All the pomp and circumstance of ESPN yielded us a predictable 24 for the upcoming qualifiers versus Costa Rica and Honduras. Here is the squad:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa: 5/3 SO), Tim Howard (Everton: 9/7 SO)
DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes: 19/2), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA: 1/0), Danny Califf (Midtjylland: 4/0), Jay DeMerit (Watford: 1/0), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew: 17/2), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege: 14/1), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock: 9/0), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United: 2/1), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC: 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Freddy Adu (Monaco: 5/1), DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers: 24/6), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach: 9/4), Maurice Edu (Rangers: 4/0), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus: 0/0), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA: 9/0), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids: 13/0), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca: 4/0)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Xerez: 6/5), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo: 15/6), Charlie Davies (Hammarby: 1/1), Clint Dempsey (Fulham: 15/4), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy: 28/9)
*numbers indicate all-time World Cup Qualifying caps/goals
ALSO INVITED TO CAMP: Luis Robles, GK, Kaiserslautern, Erich Lichaj, MF Aston Villa
It is a very difficult thing to pick a core of players and stick with them especially since American footballers are scattered throughout the globe and in many club situation are not given the deference that players of other nationalities are given. Yet it is still mind boggling how consistent Bradley’s selections are. It seems first impressions of certain players for him are lasting impressions, unlike his predecessor Bruce Arena who was much more creative with his selection policies.
Several players right now in MLS, Europe and even Mexico who likely would have been given a serious look by Arena in the last two years who have not been called in by Bradley except for the largely meaningless January camp, and subsequent January friendly.
This can be argued both ways: Bradley has a core of players comfortable with one another that will avoid the chemistry and personality issues that characterized the late Arena years. But the other side of the coin is that players that could actually upgrade the US squad and help the national team play with more flair or creativity up front are being flat out ignored.
The names Conor Casey and Kenny Cooper continue to come to mind every time Bradley selects his team. I’ve been calling for Casey’s recall since August 2007 on this website and have seen him recalled just once, for a token appearance in his hometown in a meaningless qualifier after the US had secured passage to the next stage.
Cooper has been selected only twice in the past two years, a shocking omission given his quality and his pedigree which prompted Manchester United to sign him at 18. Cooper has a quality unknown to most American attacking players. A target forward who plays well with the ball at his feet, with his back to goal and when drifting out wide to help stimulate the attack, Cooper could only help the US team. Perhaps he doesn’t fit Bradley’s tactical setup which depends on a target player, usually Brian Ching to hold up play and create for the other attackers.
Benny Feilhaber’s recall is interesting. A very technical player, Feilhaber’s attitude and recent nomadic travels through Europe are a problem, but he simply is too skilled to write off. Feilhaber could provide for Bradley what John O’Brien did for Arena prior to the injury plague that ended his career.
Charlie Davies call in is also good news. Davies has time on his hand since he is due to serve a five game Swedish league suspension, The cultured attacker has been scoring goals at a remarkable rate in the Swedish league over the past two seasons.
Luis Robles has been called in for camp and I believe he should be given the opportunity at some point to oust Brad Guzan as the USA #2 keeper. Only time will tell if he is given an opportunity. Sacha Kljestan has been in poor form for an otherwise stellar Chivas USA team, but being one Bradley’s favorites, ensures he continues to be called.
The recall of Jonathan Spector is not surprising. The West Ham defender has always been a favorite of Bradley but injuries and a deal made last season with Alan Curbishley then the Hammers manager stopped Spector from being regularly called in for the senior national team.
Steve Cherundolo’s injuries and decline in form have forced Bradley to try and accelerate the integration of Marvell Wynne into the national team, hence his inclusion in the team. Jose Francisco Torres will have to complete the Mexican playoffs with Pachuca before he joins the US team. My assumption would be that he misses the training camp in Miami.