Our 2nd entry in what is sure be a long-running journal. Here was our first entry in October.
After most camps and friendlies, TSG puts 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 a potential World Cup game….tomorrow.
It’s what should be on Bradley’s clipboard.
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.
III. The “X” Things
The two or three issues that are top of mind coming out of the last match or camp.
I. The Best Eleven
Got to credit Alexi Lalas here. The US’s original ginger posed us the question Saturday night. Stuttered a little bit. Now we have it for you. We’re going to go with a 4-5-1 for flexibility and set it up, loosely, in a 4-2-3-1
G: Tim Howard
DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Tim Ream, Jonathan Bornstein
(changed from October: Ream for Onyewu, Bornstein for Bocanegra)
CDM: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley
(unchanged from October)
MID: Stu Holden, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan
(unchanged from October)
STR: Jozy Altidore
(unchanged from October)
The skinny: Most positions from October stay the same. The only change is at the backline where I’m comfortable inserting Tim Ream (I’d rather die with youth than age) and Jonathan Bornstein for Onyewu and Bocanegra. Gooch, may return after the late winter-early spring friendly run. Bocanegra? Another year does nothing to change–and everything to enhance–the premise that his wheels are too slow for the flank and his horsepower to weak for the center.
The Depth Charts:
Goalie: (1) Tim Howard (2) Brad Guzan (3) Sean Johnson
The skinny: No change in the lieutenant or vice lieutenant. Brad Guzan is getting games at Hull City and latest news is that the Tigers want to extend his stay.
The Chicago Fire’s Sean Johnson picks up the 3rd spot. Most impressive for Johnson in the recent friendly was how calm, almost borderline nonchalant he was at times. I actually liked that quality as it felt like Chile, despite putting pressure on, was hardly giving him a tough time. Was very calm the lone time he came out on a ball. Good things ahead for the USMNT’s P Diddy.
Left: (1) Jonathan Bornstein (2) Carlos Bocanegra, (3) Zach Loyd, (4) Heath Pearce
The skinny: First, dropped Miguel Ponce. Haven’t heard anything about his being called in. Perhaps incorrect to include him last time…but there’s still hope.
Not much has changed here except the insertion of Zach Loyd. Does he have a ceiling? Yes. But then again so does the entire depth chart at leftback. Need to mention again what a treat it is to see a US defender continuously standing up their attacker–Lloyd gets plaudits for his efforts against Chile.
Right: (1) Steve Cherundolo (2) Eric Lichaj (3) Jonathan Spector (4) Sean Franklin
The skinny: Lichaj is still second despite being banished to the reserves, for now, by Gerard Houllier at Aston Villa.
Spector is crowded out of the midfield and seems destined to remain on the flank under Bob Bradley.
Sean Franklin…holding on–just a bit–temporarily to that 4th spot.
Central Defense: (1) Clarence Goodson, (2) Tim Ream, (3) Oguchi Onyewu, (4) Jay DeMerit, (5) Omar Gonzalez
The skinny: Tim Ream skyrockets up the depth chart….make that onto the depth chart.
Is he green? Yes. Is he challenged in the air? Occasionally.
Can he exert leadership over the backline? Yes, saw it in South Africa and watched it in person at HDC against Chile.
Can he distribute effectively? Absolutely and better than any other centerback the US has employed over the past four years with the exception of Chad Marshall, who shows a negligence at the international level to defend. (I don’t think you’ll be seeing Marshall again…just my opinion.)
Look for Ike Opara and perhaps Gale Agbossumunde on the next clipboard.
Midfield (holding): (1) Jermaine Jones, (2) Stu Holden, (3) Michael Bradley, (4) Maurice Edu, (5) Dax McCarty, (6) Ricardo Clark
The skinny: Need we remind you of the Yank’s central midfield picture? Well, we will anyway…because the clip is just classic.
On to the chart….
States’ fans should look forward to seeing Jermaine Jones compete week-in and week-out in the Barclays, especially with Blackburn (TSG’s surprise team pick at the beginning of the year….ouch!…hand hurts from patting on mine own back) pulling in at 7th in the table right now.
Michael Bradley covered more distance during the group stage than just about any player at World Cup 2010. Unfortunately that doesn’t equate to success.
Bradley has been sent to the bench at Bo’Munchen here in the early going of 2011 as the manager looks for a way to tighten up the defense with new faces and perhaps with an eye on “what if” Bradley gets transferred.
