casey. If you mean that Ching complements Altidore more than Casey does, I’d agree, although some of that just comes from the adaptability born of experience.

      Reply

      • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/02/22 at 7:29 AM

        Thanks.

        Maybe it’s just me, but things feel a bit unsettled to me right now. Maybe I’m just forgetting, but I seem to recall being a little more settled in previous WC cycles this close to the tournament. I guess I can take it as a positive – there are more viable options, so the selection process takes longer.

        I’m hoping that I feel better about our second-line players after the game on Wednesday.

        Reply

        • Posted by Matt B on 2010/02/22 at 8:29 AM

          It doesn’t bother me too much that things are this unsettled. The one time I remember the roster being set early was in 2006, and it seems like that made a lot of players complacent. Even Ching said so in the interview from last week. Also, most of the question marks are at the bottom of the roster. We more or less know the top 15 players or so, and the questions of who starts out of that group are based on tactics and splitting hairs between relatively even players. Of course the injuries are making things more difficult, and that does have me concerned, even if most guys are making good progress.

          Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/22 at 2:29 PM

          It’s great to have a ‘settled’ squad etc, but it’s never going to do any harm in taking a look at a few players to see if they can step up to international football. Plus, it’s not like Bradley is using the Netherlands game for this – this is a bonus for the US-based players to perhaps stand out. Also, all it takes is for an injury and then things are up in the air. I personally see no downside to this friendly.

          Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/22 at 2:39 PM

          What I mean is, these players know that there maybe one or two spots up for grabs – will they show Bradley that they have brass balls and take their chance or will they bottle it? Obviously, we cannot recreate the pressure a WC game has, but there is a different type of pressure than the MLS…

          My origianl comment is misleading – now is not the time to be figuring out ‘if they can step up to international football’…

          Reply

        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/02/23 at 6:12 PM

          It may seem strange to you, but I take it as a positive. When the rosters are not being contested and everyone’s pretty comfortable where they are, no one gets better… the team doesn’t get better. Having people fighting for roster spots like Findley is great and it may seem like we are unsettled, but is any team really so far ahead that they’re roster is already set?

          Reply

    • I’ll respectfully disagree on Cameron. He’s a lot quicker than he gets credit for and has played in the midfield his entire career except for last season for the Dynamo. Dom Kinnear says his best position for the Nats would be on the wing…I’ll take his word for it :)

      As far as Ching v Casey I’m a bit torn. Casey seems to be the more effective when he’s effective but he’s either en fuego or he disappears, there’s no inbetween. Ching puts in a good hard working shift and is guaranteed to work his butt off, draw fouls, and wear defenders down along with bagging the occasional goal. Given the nature of World Cup play and the mutli-game tournament situation I’d go Ching.

      Reply

      • Posted by Kevin on 2010/02/23 at 6:18 PM

        Seeing as though I’ve agreed on everything Dom says/does (except for about 2 things), I really don’t second guess him often. Here, however, I disagree. Cameron is plenty capable on the wing, but I don’t think he’s nat capable. His play is too simplistic to play out there in my opinion.

        Reply

    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/02/23 at 6:09 PM

      I disagree with you on Cameron. In Houston he plays as a Center-Back, and although he seems a little skinny for that internationally, It’s normally a good idea to only have one real big guy in the back who is accompanied by a faster guy. I don’t see why he can’t get a shot there.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Freegle on 2010/02/22 at 7:47 AM

    Aren’t we overstating a bit what we can learn from this game? After all, it is El Salvador. Very little of what we are able to accomplish in this game translates to the level of a World Cup.

    matthew f, you have 8 of these players ON the roster for WC 2010? That leaves only 12 spots left field players (when you add in the GK). I hope you are eliminating players who is out injured right now. Otherwise, I can’t fathom more than 3 of these players making the final 23 (and only Bornstein making the 18 because he’s BBs favorite)

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/22 at 8:52 AM

      @freegle:

      In a strictly numbers sense, there are 4 friendlies currently scheduled and one already played in 2010…that’s 20% value for each one.

      Coach Bradley is likely not evaluating someone’s overall portfolio or candidacy, he’s looking for things like, “Are they doing what the coaching staff asked?” or “Have they mastered that skill we worked on in camp?” Those are important things.

      I doubt you, I or BB don’t have a near 90% idea of a player’s shot.

      On the numbers around the roster. Many of these players are competing for the same spot. Kljestan, Beckerman, and maybe even Rogers are on the radar for that final midfield spot.

      Up top, Casey, Ching, Findley, Cunningham are all fighting for one, maybe two spots.

      On Cunningham by the way, many folks are writing him off. I doubt BB calls a 34-year-old into a February camp if he doesn’t have a legitimate shot.

      Reply

      • Posted by Freegle on 2010/02/22 at 10:20 AM

        Fair enough, sounds like you consider each of them on the radar for the world cup, but not necessarily on the roster for the WC 2010 as stated above. I completely agree that they each have a shot depending on need, health, and BB’s whims (perhaps the most unpredictable factor). But there’s no way all 8 are on the plane.

