TSG Goes Playground: ’02 vs ’10

(Note: This piece completed last week.)

A few weeks ago The Shin Guardian brought you a piece comparing the ’06 Yanks to their 2010 counterpart.

2002A number of you commented or emailed about adding a comparison to the 2002 squad that Bruce Arena directed all the way to the semis.

Player-for-played which team is better?

Well, we decided to take the comparison in a different direction, a fun one. One of TSG’s readers, Ryan Rosenblatt, reached out and asked if he could participate. By all means Ryan.

Here’s what we did. With Ryan and myself as playground “captains,” we decided to hold a draft with the pool of players coming from the 2002 and the 2010 teams.

The main rule? That when a player was selected by one team the other team would be assigned get their opposite year counterpart.

For example, if I selected Brad Friedel ’02 then Ryan would get Tim Howard ’10. By selecting in this manner, it would, theoretically, force the captain not to necessarily choose the best player, but to choose the better of two counterpart that creates the biggest talent disparity.

With little to go on in terms of Bob Bradley’s 2010 line-up–and if Saturday proved anything either Coach Sweatpants is attempting a little misdirection with Fabio Capello or, yikes, still looking for combinations–I did as best I could to come up with comparable positions and players.

Here’s how our player pool looked once assembled:

Which Landon goes first? #21 or #10?

RB: Howard vs. Friedel

B: Spector vs. Sanneh

CB: Onyewu/Goodson vs. Pope

CB: DeMerit vs. Berhalter

LB: Bocanegra vs. Hedjuk

CDM1: Bradley vs. O’Brien

CDM2: Edu or Clark (user choice) vs. Mastroeni

LCM: Donovan ’10 vs.  Reyna

WM: Holden vs. Eddie Lewis/Mathis

FW: Dempsey vs. Landon ’02

STR: Altidore vs. McBride

2 off the bench (1 def, 1 attack):

BEN: Beasley, Agoos vs. Feilhaber, Bornstein

Going forward, TSG will be known as “TSG” and Ryan’s team will be known as “TWNN” (“Team With No Name”) since he never provided one.

TSG went first because we pay for the web hosting.

(And before we get started I must say that TSG erred in our number one overall selection–especially given the results of Saturday.)

1. With the 1st pick in the USMNT World Cup “supplemental” draft, TSG takes John O’Brien out of Los Angeles, California.

What O'Brien...no pimped-out suit?!

Selection #1: TSG: John’OBrien (2002)…this means that TWNN will receive (Michael Bradley 2010)

Defense: A tough first selection here and I honestly though long and hard about many other first picks. What won it for me is O’Brien breadth of skill. Able to hold in the midfield as well as possess as well as factor in the offense. He’s just a lot more dynamic in the midfield so the 1st nod of this draft goes to the 2002 team with O’Brien coming off the board first.


(On the clock)

2. With the 2nd pick in the USMNT World Cup supplemental draft, TWNN takes Tony Sanneh out of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Selection #2: TWNN (I’ll think up a team name soon): Tony Sanneh (2002)…this means that TSG will receive (Jonathan Spector 2010)

Defense: Because you took O’Brien number one,who I would have surely taken in the same spot, I go for a player that was at his peak in 2002 (Sanneh) versus a player struggling in 2010 (Spector). Having recently rewatched the ’02 Portugal, Mexico and Germany matches, the level that Sanneh played at is fresh in my mind and his ability to play outside, come in and cover inside, as well as run the flanks and deliver a good ball won me over.

He’s often the forgotten man on the ’02 team, but Sanneh’s play was extraordinary so the ’02 team has both of the two two picks.
To you, TSG…

Sanneh: Probably coulda, shoulda went #1


Excellent, excellent selection…and one that TSG debated with the first pick in the draft, but we felt it would sort of be like taking a top tight end in the NFL draft with the first pick….doesn’t usually happen.

3. With the 3rd pick in the draft, TSG picks Jay DeMerit, pride of Wisconsin.

Selection #3:  TSG selects Jay DeMerit 2010 meaning TWNN gets Gregg Berhalter 2002

Jay-On-The-Spot (Courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Defense: Still reeling from the guy I thought I’d pick up with the 3rd pick, I’m starting to realize just how even these teams appear to be.

