We introduce another new series today at TSG Central: Bradley’s Clipboard.
After each camp and most friendlies, TSG will put together a piece with the following components for discussion amongst the community:
I. The Best “A” Team starting eleven.
This is the team that would play regardless of opponent, situation or formation if the Yanks had to choose a line-up blindly for one game.
II. The Depth Charts.
For each position we’ll list the top two, three or four players that if TSG–you always ask for our take instead of “what Bob Bradley will do”–was running the USMNT whom we’d have in what positions on Bradley’s clipboards.
The rules? A player can only inhabit one spot on the depth chart (hence you can’t consider Maurice Edu the thhird best central defender and third best central midfielder).
III. The “X” Things (“The 3 Things”)
Any notes or pointers that seem pertinent to the last camp.
If you like this feature after today, let us know in the commentary or via email and also how we can make it better.
I. The Best Eleven
The Yanks are playing Spain in Reno, Nevada with a trip to Wallyword on the line. TSG goes with a 4-4-1-1 that looks like this.
G: Tim Howard
DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra
MID: Stu Holden, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan
FFW: Clint Dempsey (I’m adding “Floating” in front of FW)
STR: Jozy Altidore
The skinny: Almost snuck in Clarence Goodson ahead of DeMerit, only on fitness. When DeMerit clings on to a team and shows his wares, he likely go right ahead on the depth chart. DeMerit, however–as we’ll discuss–has a boatload a centerbacks gunning for his spot as does Gooch.
Our midfield seems standard, Dempsey cutting in from the left makes sense, since Boca is not going to overlap and play offense.
Landon sits ahead of Stu and Jones. Too tight for too many players? Could be; could be.
Jozy is your best options at forward.
The Depth Charts:
Goalie: (1) Tim Howard (2) Brad Guzan (3) TBD
The skinny: Easy enough here. Howard’s still on the top of his game. Guzan just needs a chance, but I love his positioning and reaction time. With Marcus Hahnemann perhaps retiring, no goalie has stepped up to claim the third spot. Had Bill Hamid not gotten injured recently, I might have put him in that spot.
Leftback: (1) Carlos Bocanegra (2) Jonathan Bornstein (3) Miguel Ponce (4) Heath Pearce
The skinny: Is a statement on the quality of the USMNT’s competition or the level of play in Ligue One that Carlos Bocanegra has started every game for St. Etienne this campaign and is earning solid reviews?
He’s currently the de facto starter as captain, but my guess is he won’t be come 2014. Jonathan Bornstein still has a record of solid play at World Cup 2010 most immediately on his resume. He’s squeaks in at #2.
I’m going with Chivas Guadalaraja’s Miguel Ponce at #3. Not sure yet that he’ll play for the states, but the leftback has been lights out for the Mexican side, starting 14 games this year and netting twice.
Heath Pearce, who can actually move up with more consistency and playing against better competition, comes in at #4.
Rightback: (1) Steve Cherundolo (2) Eric Lichaj (3) Jonathan Spector (4) Sean Franklin
The skinny: Steve D is playing the most consistently and at the highest level that he ever has right now. Dolo’s had a stretch of being healthy and seems to have jumped his play a level.
Eric Lichaj edges Jonathan Spector for the next spot, and that’s not because we’ve been a long time fan. It’s our belief–as I wrote here–that the outside fullback position (with more and more teams employing speedy wingers and outside mids as part of different formations) has to be manned by someone with quickness. It can’t be a weakness or an afterthought. Lichaj has more quickness. It’s that simple.
Is it a contradiction to have Sean Franklin fourth? I don’t think so. He just likely needs one cap to show he has the requisite depth and he’s moving up. At least that’s the thinking right now.
Centerback: (1) Oguchi Onyewu (2) Clarence Goodson (3) Jay DeMerit (4) Omar Gonzalez
The skinny: Onyewu is on his way back to full fitness and is the first name called here. Jay DeMerit, with age and being out of contract slips to #3 on the CB depth chart as he is getting ousted by Clarence Goodson and pushed by Omar Gonzalez.
I don’t rate Michael Parkhurst just yet–I need to see more of him. I feel like he was a popular pick for “let me pump this guy up because he’s a lesser known name.” None of the back four were really challenged on Tuesday night and I’ve seen some real challenges in past viewings with Parkhurst’s game. Could change though.
