Oh wow…now we’re gunning for a 3rd installment of “Who’s Getting a Boarding Pass for South Africa?” And likely, our final one. Many of you are nodding your heads in affirmation.
Yes, we’re pressing our luck….much like we did when we recently asked the USSF if Bob Bradley had earned incentive compensation in fiscal 2009….didn’t go that well, we didn’t get an answer.
But that’s what we do….take it on the chin..and beat jokes to death until our readers head over to ESPN or something for a tutorial on using Brad Evans as the hub in the 4-5-1.
Here is the March installment as we’re beyond the delays created by that big old friendly up in Amsterdam. Who can stretch their legs? And who’s now waiting hopefully in the boarding area at Gate 2010.
Bob Bradley: Blue sweatpants? Check. Red Sweatpants? Check. Um, blue sweatpants? Check. Navy sweatpants? Check.
“Hon….I’m ready…can you bring me and Junior to the airport?”
Tim Howard: It’s always, “Brad Friedel this…” “Brad Friedel that…” “Brad Friedel has a better contract…” “Brad Friedel has a shinier dome.” “Brad Friedel lives in a castle…oh no, whoops that was Kasey Keller.”
“I shut down Spain!”
“I shut down Spain!”
(Psst…Howard’s not the only one irked by all the Friedel media coverage)
Landon Donovan: Landon stows his carry-on above him and whips out a device that looks something like a cross between an iPhone and a Garvin GPS.
Mikey B: “What’s that? Is that a…a..gameboy?”
Donovan: “Nah, check it out…it’s a kickometer (kik-ŏm-m’ĭ-tər)….Beckham gave it to me.”
Mikey B: “What’s it used for?”
Landon: “Allows you to zero in your set pieces to precisely where you want them to go…how do you think I knocked ‘em onto Fellaini’s fro, Cahill’s noggin and Saha’s brillo every time.”
Rico: “Cool! Let me see it.”
Landon: “No, you’ll break it.”
Stu: “Can I see it?”
Landon: “Sure, no problem.”
Landon muttering under his breath, “Let Kljestan borrow it once, cost me $2000 to fix it.”
Michael Bradley: For the better or the worse, much of the US success in Cupville depends on Coach USA and Junior.
(Editor’s note: It’s hard not to be thoroughly impressed with the composure of Altidore. This is a young man who in the last year has had to switch leagues and cultures, watch as his good friend and strike partner battled a life-threatening accident and experience his native land ravaged by natural disaster. I’m not sure I can put all of those three in perspective enough as a lay person or as a writer. Oh and in his spare time, he’s come of age as an impact player and is now indispensable to the USMNT. And we all know how old he is. If you haven’t given to Haiti relief…..)
Big Jeezy arrives and his entourage tries to board the plane with him. US Soccer coordinator Michael Kammarman barks them back…literally.
Jeezy is sporting a Jolazo t-shirt with 15 soccer ball stickers on the right sleeve, leading to this exchange:
Clint: “Hey Jeezy, what’s with the scratch-and-sniff soccer balls taped to your shirt?”
Jozy, “Funny, Deuce. Funny. What the heck is a Cottager anyway?”
Clint: “No idea. Seriously, what’s with the soccer balls?”
Jozy: “Well I never went to college, but I always saw all those football guys at Ohio State and The U with the stickers for the touchdowns or interceptions or whatever on their helmets. So I decided I’m going to do that on my jerseys and shirts for goals, assists, and penalties drawn.”
Clint: “We should have Timmy add’em for each goal he’s given up…”
Timmy: “Whatever man….I’ve got the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue over here. That joke’s going to stick.”
Clint Dempsey:….is checking all the seat backs and attendant’s galleys for copies of Sports Illustrated.
Jay DeMerit: DeMerit shuffles in carrying a…a…King James Bible? Oh, no…oops, that’s just the Book on Wayne Rooney….
… increases energy and runs after the 65th minute, apply dead leg when tackling….
….hitches in from the left, when Ashley Cole overlaps…(don’t think I have to worry about that one..)
DeMerit calls to Lando, “Hey Lando, don’t have to take notes on “Chapter 11 – Interplay with Ashley Cole” now…thanks man.”
Landon, “He called me ‘Cakes…nobody calls me Cakes. By the way, who’s writing your story man….from man with a sack out of Wisconsin to the World Cup defender that shut down one of the top players in the world. Can’t wait for that.”
Oguchi Onyewu: …reaches into his pocket…it’s a tattered photo of the moment (left). Ghana, 2006.
Gooch, out loud to no one, “I know you guys know it wasn’t a foul, but I’m going to make it up for it and then some this year. Mark my words.”