Maybe I was shaken a bit by your last pick, but TSG goes with competent Jay DeMerit vs. shaky Gregg Berhalter….yes that same Berhalter who could’ve had, should’ve had the most glorious goal in US history.

Berhalter has always been a very astute player, only his physical gifts haven’t equaled that astuteness. After not playing in the first few matches, he started for an extremely ineffective Jeff Agoos. Had the US had more pressure on them against Mexico and Germany especially, Berhalther may be looked at in a different light today.

For his part, Jay DeMerit has been world class against the World Class. While Hornet fans might lament his club form here and there, Jay DM has been near impeccable against top competition, beyond a single wonder move by Luis Fabiano.

Had Jay DeMerit had more of an Ivy League English football education earlier in his career, he may have rivaled some of the best in the Premiership during the mid-2000s.

Rather ironic as well that Berhalter as well as DeMerit, despite his impressive performances against Spain, Brazil and the Netherlands, were not automatic starter in the middle heading into their respective World Cup years.


4. With the 4th pick in the draft, RR selects Brian McBride/McLegend/McForehead

Here's an idea. Let's replace the USMNT shield with a logo and use McBride's silouette....like Jerry West on the NBA logo

Selection #4: TWNN selects Brian McBride, which means TSG gets Jozy Altidore.

Defense: First of all, in drafting Brian McBride, my team is guaranteed a legendary image. Whether it was his swollen eye versus Mexico in 2001, his arm and leg pumping after scoring versus Portugal in 2002 or his bloodied face against Italy in 2006, with McBride, you get memorable images.

The thing that I always moved most about McBride is his ability to link up with his teammates, no matter who his teammates were. There was rarely a player that he didn’t work well with, which is always a plus to have up top. His ability to hold the ball up is what Jozy Altidore is still learning how to do and while Altidore has unlimited potential, he still has some more development to go. While everyone remembers his goal versus Spain last year, one match later he was completely taken out of the match by Lucio so there is a concern there about how Jozy will play in each match of a major tournament.

As you mentioned, the more you look at the picks, the more you realize how even these teams are so what really pushed it over the top for me is that whoever is partnered up top with McBride, 2010 Clint Dempsey or 2002 Landon Donovan, their style will mesh very well with what McBride does up top. The ability to get his head to crosses is another plus one pick after you selected the shortest central defender in the pool.


Oh wow….. I think you took Bake just a wee bit early there; a little bit of romanticism perhaps? He was extremely complementary in 2002, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather have Jozy manning the hub. McBride is and was heart-and-soul but propped up a bit?

McBride will win on headers obviously, but he’s not going to command attention like Jozy.

I feel like both you and I are steering clear of the “bigger” selections that make a statement with our team. Well, no longer for me.

5. With the #5 pick in the draft, TSG selects, CD8 Clinton Drew….Dempsey, Nachodelicious, Texas

Selection #5: TSG selects Clint Dempsey 2010 which means that TWNN gets Landon Donovan 2002

"There's a new way for the USA" (Courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Defense: As an admitted critic of I agonized over this selection. I could have perhaps went with a safer one.

Landon Donovan may have made the 2002 World Cup his fountain of life, but I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid on him in favor Dempsey here.

Donovan quite honestly somewhat snuck up on the competition–he went missing for pieces of games and was prone to some poor fouls as I remember.

Further, again top level competition, Donovan could just not seem to sneak the ball past them. Deuce, well that’s his forte.

Next, as I learned in Chasing the Game, Deuce went to Bob Bradley during the Confederation Cup to discuss ways that his strength could be used to more of an advantage.

Is Deuce is fit and deployed correctly in 2010, as a veteran, his name may be emblazoned as the Yank’s star that had the biggest impact.


I went with McBride because I think Jozy is overrated at the moment. His potential is incredible, but I think the dearth of forwards in the current pool is making people believe he is better than he actually is.

The “bigger” selections have definitely gone untouched until your last pick, but I think something that’s playing an even bigger role right now are the injuries. It’s tough to gauge how much better 2010 Player A is versus 2002 Player B because coming off of injury, we don’t know how good 2010 Player A will be.

6. With the #6 pick in the draft, RR selects Edward Lewis from Cerritos, CA.

Selection #6: TWNN selects Eddie Lewis 2002, which means TSG gets Stuart Holden 2010.