It’s worth noting that the Junior-to-Sunderland rumor has not been picked up by the other constituent in that affair, the Sunderland Black Cats. Odd as most transfer news usually comes from the team. Fishy sourcing? …..
Bradley is now third as you’ve noticed and the cries for just a look for Stu Holden in central midfield should grow louder.
Perhaps Michael Bradley is a “nasty tackler,” but Stu is an “efficient tackler” in the Premiership this campaign and clearly has better distribution than Junior.
It’s high time for two starters in the middle for the Yanks not to have the last name Bradley. Look…nothing is permanent. Why can every other position have a new face debut but not central midfield? Edu in central defense, Spector at leftback, Diskerud in South Africa playing the right flank.
If Bradley preaches testing players out and cites friendlies not for results…well….
Dax McCarty, welcome to the depth chart. Dax edges out Jose Torres who–after getting a start against Slovenia over the summer–is currently off the depth charts at Pachuca. Can’t make it on here if you don’t make it on your club team….unless you’re name is Onyewu I guess.
Dax also edges out Ricardo Clark for three reasons: a) Edu finally makes Clark redundant and b) Did you realize Clark is 28 in a few weeks? Why continue develop a player that will be 32 at World Cup 2014 when you have a potential 33-year-old in Jermaine Jones already in the middle and c) about the flexibility, redundancy thing…well now you have Jonathan Spector…who can play that midfield.
Take that with a big Bob Bradley salt grain.
Midfield (flanks & attacking): (1) Landon Donovan, (2) Clint Dempsey, (3) Stu Holden, (4) Benny Feilhaber, (5) Alejandro Bedoya, (6) Sacha Kljestan, (7) Mix Diskerud, (8) Brek Shea
The skinny: No surprises in the first two of course.
Note, this is the sort of catch-all bucket of players as Bob Bradley deploys them all in different formations depending on what the game situation is and what the formation is.
Dropped from here is Robbie Rogers. Rogers’ South African game, for a player of his number of caps, was beyond regrettable. Too often Rogers tried to go it alone and was dispossessed. Maybe Rogers can get his act together. He’s got the skill obviously.
Brek Shea takes the Columbus winger’s spot at the rear of the list.
Striker: (1) Jozy Altidore, (2) Teal Bunbury, (3) Juan Agudelo, (4) Hercules Gomez, (5) Edson Buddle, (6) Chris Wondolowski,(7) Robbie Findley
The skinny: Some massive changes here. Only Jozy remains atop the depth chart from a few months ago. Consider the top three players (Jozy, Bunbury, Agudelo) as the pecking order and four through seven the “fill-in” pecking order. It’s not likely that Gomez, Wondo, Buddle or Findley will be there at World Cup 2014, but they’ll be stop-gap fill-ins when necessary for the Sweatster.
And that’s no misprint, TSG considers Bunbury a shade ahead of Agudelo. Bunbury’s got two years, size, and more reps than the younger Agudelo. Just a shade right now.
As for Edson Buddle…no other veteran presents such a puzzling case. He’s got the skill, but has commented he was overwhelmed in South Africa. He is fearless with a true striker’s mentality, but Bob Bradley seems reluctant to deploy him.
His time at FC Ingolstadt Humperdink will determine.
The “2″ Things:
• How quickly do I serve the youth?
World Cup 2010 was dominated by youngsters making a name for themselves. Players like Gregory Van Der Wiel (22), Javier Pastore (21), Thomas Muller (21) and others all born close to the time Pearl Jam’s first album debuted.
Bob Bradley’s got a least three players at his disposal in Tim Ream, Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo (and frankly maybe Joseph Gyau shortly here) who demand more time and continuous reps.
The 2006 cycle saw a much too high concentration on veterans. Oguchi Onyewu playing himself into shape even during the group stage is the prime example. Carlos Bocanegra at left back another. The use of Brian Ching and Conor Casey continuously through qualifying. Continued trials for Damarcus Beasley and even Danny Califf early on.
Will Bob Bradley give the necessary reps to the youngsters this year?
• Is there any leftback out there?
Zach Loyd (apologies I’ve been spelling his name wrong for the last week) did an admirable job in his first cap, but watching him for a few reps it’s unclear whether Loyd is really not just another in the long lines of “acceptable” but hardly “commanding leftbacks.
Is it time that Bob Bradley try out a rightfooter back there? Maybe the way to squeeze in Jonathan Spector?
How about moving a midfielder back there like Bradley did with DMB?