The Shin Guardian wanted to focus on the Europa League Final and the appearance of one Clint “Deuce” Dempsey in it for Fulham Wednesday
Today, we look back at the roster selections and group the players into where they’ll be fighting it out for boarding passes.
Camp, folks, starts in just two days at Princeton University, perhaps the only college campus where high school students are frequent guests at the college parties and the collegiates seem to be fine with it.
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Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Guzan, Jonathan Spector, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Benny Feilhaber, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Maurice Edu, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Stu Holden, Jozy Altidore, Brian Ching
Six spots are, as yet, unclaimed. The list of players above represent those that Bob Bradley trusts. They might be playing for a starting role or 1st substitute role, but they can rest assured that they’ll be taking to Rustenburg, in some capacity on June 12th.
The only surprise you may have up there is Brian Ching, however consider this: None of the other forwards has played in a meaningful game for Bob Bradley.
Robbie Findley, sure, he played in a friendly against The Netherlands and, yes, Eddie Johnson played here and there through qualifying. Ask yourself this follow-up, and I know you are cringing: If Jozy Altidore gets injured, who’s your next starter at striker (beyond Deuce)?
Note: Bob Bradley–as we discussed in our game review March 3rd–employed an effective 4-2-3-1 formation–using Landon (of all players) in the middle hub for about 15 minutes of the Netherlands friendly. With the popular choice of moving Clint Dempsey up top, we’ll roll in formation talk to the discussions below. We’ll talk two: the tried-and-true 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2 if you prefer) and the possible 4-2-3-1
LB Back-up: Jonathan Bornstein vs. Heath Pearce
The decision to bring along a Chad Marshall instead of, say, a Frankie Hedjuk or Frank Simek signals that, with Bradley comfortable with Onyewu’s “progress”, Captain Carlos Bocanegra likely slides out to the left, as the primary wingback on that flank. Whether that’s the right decision or not is the topic for another time.
TSG has reviewed this situation quite a bit. As it stands right now, there is likely a slight advantage to Jonathan Bornstein on Bradley’s mental clipboard. When the two have been in the 18 together, JB has consistently been the starter. While Pearce has great straight away speed, Bornstein has the ability to stay in front of the fleetest of wingers–valuable when you consider wing opponents for the USMNT including Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott or deceptively quick Thomas Muller, perhaps, in the next round.
Current Leader: Bornstein
CB Back-up: Chad Marshall vs. Clarence Goodson
This is an argument that seemed to be decided earlier this year after a lackluster Honduras game for the still-ailing Chad Marshall and with Clarence Goodson scoring the loan goal in that affair.
Goodson continued to impress and earned some quality minutes in the US friendly up in the Netherlands.
We keep seeing a re-occuring theme here with Bob Bradley and that is, in most cases he favors bigger or more solid players that can’t be knocked off the ball. That’s Marshall’s singular advantage going into camp. He’s got a lot of ground to make up on Goodson at this point.
Current Leader: Goodson
Note: In response to comments below. Eight defenders will make the trip and I don’t see Edu as this option. That would auger that one, in my mind, Pearce makes the trip over Marshall as numeral eight even if he falls to Bornstein as back-up number one at leftback. Wanted to clear that up.
Flanker: Alejandro Bedoya, Robbie Rogers, DaMarcus Beasley
The skinny: You’re looking at maybe two spots here for three people in our eyes. You either have Donovan and Dempsey as the “starters” right now or Donovan and Holden if Clint is deployed up top. Here’s where Bradley’s dabbles in a 4-2-3-1 formation work to this group’s benefit.
DaMarcus Beasley is basically going to have to play himself off “the 23.” He’s got two World Cups under his belt. He’s got the hard knocks of the Scottish Premier League notched on his shinguards and he’s got the–gulp–in a pinch ability to play outside wingback if necessary. Beasley is not going to be fazed with the World Cup lead-up walks in the park.
Now you’ve got the battle between Bedoya and Rogers. Bedoya, as we discussed when we interviewed him last week, is silky smooth with decent-enough size and a presence on the field that is exponentially higher than the two USMNT caps to his name. He’s played nearly every minute of every game for his club Orebro this season–with the exception of a one-match expulsion for yellow card collection–and been a catalyst for their attack.
Rogers has had a much more uneven 2010 to date, battling injuries and inconsistent play for the entire year thus far.
Our take? If Beasley can stay committed, you’re really asking Bradley to choose between two somewhat similar players. Bedoya arguably is more creative with better one-on-one ability. Rogers has a sneaky shot and uses his frame well to make the cross. Our money is on Bedoya right now merely because he hasn’t disappointed yet and the US has–to date–been “invigorated” when he does take the pitch.
Current Leader(s): Beasley, Bedoya
CAM Back-up: Jose Francisco Torres, Sacha Kljestan
The skinny: Perhaps the most even battle going into camp.