Looking forward to national team time for Ike Opara and Tim Ream. Especially Opara.
Right midfield: (1) Stu Holden (2) Alejandro Bedoya
The skinny: If Bob Bradley is not going to give Stu a run out centrally, then this depth chart begins and ends with Holden. Not only is he one of the best eleven, I believe you could make a contention that Holden is one of the top five players on the pitch for the Yanks now.
Bedoya is definitely a different type of right midfielder, more a wing, but he’s our #2.
Center midfield: (1) Jermaine Jones (2) Michael Bradley (3) Maurice Edu (4) Jose Torres
The skinny: Ideally, I’d like to see Holden get a run out here despite the solid play and class on the ball from Jermaine Jones during the October friendlies. I’m not sure Jones has the right mindset–he has the abilities–to be the chief creator, maybe vice creator would be more appropriate.
Will be interesting to see how he and Donovan link.
Bradley and Edu are pretty close here. Bradley’s had two mediocre games which only lends credence to the notion that he has a difficult time not being a focal point for the USMNT. For his club side Bo’Munchen, Bradley ably plays the more reserved, less instrumental defensive central midfielder.
Right now, Bradley offers just a little more than Edu going forward. He edges ahead here.
Not sure where I’m putting Sacha Kljestan yet, but I’ll get back to rating him when he gets back to playing. He’s been injured and hasn’t stepped on the pitch for Anderlecht in almost two months.
Left midfield: (1) Landon Donovan (2) Benny Feilhaber, (3) Brek Shea (4) Robbie Rogers
The skinny: Landon may or may not play here. He might link on the right with Dolo which probably makes sense. In that case, maybe Holden moves sides perhaps.
Benny Feilhaber, with his lack of attention to defense and more complementary role, slides a little bit in the overall USMNT pecking order.
Let me make this statement right now: either Donovan, Feilhaber or Dempsey would be that much better as inside-out wingers if they had a capable overlapping fullback to support them and make runs to open space.
Brek Shea and Robbie Rogers are both more winger-ish and have that needed left foot.
Don’t rate Edgar Castillo yet…may never, either.
Forward: (1) Clint Dempsey (2*) Mix Diskerud
The skinny: We’re putting Dempsey here, but he may of course flip-flop with Donovan. I’m slotting in Mix Diskerud here. It’s my one true reach of the column.
Striker: (1) Jozy Altidore (2) Edson Buddle
The skinny: It’s somewhat Jozy or bust right now. Given the Yanks more recent testing of a single striker, it would only warrant that Edson Buddle–who I might mention currently SCORES GOALS–be given a run-out. Buddle, by the way, notched 15 goals two years ago, and will likely have 17 this year.
Beyond them, name like Adrian Ruelas, Justin Braun and Mike Grella pop up.
And here’s the thing on Eddie Johnson. He is who we thought he was.
The “3” Things:
• I’ve got Gooch, but who’s my Cannavaro, my chaser, and my distributor?
Seems like Bob Bradley is trying awful hard to find someone in the back who can push forward if necessary, be a catalyst of the counterattack and effectively link out of the back, and someone who chases the speedy striker from the other team.
Maurice Edu “may” turn out to be that guy. In Gooch, Goodson, Gonzalez, Ream and even Marshall, you have all the same “type” of central backs. This is not to say that like and like can’t play together. But complementary centerbacks (Cannavaro and Nesta or even presently Pepe and Carvalho) often work best.
Right now, that depth chart that was just written might soon include Edu as the second choice. And you can pretty much suggest that is why Mr. Michael Parkhurst got a runout–he does have that distribution panache.
• Speaking of Edu, is Junior now my more defensive central mid?
Last time…TSG is on record as saying we’d like to see that Holden run out.
However, looks like that center mid catalyst is prepped to be Jermaine Jones from this round of friendlies. Will Bradley be okay and excel in the more reserved complementary midfield role that Edu is certainly more comfortable with?
• Jozy +
About time I tried out some new and young strikers. Camp Cupcake (invites) warming for maybe Ruelas (if he has not already gone to Celtic) and Bowen, perhaps?
Oh and don’t worry, says here on the clipboard that formation experimentation continues…