It’s less than a year away, the World Cup, and a lot of things can happen in a year, but who’s earned a place in the World Cup for the United States?
Moreover, who has played in the big games in the past few years and is now ready to play on the World Cup stage? Do you just take this Confederations Cup side, the team that beat Spain and nearly Brazil? That would make a lot of sense to me.
A little over a year ago, the U.S. tied Argentina in front of nearly 80,000 fans at Giants Stadium. Sure, it was just a friendly, but I think you can take a lot away from big games against big time sides. Games where players can’t hide. But starting for the U.S. in this game were guys like Dan Califf and Heath Pearce, both players not part of the success in the later stages of the Confederations Cup. And who started at forward in that game, Eddie Johnson, who I don’t think will play another game for the United States. Or at least let’s hope not. He has plenty of chances and doesn’t deserve more.
However, if you take the team from the Confederations Cup, then you exclude Brian Ching and Frankie Hejduk. And you keep a player like DaMarcus Beasley. Where does Beasley fit in now? Is his time at international football over – he’s only 27?
Players will get injured though. Hopefully not, but with the number of games that players are now playing throughout the year the probability is high. The good thing is the United States has tons of depth, and certainly in the keeper position. Guzan filled in wonderfully for Howard against Egypt to get the first and very important momentum turning win.
And there are always new players to look at…
Jermaine Jones is a new addition to the side, how will he fit in? The German-American played for Germany as a youth player but was told by coach Joachim Löw that he didn’t see him playing for Germany in the future. And then there’s Mexican-American Edgar Castillo, who has played for Mexico but not in any official competition, so is eligible to play for the United States. Castillo plays for Tigres in Mexico and said he wants to play for the country of his birth. Do we take these players or will it disrupt the team chemistry and spirit?
It often happens: a player will help a country qualify for the World Cup but not make the World Cup team. Many times there are players who were injured before but now are back in form and replace the players who did all the dirty work. Do we need to reward players who get us to the Cup?
And the U.S. national team is in a different place now. They don’t have to sign players who have weak connections to the U.S., military brats or players who haven’t set foot in the United States, only there mom’s or dad’s. There won’t be players like Earnie Stewart or Thomas Dooley on the team. Yes, both of these players became and were key players for the United States, but you have to wonder if it would have been better to sign some young American players.
That’s all past now though, the U.S. has some homegrown talent a plenty.
What really bodes well for Bradley and the U.S. national team is guys signing with bigger and bigger clubs? Those players will come into South Africa with a lot more confidence and experience playing at high levels, and for them personally, a bigger bank account to boot. Guys like Oguchi Onyewu, who just signed with AC Milan. And then surely a few more names will only join bigger sides, players like Dempsey, Davies, Clark, or Feilhaber maybe joining bigger clubs this summer.
And then what players will come out of the Gold Cup. Bradley has to keep an eye on guys like Stuart Holden, Robbie Rogers and maybe Kenny Cooper. These are player who can turn a game on its head with their abilities on the ball, Holden and Rogers for certain. I would add these two players just because they are creative and make this happen.
And, there will be names that surprise, whether they burst on the scene out of this Gold Cup tournament or have an amazing run in the MLS. Players that are playing well who can’t be ignored.
What will tell a big story though, is when the United States faces Mexico in Mexico City at Mexico’s Estadio Azteca, where they have yet to win. It will give us not just an idea of if and when the United States will qualify for the World Cup, which isn’t assured just yet, but what players can play in a very tough enviornment. There will surely be a few players who standout and a few that are just not ready to play in the Cup.
In the end, you don’t want to break up any team chemistry by adding a player that doesn’t fit in – especially in the final stages of World Cup preparation, yet you don’t want to pass up any special players.
When it’s all said and done, do you just keep the team intact, the team that beat Spain and nearly beat Brazil? Baring any injuries, I’d say why not just throw in a few young players who have game changing talents and stick with what you know works, the team that was up 2-0 on Brazil, the reigning World Cup champs.
Keepers: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan
Defenders: Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector
Midfielders: Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Benny Feilhaber, Michael Bradley
Forwards: Charlie Davies, Jozy Altidore
Keepers: Luis Robles, Troy Perkins, Kasey Keller, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Friedel
Defenders: Steve Cherundolo, Michael Parkhurst, Jonathan Bornstein, Dan Califf, Heath Pearce, Jimmy Conrad, Marvell Wynne
Midfielders: José Francisco Torres, Freddy Adu, Jermaine Jones, Edgar Castillo, Stuart Holden, Sacha Kljestan, Pablo Mastroeni, DaMarcus Beasley, Maurice Edu, Eddie Lewis, Frankie Hejduk, Bobby Convey
Forwards: Brian Ching, Robbie Rogers, Kenny Cooper, Josh Wolfe, Eddie Johnson
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