Okay, we’ll be using the moniker “Camp Redemption,” but only if it sticks….
Now that most of the physicals are done, here are some things that will be on the USSF coaching staff’s radar this week as the US begins preparations for Rustenburg and beyond.
• Whither DaMarcus Beasley?
Much has been made–on this publication and others–that DaMarcus Beasley has played very few minutes since the States’ March 3rd friendly. For Beasley’s part, he is usually very forthcoming on Twitter if he has a knock.
Given that Walter Smith didn’t give him a run-out in his final Rangers game, I’m guessing–if you consider the majority of his consecutive pitch time came in January–that Beasley was never in the intended Rangers plans this year and the turn of the New Year field minutes were just an attempt to showcase him for a transfer.
Is Beasley fresh and ready to perform? What’s his fitness?
The March friendly showed that Beasley still can play internationally if given the opportunity. Sure South Africa was not kind to him during the Confederation Cup run, but you’re currently looking at only six other potential outfield players with World Cup experience (Bocanegra, Gooch, Landon, Deuce, Ching, EJ). Compare that to a team, like, England with over 10.
Beasley will face direct competition from Alejandro Bedoya and Robbie Rogers for a spot, but also indirectly from interior guys that have spent some time out on the flanks, Sacha Kljestan (Honduras, January 10th) and Jose Torres (El Salvador, T&T, September 2009).
• Is the Clint Dempsey machine in tip-top form?
I’ll just throw this out there to start this one. I don’t see, right now, that it’s a foregone conclusion that Clint Dempsey starts up top against England. Right now, I’m leaning towards Coach USA selecting Dynamo man Brian Ching for a few reasons:
1) Let me use the analogy of the New York Giants. Their offense is predicated on Brandon Jacobs plowing his way into the defensive line and linebackers for one half of football. Then the New York teams brings in the likes of a scatback Ahmad Bradshaw once the opponents defense is fixated on being “strong,” but also worn down from repeated hits.
The USMNT’s “Jacobs” is Brian Ching and he softens up holes for Deuce to find later.
2) In Clint Dempsey’s last seven games since he came back from his second injury of 2010–an undisclosed wrist injury–he’s went 90 minutes only twice. That’s right–only twice. In three of those games, he came on in the 2nd half.
Clint, as we know, wears down. Probably the last thing you’re going to want to do with Deuce when he starts against England is put him up to be battered by Ferdinand and Terry when their fresh in the first half. Let Ching be the Jacobs.
3) Experience. As we mentioned above with DMB, experience counts for Bob Bradley.
Stu Holden has earned the right to start. He started March 3rd in Clint’s spot up in the Netherlands. That said, I think Bob brings him off the bench in against England in his first World Cup game. Against Slovenia and Algeria are other matters.
Got offtrack there. The underlying question? How fresh is Dempsey?
• The Gooch needs a game…and what does that mean for others
Last competitive affair for Oguchi Onyewu? Over 7 months ago. The USMNT will learn somewhat quickly just how agile and ready the Milan man is. However, with recovery the theme for Bocanegra as well, eight defenders will assuredly travel to South Africa.
The readyness and worries of Onyewu and Bocanegra will determine if that eighth player is indeed another centerback, not a wide player. The chances of both Clarence Goodson and Chad Marshall going are slim, but the health of the two aforementioned veterans might change that.
• Can a man named Herculez take a hit?
Just how physical is the former Galaxy and Wizards winger? Does he get knocked off the ball internationally like Jeff Cunningham did? Can his game “translate” from much of the “Ole!” defense played in Mexico?
TSG is on record saying that Gomez’s strikes in the Primera are a pinch suspect, with shoddy defense on many. Let’s hope that Gomez made that defense shoddy.
• Who is Edson Buddle?
I’ve long been a fan of Edson Buddle and a proponent of his ability to play at the next level. I forsook Edson last year in my inaugural Davies striker column….and now I’m paying dearly for it.
As I wrote last week, Buddle is the fulcrum point:
Can he start?….The follow-up becomes can he and Jozy co-exist and create opportunities even though they both like to meander in the offensive third. Are either of these players skilled enough to be the target striker?
Can he relieve as a speed option? This–to me–is the biggest striker-driven question of camp. If you look at the three USMNT group stage opponents. Heck, even look at their potential quarterfinalist opponents, no team truly presses their backline high up the pitch.
Pardon the interruption here for the savvy, but for those new to game tactics, when a team presses their backline, it means moving their defensive line up typically near the halfline and allowing quite a bit of space between goalkeeper and defense. Arguably the common way to challenge such that convention is for a speedster to play on the line and make runs knocked onto over-the-top or through-balls.
Think of Robbie Findley trying to get loose behind the Netherlands defense on March 3rd in the first half. (As we know, it didn’t happen much.)
Does Buddle possess enough speed for this or will the Yanks absolutely need aHerculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson or Robbie Findley attacking that scheme?
Can he relieve as the defensive option? No more Conor Casey–this we know. Pause, take a look at the Confederation Cup and through qualifying. That late game defensive option was Conor Casey. If you look at the team now–as we discussed in the Dempsey section above–you likely have Brian Ching starting against England and maybe others. Can Buddle play–if necessary–the late game Brian Ching? This is a lower priority question in that the US will often scoot Clint up top in a 4-4-1-1.
Edson Buddle…the one I will be watching most as camp unfolds.
Bits & Bytes
• Eddie Johnson was diagnosed by US soccer with a Grade 1 hamstring sprain. Grade 1 is the most mild sprain that you can have.
• Captain Carlos Bocanegra attends camp, but he is hoping that an undistinguished stomach issue doesn’t follow him there.
• With Pachuco out of the Mexican League playoffs, Jose Torres is on his way to the Garden State as is Benny Feilhaber who entered at the 57 minute mark of Aarhus’ loss to Odense. That leaves Alejandro Bedoya who has game Monday to arrive at the land of the tiger on Tuesday.