We believe you Gooch.
Carlos Bocanegra: Wants to let The Shin Guardian know that he’s playing nearly every game now, but some of our concerns are valid. Plus he also wants to know, “Who else does the USMNT have at leftback? Eddie Lewis?” Pipe down TSG.
Jonathan Spector: Specs, with a tough one Saturday against Bolton, is talking to USSF security, something about “Illunga…lead pipe….last guy usually in the lockeroom….but remember whatever you do, don’t hurt Robert Green, the US team needs him.”
Oh, no, I don’t like where this is heading…
Stu Holden‘s arms are tired….from diligently and copiously collecting apples for Owen Coyle’s desk….(on crutches, 03/03)
TSG would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Stu for not being there for his shin in the Netherlands. We are working diligently on a new brand of fib protectors that will be impenetrable by DeJong or Taylor or anyone else for that matter.
Steve Cherundolo: Hey, you, yes you American “soccer fan” reading this pathetic excuse for a feature piece. I haven’t slept with anyone’s wife.
I’ve got better fundamentals than the Neville sisters.
I’ve got a sh*tload more experience than that Danny Williams flash-in-the-pan on the right side. I’m the vice captain of Hannover and I’ve been doing it since freaking 1999 for Team USA.
Got it ‘Dolo.
Ricardo Clark: Poor guy reverse-hexed himself by going to spy on Jermaine Jones…now he’s spent time on the shelf…and TSG created the Match Fit Index upon his injury.
Benny Feilhaber: Benny’s had his fair share of the wrong side of 50/50 tackles, but he’s tougher in the hole than you think.
Bum ankle, be damned.
Clarence Goodson: Hey Chad, I go up against quality strikers like Pape Pate Diof, Daniel Nannsogg and Rade Prica….you?
(Look TSG readers, I don’t know those guys either but they’re better than Freddie Montero and Jeff Cunningham, I can assure you that.)
Maurice Edu: We haven’t seen a major comeback this strong since John Travolta stopped going baby voice on us and started buying $5 milkshakes.
Well played in Amsterdam, Mr. Twitter.
Marcus Hahnemann: “Hey Guz…you and I are now in the same row….cool beans! Guz?”
Brad Guzan: The Guz has been conspicuously absent from 24A for about 30 minutes now…leading to the following:
A flight attendant leans over to Clarence Goodson, “Hey you know where the bald guy went? We’re about to start taxi-ing.”
Goodson: “You know I think he went to the back of the plane about 30 minutes ago?”
Attendant: “Can you help me find him?”
Goodson and the attendant start combing over the seats and hollering Guz’s name…they arrive at the lavatory and it’s cracked open just enough to peak in and they hear….
Goodson to the flight attendant, “Uh, mam, you’re on your own here.”
Jonathan Bornstein: Why am I back in Coach?
Hey Borny, we still got your back, but with that mayday move you pulled up north you broke our hearts.
You’re lucky you’re still in Coach buddy.
DaMarcus Beasley: “How does this happen?! The next to last row in the plane! I was on the cover of Sport Illustrated in 2006!”
TSG: “….yeah and so was Bobby Convey….how does that happen?!”
Alejandro Bedoya: Something told me “Santiago Munez” was going to stick…just like Bedoya is in our Coach class.
This is just so good and so bad at the same time. (SorryAlejandro…we haven’t even met you in person yet….but score one for the Tynesiders for TSG, okay?)
Brian Ching: Ching adopts his new identity as The Big Aloha…and his entire game has changed for the better…that’s what an interview with The Shin Guardian does for you.
Heath Pearce: Like a bat out of hell….of course Pearce’s chances were helped by moving back to MLS and Jonathan Bornstein’s reach-and-grab job.
Conor Casey (23a): Okay, TSG, I get it, Mr. Clean, hardy-har-har.
C’mon, does it look like I’ll clean floors. What about something tough and cool, like Thing! You know from the Fantastic Four. (right)
TSG whispering, “….well now we understand your first touch.”
Casey: “What?” … TSG: “Nothing…didn’t say nothing.”
Charlie Davies (23b): Checklist: 4 pounds duct tape, 2 quarts crazy glue, 25,000 sutures, 1 gigantic heart.
You’ve got the last seat Mr. Davies….enjoy the flight. Welcome back. You’re number 23b currently…but once you step on that pitch….lookout Conor Casey, lookout Brian Ching, lookout England…hopefully.
