Confederations Cup: MLS Heavy Squad Required?


In recent months Bob Bradley’s squad selection has become more and more European based player heavy. Yet we’ve seen little or no discernible improvement in the form of the National Team. The side has won easily at home and struggled away from home even against seemingly over matched opponents. Even with the players perceived as creative in the squad the US has had a difficult time breaking down the most basic of bunkered defenses. We saw this in road matches at Barbados, Guatemala, Cuba and El Salvador in the last twelve months.

Last summer we also saw a number of European based players join the national team and look unfit and disinterested. I was present for the US match at Wembley against England and saw an uninspired effort particularly from those players that had gone through a grueling European campaign and had played meaningful club games in May.

This is not to belittle MLS but I suppose it will be seen as such. You just don’t have particularly meaningful MLS games before September. Because the league is based on parity and a single entity structure, dropping points in April and May often times has little or even no bearing on the final table.

For the USMNT this June’s Confederations Cup is a deadly serious matter. Should the US bow out of the competition quickly as it is likely to do with the typical Bradley player selection, any chance to be seeded for the 2010 World Cup will be lost as will the credibility and momentum US Soccer has gained in the last few years domestically among a skeptical audience for the sport.

The performance in the last twelve months of largely European based squads has been underwhelming. I am not arguing that the American national players based in MLS are somehow better players than those in MLS. I think by most standards, the best American players are abroad, although Landon Donovan, Kenny Cooper, Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston and Jimmy Conrad are all very notable and significant exceptions to this trend.

Many MLS based players will fight to the death on the pitch for the national team. It is after all the pinnacle of their careers to put on the US Shirt. With the shifting emphasis on the European continent away from international football and towards the club game has left many European based players tired, and worse unmotivated when they fly in for USMNT games.

That apprehension to play football a hemisphere away has shown itself in the terrible road performances of the last year by Team USA when reliant on players flying in from Europe in the middle of a long club season. As last Summer’s performances demonstrated for some of these players, even the most talented ones, another month of training camp and matches is not what the doctor ordered.

Additionally, for many this will be the fifth straight summer of national team action. Bruce Arena tried to mix his squad up for the 2005 Gold Cup, but obviously relied on his core in the 2006 World Cup and Bob Bradley inherited that core for the 2007 Gold Cup. In 2008, Bradley called Euro heavy squads up for grueling Summer friendlies against a trifecta of world powers and the US team looked gassed and as I have stated earlier, largely uninterested in the proceedings.

Several current MLS based players have had more success with the national team in truly big games than the current players Bob Bradley calls to his squad. I would include Eddie Lewis and Josh Wolff two key figures in the US victory over Mexico in the 2002 World Cup in that list along with Clint Mathis who along with Wolff was the key figure in the historic 2-0 qualifying win over Mexico in Columbus back in 2001.

With so much on the line and many capable in form and yet fresh American players availible, Bradley should opt for this option. He can return to the European based players if the MLS heavy squad I propose for this summer fails when the US travels to Azteca in August to to face Mexico.

Here is my proposed Confederations Cup squad:

GK Tim Howard (Everton)  Troy Perkins (Valangra)

Other possible call ups: Zach Thornton (Chivas USA), Bill Gaudette (PR Islanders), Luis Robles (Kaiserslauten)

DEF Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City), Chad Marshall (Columbus), Marco Vidal (Indios), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjælland), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus)

Other possible call ups: Chris Wingert (RSL), Ugo Ihemelu (Colorado), Tim Ward (Chicago), Bobby Boswell (Houston), Nat Borchers (RSL)

MID Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Chris Rolfe (Chicago), John Thorrington (Chicago), Eddie Gaven (Columbus), Rico Clark (Houston), Santino Quaranta (DC United), Steve Ralston (New England)

Other possible call ups: Robbie Rogers (Columbus), Brian Carrol (Columbus), Eddie Lewis (LA Galaxy), Colin Clarke (Colorado), Seth Stammler (New York), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus)

FWD Charlie Davies (Hammerby), Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas), Jozy Altidore (Villeareal), Josh Wolff (Kansas City)

Other possible call ups: Jerimiah White (Aarhus), Robbie Findley (RSL), Nate Jaqua (Seattle), Brian Ching (Houston), Chad Barrett (Toronto FC)

39 thoughts on “Confederations Cup: MLS Heavy Squad Required?”