Defense: In skill set, there isn’t a lot to set Eddie Lewis apart from Stuart Holden, but I have serious concerns (hopefully unfounded ones) about the spikey haired blonde’s ability to bounce back and play well this summer. Holden has played in just two Premier League matches for Bolton and has his short stint versus Netherlands to fall back on as his 2010 experience. For a more experienced player, this wouldn’t bother me so much, but for a guy who made his senior international debut in a weakened 2009 Gold Cup, it concerns me.

This continues my run of 2002 players, but as I alluded to before, it’s the injuries to some 2010 guys that have me concerned, as well as you selecting 2010 Clint Dempsey, who I was hoping to select with this pick. If Holden can come out and play at full fitness without any rust this summer then my pick here looks foolish, but I just can’t see him doing it. I may be a pessimist on this one, but I have low expectations for Holden this summer because of his injury.

Bob's secret weapon? (Courtesy, Matt Mathai)

This is a risky pick and hopefully a stupid one, but I’m rarely one to bank on healthy returns from injuries until it’s proven to me and while lively in his return with Bolton, he still didn’t have “it.” We’ll see if he gets it back.

Meanwhile, in Lewis, I have someone who can play in an excellent ball from the left. Also, I think his issues defending at left back lead some to believe he struggled to defend, but tracking back as a midfielder he did well in the final third so I like what he brings to the table with that, especially with both left backs somewhat suspect.


Oh wow Ryan…I’m not on the same page here. I considered selecting Holden with my last pick! Remove bandage, open wound, pour salt and lemon juice.

In my opinion, Lewis who had bouts with injuries around and during the cup himself was severely limited as a winger in his offense at the international level. I have no reservations about Stuie. Luckily, we’ve made it option of Mathis or Lewis so if Lewis clunks out–well you’re not desperate to move Hedjuk up.

7. With the #7 pick, TSG selects All-American California boy Landon “The Last Piece of Cake Is Gone” Donovan.

Selection #7: TSG selects Landon Donovan 2010 which means that TWNN gets Claudio Reyna 2002.

LD10, a more polished version? (Courtesy, Matt Mathai)

Defense: I agonized last pick over taking Landon 2010. I choose Dempsey with the earlier pick merely because Landon–without service–can go missing in big games.

Claudio Reyna had a “good” 2002 and yes, he may have earned some all tourney honors. That said–and I’ve always personally had reservations about Reyna at the International level–Landon does pretty much everything better. Reyna’s got him on long distribution over the top (we all remember the near score when Kahn was roaming against Germany) after that…Landon.

Better speed, better defense, better shooting ability, better on set-pieces and better passing during the offensive run-of-play.

I do believe–and some will call it blasphemous–that John O’Brien covered quite a bit for Reyna in 2002…okay I said it…there.


There’s no doubt in my mind that O’Brien covered a lot for Reyna in ’02 and I’d have put O’Brien on the All-Cup team ahead of Reyna. That said, Reyna was still very good in the tournament and his ability to play out wide or come inside is something that he can match Donovan in.

The big thing for me when deciding to  pass on ’10 Donovan with my last pick (when I was considering it) was that Landon likes to be a bit quicker, while Reyna can play it a bit slower and establish possession, something that my team needs since you took O’Brien. Reyna’s calm on the ball is the difference for me and when you take into account that Reyna would be going against your left back as opposed to Donovan at my right back, I think that greatly narrows the gap between the two.

8. With the #8 pick, TWNN selects the Argentinean-born Pablo Mastroeni, who Maradona would take to South Africa before Esteban Cambiasso.

Selection #8: TWNN selects Pablo Mastroeni, meaning TSG gets Maurice Edu/Ricardo Clark.


Defense: This pick gave me a lot of issues. Again, dealing with injuries is dicey and makes things difficult so I didn’t really know where to go.

The big thing for me here was Mastroeni’s unending range and tenacity in the tackle. If you take a look back at the 2002 match versus Germany, you see a three-man back line for the US and after going behind a goal, O’Brien and Hejduk pushed well up the field.

That basically left Mastro on his own to shield the back line and he was incredible in doing so, making tackle after tackle. We often think of Mastro as a card machine and while he had his moments, earlier in his career when he had great range he didn’t pick them up nearly as much.