Sacha Kljestan: Listen, we’re backing Sacha Kljestan for that 23rd spot and then some. This is a man that scored the last had trick for the US in a friendly in who knows how long. And then he knocked in that stunner of a game winner against El Salvador a few weeks ago. He’s got phenomenal free kicks…and he was once on the radar at Celtic. Pure money…Really?! Yes, really.
I mean check out this highlight reel from killer video group (if you don’t know about these guys, you should) 723Football Films profiling all of Kljestan’s 4 strikes for the USMNT.
(Editor’s note: Sacha, something we are fond of saying….”act as if.” When you score a goal against a disinterested El Salvador squad, but you fail to coalesce with your teammates on the pitch and instead run over and celebrate wildly in front of your coach like you scored the game-tying goal against Brazil, it doesn’t say, “I’m the man!” It screams, “I don’t belong.” Act as if, a netter against El Salvador should be business as usual for y0u.)
(723 Football Films on YouTube for your free time.)
Jose Francisco Torres: Little man Torres, played a little porous, while manning the middle in Amsterdam.
When along came Bedoya, and Edu the Destroya, who both get the call for Uncle Sam.
Robbie Rogers: You are wonderful. Thank you. I’ve worked had to become so. I admit it, you are better than I am. Then why are you smiling? Because I know something you don’t know. And what is that? I….am not left-footed! (3:30 mark)
Will the world ever know?
Robbie Findley: Sort of like Tom Hanks in Big.
Jermaine Jones: I am not who you think I am.
Eddie Johnson: EJ’s come all the way to Chicago to plead his case for a spot in the 23.
Sorber: “Eddie, I’ve seen that tape before…it’s from 2005 or something. At least put it on DVD and doctor the jerseys or something.”
Chad Marshall: Tossed out of February’s plane by Mikey Bradley? Goodson has mopped him up big time.
Jeff Cunningham: Cunningham, your tribe has spoken. Your flame has been extinguished. It’s time to go.
Jimmy Conrad: It’s actually not his form, it’s the wear-and-tear of CBA negotiations. Keep it up Jimmy.
Chris Rolfe: Way too little, too late….but…on second thought…why not another shot with the data on Findley and Cunningham?
Kyle Beckerman: You will not find a more deserving player and leader who is just a shade below what’s necessary. Dale Murphy didn’t get into the baseball hall of fame, still hell of a valuable player.
Kenny Cooper: So you’re saying there’s a chance….
Troy Perkins: I’m back in MLS too, doesn’t it help my chances? Sure does Troy…but not enough.
Eric Lichaj: Danny Williams? Heath Pearce? I’m one injury from at least the 18 of Aston Villa.
Edgar Castillo: Remember me? Um, no, …actually no we don’t.
Frank Simek: Someone call my name? No, no Frank, we didn’t.
Gale Agbossoumonde: Uh, hello starting for Braga over here. Hey Bob…Marvell who?! By the way, if anyone wants a Freddy Adu Belenenses jersey, they’re like 2 for $3. Just email me at NotAdu@PortugeseLiga.com.
Freddy Adu: TSG recently had this exchange with our Arsenal expert, Chris.
Lead-in….we were talking about US proclivity on set kicks….
Chris: Isn’t Mr. Greece Freddy Adu pretty legit on set pieces – if we’re talking about set pieces?
Chris: I’m not advocating Adu, I’ve just seen him bend some free kicks in the past.
Me: True, but that’s only because you are grew up in DC. I didn’t get to see many of his junior high school games.
Thanks you. Thank you.
Jesse Bignami (USMNT Equipment Manager): Did Nike bother to contact me and get my input on the sash? Do I get my assistants to wash the tops with colors or whites? What if that stripe turns blue or…(gasp)…pink? We’re not Palermo for crissakes…
I’ve got more important things to worry about Nike…like making sure all your different cleat types work on the field, Mr. Phil Knight. C’mon.
Anton Peterlin: No, no, no….I’m just in the airport taking a commercial flight to watch…but if you haven’t heard I’m starting some games on the Everton reserves and receiving some decent reviews. Luis Gil…this is what you should have done.
Omar Gonzalez: Hey Peterlin, got that number for the player development director at Everton? I could start next to Distin for the senior side right now.
• Final two spots
Right now, in my mind, competing for the final two spots are: Charlie Davies, Conor Casey, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya with an outside shot to Jermaine Jones, Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Torres and the “winner” of the Findley vs. Whomever battle.\
Barring a tardy Onyewu comeback or an injury the defense and keeper position are likely set.
• Changes from February to March
The additions and subtractions from last time? Well first we had only 22 with an honorary mention for Chuck Davies.
Now we have Bedoya slotting in ahead of Robbie Rogers.. We had Bedoya pushing the 23 on February 1st remember so it’s more about his addition and less about Rogers.