  1. You’re kidding, right? The Confederations Cup is the one where we try out our supposed first team before the World Cup. Gold Cup is where we try out all the MLS guys and see who is ready to fight for a spot (plus Freddy Adu).

    Bradley, Dempsey, Boca, Onyewu, WILL be part of the confederations squad, (along with Beasley, who aint playin’ well, who either needs a lot of work or a lot of pasture).

    I would guess that this is purely conjecture, that these are players from MLS who might deserve a look, but then you have Torres who, while intriguing, isn’t in MLS. So you’re point is that we throw a hodge-podge group of hardly capped guys together in something we Needed to win the gold cup in order to enter?

    Oh yes, and let’s send all the MLS players when we actually have a chance to conquer Azteca for the first time ever. I’ve got an idea. Come up with a good one.

  2. Except that Danny Califf and Heath Pearce were defending. Hopefully, this will never happen again.

    Also, we need to continue to work Edu, Torres, and (when needed) Mastroeni with Bradley.

    Gold cup is the experiment. As far as being disinterested, try overly conservative. We’ll need new attackers, (Adu, Kenny, I can’t believe I’m saying Wolff) and defenders, especially left back.

    I’ll leave you with this. Arena tried to experiment once qualifying was pretty much assured, and it threw the team off, and we didn’t have much confidence going in. Am I saying that we shouldn’t try new things with MLS talent? No. Just not at Azteca and the Confed cup.

  3. God, you people need to make up your mind. First, they say we are hopeless in our group, and say no matter what happens (most likely crap performances with a crap squad as you said) the only thing that matters is WC qualifying. And yet, this is the chance to see how ready we are for the World Cup. In that case, all PERFORMANCES, (not results) should be taken into account. I tend to agree that Gold Cup should be “experimental” and Confed Cup the first team, but I say “experimental” because many of those guys that are on Bob’s B team SHOULD have been blooded into the first choice squad by now, like Cooper.

  4. It’s about freaking time Kartik! Good piece, good work.

    I’m tired of Dempsey, Beasley, Bocanegra etc looking jet lagged every time they get called in ready to catch the next flight back “home.”

    Those guys abandoned this league and not one of them has improved since leaving.

    Bradley is a eurosnob.

    How else do explain Pearce over Wingert?

    Feilhaber over Carrol?

    Davies over Cooper?

    Califf over any central defender in MLS?

    Cherundolo over Wynne?

    Beasley over any left sided midfielder in MLS?

    Where is Justin Mapp on your list? He could blow Beasley or Torres away.

    The one objection I have is with the choice of Perkins to backup Howard. Go with Reis or Busch. I like the idea of Gaudette also. He was awesome in both USL and CONCACAF last season.

    This is aybe your most thoughtful and provocative post in ages. This is precisely why I come to this site: you’ll dig deeper than most. No one wants to admit Dempsey, Bocanegra, Little Mikey and others are constantly dogging it for the national team.

    Come to think about it the English had a point about Beckham flying back and forth and constantly playing without any breaks.

  5. If we take the players you just listed we will get destroyed. We are gonna be facing players like Kaka, Robinho,De rossi, Pirlo. MLS players are that for a reason, not good enough to play at the top level in Europe.

  6. So Chris Wingert will shut down Robinho while Brian Carrol marks Kaka out of the game? Bill Gaudette will come up big when Luca Toni puts a header on net? Kartik and MLS Love it or Leave America we need more and more of our players to LEAVE MLS if we are going to get to the level we need to, not to stay. Of Kartik’s selections only Howard, Torres, Davies and Altidore belong anywhere near the team.