Beyond the exclusion of Charlie Davies when Coach Sweats announced his roster Tuesday, the biggest vitriol was levied on the selections of Rogers and Sacha Kljestan.
For Kljestan, it’s understandable. After a brilliant opening to the 2009 USMNT campaign, Kljestan’s play has been up-and-down. It appears that his national team call-ups far outstrip his performance on that same national team team to date.
It also appears the California native has yet to fully recover from a failed transfer to Celtic. A key player for the USMNT at the Confederation Cup last year, Kljestan found himself off the list for the critical qualifiers that took place thereafter.
Kljestan, however, is one of the few Yanks who you can honestly say has vertical creativity in possession going forward in the midfield. He can make a move or pinpoint a pass that didn’t look like it was there. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do it often enough.
Jose Torres is the Phoenix from the ashes of Saprissa. You’ll hear this game invoked often in Torres’ USMNT tenure. In June 2009, the States got shellacked at the notorious Costa Rican stronghold. Torres was technically proficient in owning and moving the ball, however he was benched at half time, likely in response to shoddy defending on the first two Costa Rican goals. Since that time, Torres has slowly earned Bradley’s trust and was a starter for the Yanks in their March 3rd Amsterdam friendly.
Foremostly, Bradley will select here based upon negative defensive impact. If either of these hopefuls get beat or fall out of formation in camp or the friendlies, they’ll be behind the “Better luck in 2014″ eight ball.
Technically speaking, Torres has a slight advantage of here. Can he hold his own on defense? Can he take the hits in the friendlies that he could see against the brute force defenses of Algeria, Slovenia, and possibly Serbia, Germany and Ghana?
Then again, Kljestan has always been known to be a Bradley favorite….and that counts the most on this one.
Current Leader(s): Kljestan, by a millimeter
Striker: Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson, Robbie Findley
The skinny: You’re likely looking at two out of the four above, but it may be only a single selection of these candidates.
First, an aside on Conor Casey (I haven’t found a good column to make this point previously). I have no problem with Conor Casey not making the 30. I did think he should have–though I don’t hold his game in high esteem.
The question that I have is: What exactly was Bob Bradley evaluating with Conor Casey over the past five friendlies? He already knew what he had. If you suggest that Casey didn’t make this roster because he’s off to an average MLS start, then the question becomes….well it remains the precise same. What about a cup of coffee for a Mike Grella, Kenny Cooper or Chris Rolfe? Seriously.
Back to the task at hand.
What a hodgepodge of talent here. From current MLS firestarter in Buddle–he of the 5 goals last year, but 17 the year before….to the banished MLS “winger” Herculez Gomez who suddenly found the zone…in Mexico. Then there is the former World Cup 2006 prodigy, ending with the RSL “elder youngster” who plans to head to Europe in ’10-’11 without a body of work accompanying him at this point.
In our mind, the fulcrum point is Buddle. No striker in the list above commands the size, speed, and striking ability that he does. Skillset and physique have never been what has held Buddle back. It’s been personal problems, team commitment and injuries.
Buddle will have to answer two magnanimous questions in camp that are not directly related to his fellow competitors: Can he buy into Bob Bradley’s defensive assignments (Buddle has played for Bradley before by the way) and can he co-exist on the pitch with Jozy Altidore. On Altidore, both players like to roam and display somewhat similar games.
More so, Buddle seems to thrive in a single striker role and has trouble with an equal accomplice up top. To his resume’s credit, the Galaxy frontman seems to do well with a withdrawn Donovan. That might just be his ticket.
The final three candidates are competing for the “stretch-the-defense” role. It would appear to us the fallback is Eddie Johnson; he is certainly the most known commodity; he has also failed to consistently impress. At this point, he’s our outside-looking-in-guy.
That drops us to Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez and they are nearly inverse. Gomez is slight, but a crafty runner. All season, the Puebla forward found seams in opponent defenses, finishing with authority using surprising precision and power.
Findley has above-average streaking speed and a solid frame, only, after an end-of-2009 blitz, he doesn’t punch the scorecard with any regularity.
As we saw with Jeff Cunningham and Kenny Cooper, merely scoring though is not what Bob Bradley looks for up top. It’s almost he’ll settle from two chances a game from Landon, one from Clint and some scrums in the box.
As we head into camp on Saturday, ask yourself this question: Robbie Findley hasn’t scored for the national team yet (Conor Casey did), but he started against the Netherlands and is back in camp now despite an injury…..he’s got the lead for that final spot, by a nose.
Current Leader(s): Buddle, (Findley)
Note: Many of you have pointed out that, yes, I have 24 players above. These are more the battles. To appease my most ardent criticals, here is how I reduce to the coveted 23.
I think you’ll see Bradley go with three strikers and push Deuce up top if he needs another into the withdrawn striker/forward role. Thus Findley is dropped.