Brian Ching, Heath Pearce, and Clarence Goodson also jump on the plane while Chad Marshall, Robbie Rogers, and Robbie Findley drop.
We’ve extended to 24 players for Charlie Davies for now. Ching’s addition is less the product of his El Salvador game and more about where Jozy plays on the pitch. Heath Pearce’s addition is by necessity to make 8 defenders….Bornstein’s gaffe creates rumbles as we can’t rely on just he and Boca on the end. Continually, the addition of Pearce makes Robbie Rogers ability to fill in defensively if needed, redundant.
We rode Marshall for awhile, but now have enough observations of Goodson to suggest he’s got that position sewn up.
• Roster breakdown by position, plus striker options
If you’re counting that’s 3 goalies (Howard, Guzan, Hahnemann), 8 defenders (Boca, Gooch, DeMerit, Dolo, Specs, Borny, Goodson, Pearce), 9 midfielders (Deuce, Landy, Bradley, Clark, Edu, Holden, Feilhaber, Bedoya, Beasley)….which leaves us with room for only 3 strikers right now (Altidore, Ching, Casey/Davies). It’s unconventional, but it’s just the way we see it right now.
» Why Brian Ching? Well, you’ve got Slovenia, Algeria in the Group stage and possibly Serbia in the quarters or semis…you need a banger in there who can serve as a target man and can be aggressive on headers. To me, that role goes to Ching over Casey.
» I know TSG is aggressive on Bedoya…but here’s our consideration. Like above, you’re looking for an offensive reliever with pace late in the game. I’d rather send Dempsey up top and bring in Bedoya on the wing than take a flyer on an ill-prepared Findley or Rolfe at this point. Anyone disagree?
» Charlie Davies is making our squad, 23b, on sentiment right now, but if he misses? That role is likely going to, in order: Casey, Findley, Josh Wolff?
» Sadly enough, Conor Casey is your “speed” option (did I just write that? Slap me.) if Charlie Davies as out. Altidore will hold the ball up since Casey has not proved adept in that role and Casey will play off him. If Ching is in, then you’ve got the Aloha in the target role and Altidore playing off that. As said above if you look at the States competition–and you don’t have a viable speed option–you have to go with the guy that holds the ball and gets up in the air (Ching), not the guy that takes awhile to uncork (Casey).
» Ah Stu Holden and Clint Dempsey. If Holden is back, does the US consider that 4-4-1-1 formation straight away. If so, Dempsey becomes relevant in the FW role and only 3 strikers are really necessary.
• Jose Francisco Torres
If you’ve been paying attention to our Boarding Pass Series, you’ll notice that we haven’t had JFT on any of the planes yet to South Africa. With Coach USA employing a highly defensive midfield and this not being a JFT strong suit and while he’s a good player, the pecking order after Benny in the middle likely goes: Kljestan, Torres, Beckerman at this point. Kljestan is more valuable–in Bob’s eyes–in that he’s arguably at least a slightly better defensive player and he could possibly come up top to forward in the 4-4-1-1 if the States goes that way.
• Leftback conundrum
You have to feel for Sweatpants Senior. In the past year, he’s watched Jonathan Bornstein’s form be more volatile than Amy Winehouse, Heath Pearce play down to the competition at the Gold Cup and get relegated from Europe and Captain Carlos begin to get rickety wheels and be subbed for on an “okay” Ligue One team. Edgar Castillo? I think you saw Bob play his hand in Denmark. Castillo hails from the Primera…or Primerily Not About Defense league if you want. You want him defending a Gerrard, Lennon or Rooney?
I still say that the U.S. needed to trot out a few more options there…whether it was Specs (just to make the counterattack go even if you lost his service) or Villa youngster Lichaj.
As it stands now, Coach USA is going to let it play out with the following depth chart: 1) Boca 2nd) Bornstein 3) Pearce.
Johnny “Needs To Be Better” Bornstein still over Pearce? I think you still have Bradley thinking…if I can just get that kid to cut out that one stupid foul, I know his athleticism will make up for his lack of experience. Bob is still probably captivated by Bornstein’s over-hyped half in 2007 against Lionel Messi.
For 2009 including WCQ games, Confederation Cup games, and the two November friendlies, here’s how the distribution of starts went down at leftback:
• Jermaine Jones
Here’s the thing on Jermaine Jones…if he’s not your starter, do you really bring him? You have both Maurice Edu and Ricardo Clark, the loser of that starting battle is arguably more fit, been in the system longer, and knows the tendency of his teammates. Jones is going to really need to set the world on fire if he’s going to make it with 90-odd days left.