    On this Kenny Cooper thing has it ever occurred to all you idiots in the blogosphere that the guys couldn’t even keep regular playing time in League 2, the 4th division in England and yet had torn up MLS for four years now. What does that say about MLS and could that explain why Bradley isn’t all gaga about him the way the internet warriors are?

  7. Donovan also should be in the team. So Kartik has 5 players right and 17 wrong. AWFUL, just awful.

  8. Not a horrible idea. Dempsey and Beasley the two guys I think you are alluding to looked gassed and totally 100% useless last year versus England, Spain and Argentina.

    The problem is MLS guys aren’t good enough. Could we use some of our other Euro based players like Zac Whitbread, Jemel Johnson, Mike Grella, and Jay DeMerit who will be anxious to keep their new place in the national team and will give all for the cause down in South Africa?

  9. Tell me, how is Jay Demerit any better than Conrad? And Angry USA fan, what about donovan getting so much time? He wasn’t exactly tearing the league up for some time. Donovan is in because his performances are excellent. And Cooper has been tearing the league up. He deserves a starting spot over Ching

  10. First off, that’s debatable. Second, that doesn’t mean Demerit is better than Conrad. Plus, Conrad has shown he can me the number 3 defender. Demerit hasn’t

  11. I hear your points, I personally dont rate either of them against top international competition. I think no matter who we take to the Confederations Cup we will not advance. I just hope we put a good effort in and fight until the end.

  12. Yes, WC qualifying is all that matters, period end of story.

    Bradley is doing MLS a favor by keeping it’s players at home during the prime of the MLS season. He has little choice but to pick Euro-based talent this summer except for the qualifiers.

    Yes, MLS should adjust it’s schedule for WC events that MATTER! That does not include the made up Confederations Cup! I also do not see why the Gold Cup was scheduled now, when everyone knew that WC qualifying would be taking place

  13. eplnfl misses my point. Picking guys in their offseason when they are worn down after a long grueling campaign which requires more physical and mental stamina than the MLS leads to uneven and indifferent performances. I realize the squad I suggest is less talented than the ideal squad most US Soccer fans would like to see.

    I also urge those angry about this post to stop basing their desire to see certain players selected for national team duty on reputation and actually base it on how sharp or poor they have looked when called in for hostile matches on the road in the last year. Several of the perceived top American players based in European Leagues have looked tired, or simply out classed against top competition. It is entirely possible the MLS oriented squad I propose will be similarly humiliated against Brazil and Italy the way a Euro heavy squad was embarrassed by England and Spain. But we at least need to take this opportunity to deepen the pool and find out what we have for the rest of qualifying.

    Additionally, the performance of several of our top European based players in tough CONCACAF road matches has been appalling considering their reputations and how out classed the opposition was. Our European based players have shown a lack of creativity and ability to break down the most basic “park the bus” tactics by over matches Central American and Caribbean opposition. Do all of you really think the MLS guys I discuss in this post would do any worse against similarly bad CONCACAF opponents?

  14. Yeah. We’ve got talent in MLS. It’s true that players have seemed tired. But Angry US fan outlines just how ludicrous some of these comparisons are. Put aside how talented these players are for a moment, and the charge that they are not worthy of European clubs. They still haven’t played at anywhere near the pace or level of Italy or Brazil, and will provide one team that WILL be beaten by Mexico in Azteca in a land slide, and that accomplishes nothing but humiliation, both in the region and abroad.
    And Mapp smoking Torres? Now that’s just crazy talk. He had one amazing run in Bradley’s first game vs Denmark. Since then, even for Chicago he has only been an inconsistent star. Also, love it or leave it is a phrase used by morons who can’t bear questioning.

    You know what, bye bye to the blog. I’m just not sure opinions like this are really worth this much puncturing.

  15. The gold cup is where MLS players should be tested. If we take a heavy MLS team to the Confederations Cup we will find out that MLS players are not that good.

