The United States participated in two Confederations Cups under Bruce Arena. The 1999 tournament saw the United States reach the semifinals with a mixture of young experimental squad featuring the likes of Benny Olsen and CJ Brown and some veterans Arena reached back to call up such as John Harkes and Marcelo Balboa to provide leadership. It was the last major tournament either American legend would play for the national team and their leadership helped the US to defeat Germany and hold Mexico scoreless at Azteca in the semifinals for over 100 minutes.
The experience fro the tournament served the United States very well going forward that World Cup cycle. The same can be said for the 2003 tournament where the United States did not far well but a blended squad of youngsters and veterans allowed Coach Arena to experiment and evaluate players.
However for this Confederations Cup, Coach Bob Bradley has called more or less the same squad he always calls for qualifiers and perceived big friendlies. Several players that are already proven to lack to metal to cut it at a high international level are being brought to South Africa. These are not players that are being tested as Arena did in his two Confederations Cups but simply more of the same status quo selections.
This Confederations Cup takes on added significance because it is being televised live on ESPN. In 1999 for example, I had to wait for highlight of the US-New Zealand game to be shown during a pregame show for ABC’s telecast of the MLS match between the Metrostars and Miami Fusion. ESPN is promoting the tournament with all the hubris and gusto with which they promote any tournament the US participates in these days.
So the stakes are high and in typical Bob Bradley style he’s picked a squad to try and achieve either minimal results (ie. draws) or a stalemate now rather than looking towards deepening the player pool to help us next year when the big tournament in South Africa rolls around.
Here is the squad Bradley has chosen:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Luis Robles (Kaiserslautern)
DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Danny Califf (Midtjylland ), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Freddy Adu (AS Monaco), DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Xerez), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Charlie Davies (Hammarby), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Further thoughts on the actual squad:
Of the many players I’ve editorialized in favor of Bradley looking at, he’s added just two, Conor Casey and Luis Robles.
This squad furthers my fear that Bradley is not really looking as hard as he needs to the deepen the player pool. The backline is embarrassingly bad in every match off of US soil- even against the likes of Guatemala and Cuba on the road we had too many defensive breakdowns. Yet we see no Frank Simek who was a key player in the Gold Cup Final of 2007 and has only gotten better since that day without a cap. We see no Danny Szetela perhaps the best two way young American midfielder in Europe. We see no Marco Vidal who was tremendous in the Mexican League this year. We see no Jimmy Conrad who has effectively been written off as a national team player by Bradley despite nothing but solid lunch pail like performances when called upon. We still see no Michael Parkhurst, a player of impeccable quality up front who reads the game faster than Carlos Bocanegra, the team captain does.
This also would have been the opportunity to take a flier on Marcus Tracy or Jeremiah White in the attack. Both have done well in Scandinavia and could potentially enhance the US attack. Kenny Cooper is once again missing but like so many others I’ve stopped looking for his name every time a squad is released. We’ve had this situation before with the likes of Roy Lassiter under Steve Sampson and Jason Kreis under Bruce Arena. But in Cooper’s case I believe his game is better built for the international level than any current US pool forward.