With both Mo and Rico coming off of injuries and limited playing time in the past year, I like the guy who can really put up a wall in front of a back line, plus he didn’t have a bad shot from distance.


Excellent pick Ryan. Excellent pick. Few remember that Mastroeni was flat out the glue of the defense in 2002. He covered at left back and at center mid.

Excellent pick and your team is better for it.

9. With the #9 pick in the draft, TSG gets tube rider and San Diego native Frankie “The Haircut” Hejduk.

Iron Lion Zion

Selection #9: TSG selects Franke Hejduk 2002 which means that TWNN gets Carlos Bocanegra 2010.

Defense: I’m pretty confident with this pick and it may be the sleeper. Hejduk at 2002 was beset by injuries leading up to the World Cup, but he came on and eventually started four games for the States. Hejduk is my Barcary Sagna pick. He’s going to run endlessly all day long.

His fitness makes up for some of the times he’s caught out of position. He’ll throw a cross in there or two and he’s got fight. Remember just a few years earlier before some injuries, Hejduk was a major contributor for Leverkusen, a powerhouse at the time.

Boca, conversely, has many questions to answer this year. Least of which is, can he handle speed on the flank? Not a problem for Hejduk and my team is better for it.


When I made my last pick, it was going to be either Mastroeni or Hejduk so I think you made a great pick right there. Especially with the Bocanegra hernia surgery news, Hejduk looks like a very good pick with his speed and versatility.

10. With the #10. pick in the draft, TWNN selects the man with the ever-changing accent, Brad Friedel 2002.

Selections #9: TWNN selects Brad Friedel 2002 which means that TSG gets Tim Howard 2010.

I really, really wanted to pick Gooch here because I felt obligated to pick one player from the 2010 team, but after his match versus the Czech Republic, I couldn’t do it. So, with that out, I decided I’d turn to goalkeeper, traditionally the strongest position for the US.

Tim Howard has been in great form and he’s a tremendous shot stopper so I don’t think you, or anyone for that matter, will have an issue putting him between the sticks. The reason I went with Friedel is because the more I looked at these teams, the more even they looked so I figure if we end up in penalties, why not go with the guy who stopped two in a World Cup?

TSG gets "2nd choice" Howard....fine by us...(courtesy, Matt Mathai)

You know Ryan. Brad Friedel is probably the right pick. I was hoping you picked one of these guys and forced my hand.My biggest challenge with Friedel who is world-class at shot-stopping is how slow he is when the ball is played back to him or if he needs to spring to the spot with an onrushing striker who’s been played over the top.I still probably would have went with Friedel at some point, but that is a concern.

11. With the #11 pick in the draft, TSG selects Don Garber’s foil, Eddie Pope.

Selection #11: TSG goes with Eddie Pope 2002 over Oguchi Onyewu/Clarence Goodson 2010, now heading to TWNN

Defense: This pick, I admit, is a bit of a cop out pick. I don’t know Onyewu’s form and Goodson’s one game against World Cup level competition was the dreaded 5-0 massacre by El Tri for the Gold Cup finale in 2009.

I like Goodson offensively, quite a bit, but I’m going with the MLS player rep in Eddie Pope. Pope went into the tourney with a knee injury and still management to be one of the US leaders in minutes played. I do think Pope in 2002 was better than folks gave him credit for as he had manage for Jeff Agoos who had a rocky tourney and then adjust to Berhalter in the middle.

That leaves one pick for you…..


The Pope pick is somewhat of a cop out, as you said, but what other choice do you really have? Your hands are pretty much tied so you went with the only sensible pick.

12. With the 12th pick in the draft, RR selects Benny Feilhaber, who was too good for Derby no matter what anyone says.

Selection #12: TWNN selects 2010 Benny Feilhaber, meaning TSG gets 2002 DaMarcus Beasley.

Defense: I haven’t picked any 2010 players and Bornstein vs. Agoos is a lose-lose pick so I’m left with Benny. He also has his jets.

And now for the starting line-ups.