  16. I generally agree with this article, however I think the European based players are going to be fine in June. They’ll have had a few weeks rest before the Confederations Cup starts.

    I really think Stammler should get a call up. He’s been doing so well with a guy like Albert Celades partnering up in midfield. Maybe him and Torres in the Gold Cup. Bradley really needs to call up Findley, Cooper, and Wolff. They’ve all been doing very well lately. Also, Bocanegra needs to play LB. Put Parkhurst at CB.

  17. Well, that could work, definitely. Let me remind you that Italy and my national team Brazil are pretty much made up of all Europe based players. I wish Dunga would call players that actually are playing in Brasileirão, besides all those Europe based players.

    Kartik, what is happening with USNT is the same that happens to Brazil. To many players in Europe, no passion in the qualifyings. Perhaps if Bradley call a totally different squad from the usual, those players have the chance to prove that they can play WF. Plus, you send a message to the old guys “your place its not garanteed, better you start playing some soccer or you will be OUT”

  18. Brazilian Fan- I agree.

    Also Dunga needs to let Brazil play like Brazil. Sadly, Dunga seems to like the anti-football Argentina pioneered more than the Joga Bonita that is Brazil. What the hell is wrong with him?

  19. The Mexican Team has had similar problems. Part of the downfall of El Tri in the last 2-3 years has been because so many jet lagged players from European clubs are forced to globe trot to represent the team. With USA focused on qualifying I’d use the Euro guys against Costa Rica and then give them the summer off to focus on Mexico at Azteca. Confederations Cup and Gold Cup are essentially exhibitions in a year about WC qualifying.

  20. This is essentially advocating the US taking a B-team to a very, very tough tournament against all the world’s confederation winners and the last world cup winner.

    HORRIBLE idea.

    The reason we are here in this tournament is to prep our best players against the best teams in the world in the same venues where the world cup will be. These are the A-teamers who carried us to the Gold Cup and have led us through a successful (to date) WCQ campaign. Donovan, Dempsey, Bocanegra (the captain), Howard, Onyewu, Bradley, Hejduk, Ching, Altidore, etc, are absolutely the correct players to bring to this competition and it’s folly to think that the second tier of guys you list would be “hungrier,” based on some friendlies last year. You don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Santino Quaranta is a knife.

    This is a good tournament for us to participate in, but only if we send our best side. Luckily Bradley and Sunil understand that and we will see the “A” team against Egypt, Italy, and Brazil.

  21. You need to look at the crowded schedule and figure out for youselves what is going to happen.

    The US plays two WC qualifiers (away to Costa Rica – most probably a loss, tie at best and home to Honduras – could be a loss here – that team is scary dangerous) and then goes to the Confederations Cup.

    Seeing as though you already have your top team playing those two qualifiers, what sense does it make to NOT play them a week later in South Africa? First of all, if we do as you suggest Kartik, you will be taking many players away from their MLS club matches, a practice you disdain I must add.. Secondly, we need our top team in South Africa to gauge ourselves for the following year (should we even make it – this three game stretch of WC matches could garner us only a single point, or none, if the US doesn’t play well, which will lead of course to twitchy bum time in the USA).

    The Gold Cup is the opportune time to send that second level of talent (i,e.. mostly MLS and the Charlie Davies and Jeremiah White’s of the world) to get some good looks at those players.

    Having three international events in such a short period of time will always stretch the US thin, but in my opinion is has to be this:

    WC Qualies – top team
    Confed Cup – top team
    Gold Cup – MLS squad with second level Europeans

    That has to be the order of importance.

  22. Jon, perhaps you are right, but lets think about.

    Confederations Cup does not mean anything. Yeah, Brazil won in 2005 and look what happen in WC 2006. The idea of taking an “MLS” squad is great for three reasons:

    1) If you want to see how good the players are, send them against the “best”. Players who deserve a chance in USNT will kill themselves and try to play the best to get a regular spot in NT. If USNT wants to win a WC one day, its better you find some options and improve some competions in the squad. If you dont agree with me, look at England.