        Thanks

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/22 at 10:45 AM

          @Freegle — terrible typo — fixed — thanks for pointing out. My apologies.

          Reply

        • Posted by CJ on 2010/02/22 at 11:32 AM

          @Matthews:

          I dread watching the “B” team play. It’s like watching paint dry. They don’t have any swag or flow on the field. Moreover, it seems like every other “B” team or next best class opponent is able to do whatever it wants, it’s depressing/frustrating to watch.

          I’ll be looking for two things if I catch the game… 1st are any of these fringe players showing they’re better than others on the field, like Landon with his club and the missed passes that were mentioned in another recent post, and also TEAM COHESION. Do the individuals look to work as a team to develop play or are they simply going to run around like it’s a pickup game.

          To hammer it home, I’ve never seen World Class play from our “B” team. What do you think?

          Reply

        • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/02/22 at 11:58 AM

          Yeah, this is why I’m feeling a little blah about this. I’m not expecting a lot. I’m traveling to the game because I get a special buzz from seeing the national team and because this is a WC year. I think I’ll see the best play from the players who have been given reason to believe that this game will determine their spot on the roster, but the rest are, to use a perfect English phrase, make-weights.

          I expect we’ll beat ELS, but it’ll be a close.

          The real fun begins in Amsterdam.

          Reply

  6. Posted by Jason Jordan on 2010/02/22 at 8:37 AM

    I was hoping that Bob would use this time to really give other players a shot, yet he continues to relatively play the same players…I hope Cunningham and Findlay can find their first touch in these warm-up games because Casey is the Duke of the team…great in MLS and sub-par in the limelight of the USMNT!

    Reply

  7. Posted by Dan on 2010/02/22 at 10:14 AM

    @ Beckerkljestan dilemma:

    Maybe Daniel Williams gets a look? I’d love to cap-tie a guy who’s picking up more and more starts in the Bundesliga. Young, too.

    http://yanks-abroad.com/get.php?mode=content&id=5813

    Reply

  8. Posted by i like tuesday on 2010/02/22 at 1:21 PM

    Beckerman is the homeless man’s Gattusso.

    Klejstan plays like he’s wearing Victoria’s Secret.

    Bob Bradley will ensure this friendly is another entirely pointless exercise and look on bemused as yet another repetition still produces the same poor results.

    Reply

  9. Posted by i like tuesday on 2010/02/22 at 1:25 PM

    Considering Bob will bring one of them, I’m almost looking forward to Brian Ching getting another look after Conor Casey’s blazing recent form. That said, they’ll probably start together up front to ensure we learn as little as possible.

    Reply

  10. Posted by i like tuesday on 2010/02/22 at 1:41 PM

    I think the real point of these camps is to maintain the fringe MLS players fitness levels through the off-season just in case they are needed at the World Cup. I don’t even think we’re seeing “auditions”. I think Bradley already knows which players he’s comfortable with bringing in various contingencies and there won’t be any pleasant surprises.

    Reply

  11. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/22 at 8:24 PM

    A few people requested Jimmy C as the back-up in South Africa…he’s out of this camp with that Red Card Flu….

    Reply

  12. Posted by Kevin on 2010/02/23 at 6:36 PM

    Davis remind you of Stu? I guess it’s official… you can’t go wrong with Houston players. XD I’m just kidding. Funny though because there always seems to be three people in nat team talks that play for Houston. Cameron, Ching, Davis… and older… Rico, Stu, Ching.

    Being a little more serious now, I hope that up top BB goes with Ching & Findley. In the midfield, I’m thinking, Rogers on right Bedoya on left, possibly Cameron in Defensive Mid. I could see that. Otherwise McCarty as defensive mid (tell me if I’m wrong there). Davis attacking mid? The midfield needs a lot of tweaking in my opinion In defense, I want Marshall, Goodson, Pearce on left, and Cameron on right. The midfield is the most unpredictable.

    Reply

  13. […] For TSG’s full preview see: Tampa Play: Thirteen Still In Contention […]

    Reply

  14. Posted by Gino on 2010/02/24 at 1:11 PM

    I’d love to see Cameron at RB for no other reason than that we have very little depth there. I’ve always rooted for Wynne’s success but his performances have been disappointing. I think Marshall and Goodson are neck and neck right now. Tonight’s game and maybe a Holland appearance could break the tie. My preference is Marshall but I’d have no problem with Goodson if he proves he’s the better man. As for Beckerman, I think he’s gonna have to play out of his head because I still rate Edu ahead of him.

    Reply

  15. […] The more significant story for the USMNT is whose performance got them one step closer to packing their US Soccer duffel for South Africa. Of the 13 World Cup hopefuls Matthew mentioned in the preview… […]

    Reply

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