Matchday: US v Barbados
Will Bob Bradley find a way to have Freddy Adu and Landon Donovan in the same starting lineup/SI.com photo
Well the time for preparation is over. Today the United States begins World Cup qualifying and results now do now matter. The style and performances of the last three friendlies have been dissected and pulled apart, on this web page and others, but now is the time to finally determine whether the United States is making strides towards what was a stated goal many years ago to win the World Cup in 2010.
Obviously the United States will not win the World Cup in 2010. However, the ambition for US Soccer laid out by Carlos Queiroz in the “Q-Report” has yet to be realized. Between 1990 and 2003, it seemed that even through setbacks, the general standard of American soccer and skill of American players was improving. Since 2003, that belief has faded and real questions have been asked of the powers that be at US Soccer. As access to the game has increased, so has the criticism of the US National Team. Today Bob Bradley is under greater fire than any US National Team coach before him, including Steve Sampson and Bruce Arena in the wake of World Cup debacles.
It seems the American sporting culture while not embracing soccer with the enthusiasm we would all like to see, has kept a watchful eye on the US National Team since 2006, and this has made Bradley’s tenure more pressure filled than any previous coach of the US team has faced. This is a good thing as we move forward, but unlike in the past merely qualifying for the World Cup will not be acceptable to many. For progress to be demonstrated and the game to continue to grow here in the U.S. fans will want to see good results and attractive football. Is this a fair standard? Probably not, but that is where we are in the U.S. circa 2008 with regards to our national team.
With that in mind here is what I feel will be the most effective lineup for today’s qualifier in Carson, CA.
I have seen much written about Brian Ching perhaps getting the start ahead of Eddie Johnson. While Ching provides the target player that can be effective in qualifiers on the road in Central America, Eddie Johnson has a remarkable goal scoring record in World Cup qualifying. I’d give him one last shot today to see if in qualifying, he can rekindle the magic of the last qualifying cycle.