    2) Players in MLS are getting in mid season, different from the others who just finished their season. Let me remind you that Brazil and Italia players (most of them, unless Dunga change his mind) are also in the end of their season. Who do you think is best prepared, less tired?

    3) You send a message to players like Beasley and others who are not playing so well. Let them think that their spots are not so guarenteed as they think. Let them worry about other options. Its time to show some respect and passion in the games (for example: Brasil needs a player like Julio Batista running his ass off and showing passion then another like Ronaldinho walking in the field. Did you get the idea?)

    Off course that Bradley can and should take players based in Europe that are playing well for the USNT but perhaps should take out those who are not playing so well, and mix the squad with some MLS based players.

  23. Mr Kartik, you are totally right, i agree with you.

    Unfortunately, Dunga still a young coach (in terms off experience) and is like Parreira (the coach who won 1994 WC with Brasil). More defensive players, more strong players, defend first to then attack. 0,5×0 to him is already a victory.

    Plus, he is a eurosnob. He just takes players based in Europe and thats killing the Brazil NT. Brazilian people are losing faith and interest in the NT because of that. Also, our “best” players all play outside the country and when they play for the NT, they show no passion. Then, when we have some good young players playing in Brazil, who deserve a chance in the NT, he does not give just because play in Brasil. Go figure!!!

    Brasil needs Felipão again!!!

  24. Huh? no Adu in your proposed squad. We are not going to bring our most influential and creative attacking player vs England,Spain and Argentina vs the same caliber type teams we will see in the Confederations cup? Why all this hate on Adu all of sudden? Remember Monaco is a far better club to earn a place in than any MLS team………….by far. And besides Adu has impressed in his limited minutes with Monaco, just ask the Juventes coach. So im so happy that Adu is going back to Benfica from his useless loan.

    My proposed lineup

    -Spector——–Bocanegra—–Onyewu———Hejduk or /Simek*/Wynne*/

    * = If Stevie C is still injured.

    What we will likely see with Bradleys “system”.




    Hejduk—————Bocanegra——-Onyewu——Stevie C*

    *if injured Hejduk will slot in at RB, and Bornstein or Pearce will be LB.

  25. A couple of thing. It’s jogo bonito. Not joga bonito or joga bonita. You can say “joga bonito” but that means “play pretty” as opposed to “beautiful game.” Personally, I find “the beautiful game” to be soccer’s most annoying, self-serving cliche, but, hey, some dig it. I just ask that those who can’t help themselves from using it, say it and write it correctly. But, Nike can’t even get it right.

    Now, the US. Let’s use another tired expression. Perfect Storm. They are going to drop three straight games WCQs. When that happens, no one will have cared about a win on PKs over Panama in the Gold Cup or why Conrad captained the Confed team. They could even lose to Costa Rica here. Then there’s the games at Trinidad and Honduras.

    The team will be lucky if it ends up playing Conmebol’s number five.

  26. I tend to think this is worth a shot. The European based players have given us bad performances against the likes of El Salvador and Cuba on the road. I think if we take the same team to Azteca or Costa Rica were going to get massacared. Everyone says we dominate CONCACAF now, but we still haven’t beaten either Costa Rica or MExico on the road in qualifying and have yet to face them this time. I think doing the same old same old with Bradley’s favorite players will get us barely qualified and three and done in the Confed Cup yet another Gold Cup triumph since every game is a home game.


    By the way Nick Webster must read this blog because he proposed the same thing on FFF last night.

  27. Joey, actually depends what do you want to say. “Jogo Bonito” means beatifull game, even if people down here dont use this expression that much. “Joga Bonito” means that you play beautifull. The right expression should be “Você Joga Bonito”. Thats what Nike uses. By the way, joga bonita or jogo bonita dont exist. Bonita is a feminine word, dont use it with verbs.


