Let me preface this blog post by saying I am in no way a fan of Steve McClaren and feel he is completely out of his league coaching England. But he does have one thing right: Friendlies need to be used to deepen the player pool so when major tournaments roll around you are fielding the best possible national side. Gareth Barry, Ben Foster, Micah Richards and Joey Barton have all gotten a taste of International Football thanks to call ups from McClaren and the FA’s scheduling of strategic friendlies.
This is in direct contrast to the policy of United States Soccer Federation in their handling of friendlies leading into Copa America and the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer. These two tournaments are the biggest the US participates in besides the World Cup, but instead of deepening the player pool by calling up some very deserving uncapped players such as West Ham’s Jonathan Spector Watford’s Jay DeMerit, Sheffield Wednesday’s Frankie Simek, Bolton’s Johann Smith, Heath Pearce who exceles in the Danish Super League or PSV’s Lee Nguyen. These players who have been playing in Europe have been all but ignored by the continued MLS’s bias in the selection of members of the US National Team player pool when you get beyond the top 20 or so players. Jamie Trecker who sounded the alarm about the decaying player pool on an EPL Talk podcast interview with the Gaffer last year and had a great article on the day of the Mexico game about the same subject. The article can be found here. Clearly part of the problem is the fact that Bob Bradley is an interim coach and that he is calling a comfortable squad up so that he can try and win the full time job.
The US victory over Mexico was nice, but believe it or not McClaren may have laid a stronger foundation for the future of the English National Team in the loss to Spain than the US did in the win against Mexico. That’s not meant as a compliment to McClaren but a statement about the US unwillingness to experiment with new players and tactics when they have the opportunity to do so. If the US crashes and burns out of Copa America with a similar squad it fielded in Germany 2006 remember the missed opportunities the USSF had to deepen the player pool and to call up some very successful American players plying their trade in Europe.