G: Brad Friedel (’02)

DEF: Tony Sanneh (’02), Oguchi Onyewu/Clarence Goodson (’10), Gregg Berhalter (’02), Carlos Bocanegra (’02)

MID: Claudio Reyna (’02), Michael Bradley (’10),  Pablo Mastroeni (’02), Eddie Lewis (’02)

FW: Landon Donovan (’02)

STR: Brian McBride (’02)

BEN: Benny Feilhaber, Jonathan Bornstein


Team TSG:

G: Tim Howard (2010)

DEF: Jonathan Spector (’10), Eddie Pope (’02), Jay DeMerit (’10), Frankie Hedjuk (’02)

MID: Landon Donovan (’10), John O’Brien (’02), Maurice Edu (’10), Stu Holden (’10)

FW: Clint Dempsey (’10)

STR: Jozy Altidore (’10)

BEN: DaMarcus Beasley, Jeff Agoos

Who wins this one? I guess that’s for the commentary to decide.

16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rusry723 on 2010/05/31 at 9:51 PM

    TSG wins this one handily. Demerit and Pope shut down McGod. Mo Edu will will put the clamps on ’02 Landon. Altidore will man handle Berhalter while Dempsey makes the dangerous runs.

    While ’02 was a great story, ’10 blows them out of the water talent-wise IMO.


    • I agree. TSG has this one in the bag, not only is their central defensive pairing stronger, but the outside backs can more than hold their own against the competition; Spector may not have the greatest wheels but he won’t need them against Eddie Lewis, and Frankie Haircut can take care of Gramps. The only issue TSG would have is the ability for Deuce and Josmer to work together up top as evidenced by Saturday’s first half, but some in game adjustments and this team will fly.


  2. Posted by ThaDeuce on 2010/05/31 at 10:56 PM

    You forgot coaches…
    That would be very interesting to debate…
    I’d take BB


  3. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/05/31 at 11:35 PM

    Broson goes with the (very) conservative thinking here…

    And was that an Elton John reference?


  4. Once Frankie Hejduk takes the field for TSG there is no more debate.


  5. I really wanted McBride 2002 and Dempsey 2010 on the same side.

    TSG’s Donovan, O’Brien, Edu and Holden is one hell of a midfield. It won’t matter if their Defense is arguably weaker because they’ll own possession and be able to play the ball to Jozy’s feet, just like he likes it find someone running into the outside channel and Dempsey will own the crosses into the box.


  6. No one thought of starting two Donovans?


    • Posted by Smitty on 2010/06/01 at 10:17 AM

      I like the thought of two Donovans in the lineup. If only…

      Hey, as a guy who lives in a town along the border of the two states, let me note how awesome it is that two of the top three players picked are from Minnesota & Wisconsin. Go figure.


  7. Posted by Texas Tippler on 2010/06/01 at 11:38 AM

    While we are on this fantasy stuff, is there going to be a TSG group in any of the World Cup Fantasy games?

    Or at least in a bracket predictor:


  8. Wish I could throw TWNN a bone, but I’m also picking TSG to win this one. That midfield is dynamic if not amazing. TWNN will be counting on counterattacks while TSG will hold possession and has two excellent finishers up top. Say what you want against Altidore, but his goal tally for the national team is very nice, and I agree that with the ability to play the ball to his feet, it’s going to get even harder for TWNN.


    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/01 at 4:59 PM

      TWNN will be relying on the counter when they don’t have any speed… not good…


  9. Posted by Matthew on 2010/06/01 at 1:31 PM

    TSG…TWNN does not have enough offensive punch in the midfield, although the CM pairing of Bradley and Mastro is slightly better than O’Brien/Edu.


  10. Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/01 at 5:10 PM

    TSG wins

    First of all the midfield selected by TWNN is pretty defensive and looks as if they’re trying for a tie. TSG has more of a possession game while Altidore is still very good. I would be happy to settle for Altidore as long as my opponent decides to use that pick.

    I think TSG would have no defensive worries had it been spector/dolo.

    TWNN got Holden all wrong, but I’m wondering, was this written before the friendlies? I don’t see how you can question Holden’s fitness after the friendlies. Either way, I’m still surprised at how early that pick came. If we do something like this, I’d like to participate, but only if its 2006. Anything before that and all I know is the highlights.

    Coach selction would have been okay
    Wheres the kit selection?

    I think it would have been better if you just took the 23 man roster and one by one chose players and chose a formation you thought would work.


  11. […] TSG Goes Playground: ’02 vs. ’10 […]


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