  28. Kartik, your point is well made here. It is my belief and I think Bradley’s bad position, not of his doing, btw, that he just can not take the MLS players he would like. The league would suffer and he knows that next summer players well hopefully be gone for quite a while in South Africa.

    Thanks for putting out Tim Wards name as a possible call up. As a Fire fan I’d love to see him called up, but imho he is too limited once he leaves his defensive role. Maybe he can get some some time later to show his stuff. While he is not a teenage sensation he has a lot of years left to be of value to the national team. On the other hand the Fire have the ability to replace him if he is called up, which other teams do not. Ok, so lets give him a chance.

  29. Brazilian Fan: You’re right. Joga bonito means “you play beautifully” OR “play beautifully.” I left out the simple declarative option because what the heck kind of slogan would that be? Technically, as a command it should correspond with “tu,” not “você,” but Brazilian Portuguese allows for that blurring. The thing is, as you know, you never here any of that “jogo bonito” stuff from Brazilians. The expression has been expropriated by those who enjoy the myths of Brazilian soccer. I don’t know how comfortable Nike would be with some of the true Brazilian soccer battle cries.

  30. Jon: Well, I said that they’d be lucky to end up playing Conmebol’s number 5, which, I suppose, is an indirect way of saying that they’ll finish fifth. I didn’t mean that, really. But don’t be surprised if we finish FOURTH.

    We will lose to Honduras here. We will lose at Costa Rica. And we lose at Mexico. That’s three straight losses. I can also see us dropping points at home to Costa Rica. We will lose at Honduras. Who knows what we can get at Trinidad? The team is not that good. Upgrades have been minimal. And Bradley doesn’t have a clue.

    At a certain level, it could be the best thing for us. Don’t be surprised if it happens.

  31. I actually agree and disagree with Joey.

    We’ll lose at Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico for sure.

    But by winning all our home games we finish at least third.

    So what does that prove?

    Simply that we aren’t very good and that Bradley has simply continued the failure of the late Arena years.

    I am all for Kartik’s idea of new blood. The El Salvador match should have provided beyond a reasonable doubt that depending on European based players during European season is a huge mistake. The players come into camp tired and don’t give a full effort mentally or physically. They depart after the game and don’t think again about the national team until their next call up.

    At least with MLS guys or maybe even a USL guy or two they’ll fight like hell every time they put the shirt on.

  32. US Squad for Confederations Cup (23 Players):

    GK: Howard
    Backups: Guzan, Perkins

    DEF: Hejduk, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Pearce
    Backups: Cherundolo, Conrad, Parkhurst

    MID: Dempsey, Bradely, Mastroeni, Donovan
    Backups: Kljestan, Feilhaber, Adu, Beasley, Lewis

    FW: Cooper, Altidore
    Backups: Ching, Wolff

    Starting Formation:

    Bench (7 Players):
    Guzan, Cherundolo, Conrad, Kljestan, Adu, Beasley, Ching

  33. Qualifiers are the top priority here, and with VERY few exceptions our best players are on European clubs, so Papa Bradley has that right. Katrik is funny in a sad way because of his cluelessness… Did MLS pay him to write this nonsense? I coughed beer out of my nose when he listed Ralston among our best players and when he suggested an A League keeper as someone who should be in the mix. Holy Smokes! On top of it all, Katrik is a very mediocre writer. I hope that he does better with his day job.

    we need help in the back. time to bring whitbread into the picture… los can play LB (this beasley experiment is frightening), zak in the middle next to gooch, with frankie on the right. deuce is our rm and best player, with jr and edu in the center mid (not the most creative, I know, but serious presence), and landy cakes on the left. jozy and ching as strikers, and tim in goal. that is the best we can hope for. yaba daba doo… but on the road in latin america, expect mastroeni to start over edu and captain the side. i also think that josh wolff deserves a spot in confed and qualifiers, on the bench, but his greatest moment came off the bench in columbus in la guerra fria… papa bb is right to be conservative and go euro top heavy… let the mls dregs strut their stuff in the gold cup.

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