Ah, such a loaded title to this column in so many ways.
For those of you who are going to college, in college or graduated college like I did many moons ago, the USMNT road trip to South Africa has just commenced. The car is packed, gas topped, snacks mustered and the USMNT is moving. The team is saddled up and just about to get dialed in on the freeway.
Well, most of the team.
For seven players, their chance at another cap in 2010, barring a spate of injury, ends tomorrow.
What you’ll likely see from Bob Bradley is a mixture of veterans and players on the cusp. The veterans to provide the supporting cast for Bob Bradley to evaluate some of those seven against the best to Czechs have to offer. You need to judge players versus the best quality.
Actually, judging by Saturday’s loss to Turkey, the Czechs might be pulling a Juventus in this one as well; I digress.
Coach USA and his staff will really be grading out two primary things in this one: 1) the aforementioned abilities of the unsettled roster spots and 2) perhaps more critically, how those who’ve been injured–Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Johnson even–perform under game conditions. This encounter is not about solidifying the starting eleven so much as seeing who gets into it on Turkey Day in Philadelphia and beyond.
I’m guessing that Tim Howard likely gets a breather in this one–could be the next one, but Howard’s from New Jersey, much closer to Philadelphia.
Okay, let’s kickoff our first USMNT preview since March…and let’s get our World Cup road trip started….
As always, we’ll follow the (now-patented) TSG format:
TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
11 at the Whistle
TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
• How’s Gooch?
Duh and “Next!”
• Who’s going where on the backline?
If I’m Bob Bradley here, I want to see the fitness of three guys I will likely rely on in South Africa on June 12th. I’ve got less than three weeks to get a stand-in ready, so my first priority here is checking out my senior staff in that back.
There have been murmurs that Boca and or DeMerit might sit this one out. I obviously can’t comment on medical reports or player fitness, but if they’re good to go, I say Bradley plays them. Get that first real-time look so you know if you need to get someone else ready for June 12th.
If they don’t play, well, there’s your storyline Wednesday morning.
Also, with Chad Marshall still ailing, and the health of Gooch, Boca and JDM still, let’s say, not perfect, it would be very hard to drop Heath Pearce. Essentially, the USMNT’s World Cup backfield should be set. Go with the starters.
• Am I a winger, a central mid, both, or does it matter?
As TSG mentioned when camp began, it was always extremely likely that DaMarcus Beasley would make the squad. He had been frozen out of the Rangers line-up it appeared by politics more than injury, he played well against Holland, and…well…it’s hard to turn down a guy with speed, who’s left-footed, and been to two World Cups.
That leaves Alejandro Bedoya, Robbie Rogers, Jose Torres, and Sacha Kljestan battling for one or, at most, two spots.
Should be fun to see if any of these get a start or a run-out against the Czech first-team as a sub. Keep your eye out of course for these four.
• The 4-4-2 might means you, Mr. Gomez….or you Mr. Buddle….but really probably means Robbie Findley.
It’s no secret that for the last year Bob Bradley has preferred a starting speed option up top for the Yanks. Robbie Findley and Jeff Cunningham both were trotted out against challenging competition. Bradley, like all TSG readers that are sick of hearing it from us, knows that Landon Donovan is more effective with a jetsetter in front of him. Coach Sweats also knows that if team’s press the Yanks on defense, then need a speed option over the top; Jozy Altidore would be essentially pulling down balls in Grand Central Station at rush hour without some speed relief.
You might go so far as to suggest that those two reasons are specifically why Conor Casey didn’t make the camp….and why Herculez Gomez might be so vital.
Is he only a super sub, or only being considered for the role?
TSG wants to see Gomez take a hit and we want to see if the “more-right-footed” Gomez can be effective in front of Donovan.
For Buddle as we mentioned in our camp preview, he’s the guy we’ve been watching. As we wrote way back at the end of March, the Donovan pairing is there. Now we just need to see the speed.
You can bet both of these guys get in the game. As for starting, Bradley likes to make players earn their first start with time served so I’m going to go with Robbie Findley as the Yanks leave the tunnel.
11 At The Whistle
G: Marcus Hahnemann
The skinny: TSG will take a shot here. Turkey is going to be a harder squad for the US. Big T is from New Jersey as we mentioned above and World Cup veteran Marcus Hahnemann hasn’t featured since 2005 for the Yanks.
A well deserved cap for Hahnemann? We hope so.
Note, if Brad Guzan trots out, you know there is no confusion on who the 2nd keeper is.
G: Jonathan Spector, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra
The skinny: All eyes will be on each of these players the first time they go one-on-one with an attacker.
G: Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Landon Donovan
The skinny: I literally have no idea what goes down in the midfield. Does Dempsey move up? I don’t think so. Does Stu Holden start? Not sure about that one either. Do Edu trump Clark? I think we’ll see Rico in here, but that’s a hunch.
Or will Bradley do what he did up in the Netherlands and go with someone (in March it Jose Torres) who is near the firing line and see how they perform against quality competition.
I think Coach USA really wants to see how his forwards, strikers perform so he’ll unleash a solid and tested midfield to start…..but I have no confidence in that either.
STR: Robbie Findley, Jozy Altidore
The skinny: I don’t see Dempsey moving up top just yet–frankly I’m not sure if I truly see him starting up top against England (forthcoming piece here).
I’d like to see Buddle or Gomez get a trot out, but as I mentioned above Bradley rarely throws a start to a new dog.
I think Bob Bradley goes with Robbie Findley and I’m hoping that his injuries have subsided and that his reps in the starting line-up start to bear fruit.
Going back January camp, Findley was a pinball in camp with few defenders knocking him off the ball–he’s got Bob’s confidence and hopefully the work put in translates–it sort of needs to.
• Well instead of disclaimers this time around I’ll just rate my confidence in my line selections above. Can’t wait for the commentary below in this one.
Oh and I’d just like to note for old times’ sake, that my most memorable college road trip was making a hasty and poor decision late at night to drive all night from Syracuse, NY to Punxsutawney, PA for Groundhog’s Day the following day. Five of us redlined the engine and made the last bus from Groundhog Plaza (yes “bus”) up to the amphitheatre just before sunrise. It’s nothing like the movie.