US Depth Chart: Bradley’s 23 Decisions
The USMNT just finished a grueling stretch of seven competitive matches in twenty five days. As we enter July and the CONCACAF Gold Cup lets asses where the player pool is just a year out from the World Cup. Bob Bradley will be the coach for the next year and very likely beyond for another cycle. Knowing this let’s asses the player pool. The inclusion of some players like Jimmy Conrad and Kenny Cooper are based on my expectations for the Gold Cup.
Numbers in parenthesis is the estimated number of players at a given position that Bradley will choose. These estimates are based on the new tactical setup by Bradley employed the last three matches.
The top two are set: Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. The battle for the third keeper spot will be between veteran Marcus Hahnemann and Luis Robles and possibly Troy Perkins.
Worth Keeping Tabs On: Luis Robles, Troy Perkins
Right Back (2):
Jonathan Spector is a versatile player that has loudly stated his claim to be the starting right back going forward. Bob Bradley has selected Steve Cherundolo for the Gold Cup, and Dolo must once again prove his worth. It is tough however to write off the one American player who has consistently started for the same club in Europe over the last seven years. Frankie Hejduk brings leadership and heart, and is always needed in any locker room. Spector can play any position on the back line or even holding midfielder so even if he’s beaten out here expect him to start somewhere.
Worth Keeping Tabs On: Marvell Wynne,
Center Back (4):
Jay DeMerit proved to be a revelation of this tournament. His keen positioning sense combined with crisp tacking ability make him preferable to Carlos Bocanegra, whose instincts are that of a left back, or holding midfielder. Ogugchi Onyewu was stellar in this tournament. Jimmy Conrad gets a look in the Gold Cup. Danny Califf has slipped down the depth chart while Michael Parkhurst is also in the mix.
Worth Keeping Tabs On: Michael Parkhurst, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall
Left Back (2):
Jonathan Bornstein is the logical choice at left back should Edgar Castillo not choose to play for the US. Closing speed and an ability to both run the flanks and cross the ball is a must at this position and Bornstein is hands down the best left back in the player pool in all three categories. But Bob Bradley wants to keep his captain Carlos Bocanegra who is a natural left back on the field. I’ll admit I don’t like Bocanegra at all and think he’s a reckless and careless player. Heath Pearce has slipped fast and may not even be in consideration next year at this time. I prefer Bornstein but it is likely that if DeMerit continues to impress in the middle, Bocanegra will start ahead of Bornstein here.
Worth Keeping Tabs On: Michael Orozco
UPDATE: EDGAR CASTILLO HAS TOLD US SOCCER PLAYERS TODAY THAT HE IS WILLING TO CONSIDER A CALL UP FOR THE USA, DESPITE HAVING BEEN CAPPED FOR MEXICO PREVIOUSLY IN SEVERAL FRIENDLIES. SHOULD HE SWITCH HE’D LIKELY MAKE THE WORLD CUP SQUAD.
Defensive Midfielder (3):
Rico Clark has made huge strides showing more composure and better judgment than in the past. However this position is stacked for the US and Clark may be the odd man out. Jermaine Jones must be in the mix because players of his pedigree and European club experience don’t grow on trees. Mo Edu however in my mind elevated himself with his late season play for Rangers and the composure he has shown in previous national team call ups.
I like Kyle Beckerman and think he’s tactically very flexible and useful. I’m pleased Bradley has called him up for the Gold Cup.
Worth Keeping Tabs On: Pablo Mastreoni, Kyle Beckerman
Wait Until 2014: Danny Szetela
Central Midfield (2):
Michael Bradley is elevating his game to a new level, unseen by an American central midfielder since John O’Brien injuries destroyed his career. Benny Feilhaber’s technical skill and football savvy make him a logical late game replacement. Left footed Jose Torres was ignored by Bradley in the Confederations Cup but showed in desperation mode against El Salvador how valuable he can be. Freddy Adu has the Gold Cup to impress otherwise he must be written off for the cycle. Quite frankly Adu may not be good enough to play for the US. Torres’ decision to play for the US means that two similar players of similar ages are in the US pool: one plays for a good club the other doesn’t play for any club. Even though the two have been linked together in mnay fans minds as poster children for what Bradley does wrong, they are in fact in competition for one spot. Torres at this point is the clear choice of the two.
Worth Keeping Tabs On: Sacha Kljestan, Stuart Holden
Wait Until 2014: Charles Renken
Attacking Midfield: (3)
Bradley’s new tactical setup adopted in this Gold Cup is preferable to the empty bucket. The fullbacks and strikers can attack up the flanks while the two attacking mids roam freely. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are locks here. Jose Torres can provide cover. Santino Quaranta has worked his way back into the pool and needs to be strongly considered. DaMarcus Beasley is in a tail spin but his previous national team success and club success means he cannot be written off. Benny Feilhaber can push into an attacking position as well if need be. Davy Arnaud can also be considered. Out of the mix once again is Freddy Adu, unless he dominates the Gold Cup.
Worth Keeping Tabs On: Chris Rolfe, Davy Arnaud, John Thorrington, Jeremiah White, Santino Quaranta
Wait Until 2014: Freddy Adu, Sal Zizzo, Robbie Rogers
Brian Ching is still the most useful striker in the USMNT pool and works well with Landon Donovan. But Jozy Altidore’s sheer strength gives defenders trouble and Charlie Davies speed gives Bradley a quick option up front. (Bradley kept calling Eddie Johnson into camp for a reason- he needed a fast forward to play off the target striker- now that he has finally let Davies loose he will continue to play) The top three strikers are set, and Kenny Cooper my personal favorite has a lot of ground to makeup if he is going to make the World Cup squad. Conor Casey played himself out of serious consideration in the Confederations Cup.
Worth Keeping Tabs On: Kenny Cooper
Wait Until 2014: Eddie Johnson
So here is our 23 based on today’s projections. Remember the twenty third spot must be taken by a third keeper.
Probably the single thing I want to see change the most for the USMNT before the next World Cup is a new kit. Nike has consistently made the US shirt worse and worse since 1998. I thought I had seen everything with those tops with the number inside a circle, but then the pinstrip jersey set a new low. But when that was replaced by this current kit at least year’s Mexico game I longed for the light blue pinstripes. This is probably a topic for another day but I figured I’d throw it in here.