In the aftermath of the United States’ 2-1 loss in Amsterdam to the Netherlands Wednesday, it’s time to start thinking about which 23 players will be on the plane that leaves Philadelphia on May 29 for South Africa and the 2010 World Cup.
Of course, coach Bob Bradley still has a couple of months before he has to name a final team. During that time, he’ll no doubt watch matches all over the world to help him decide on those last few roster spots.
Not being the patient type, I’m going to take a shot at it today. Now this is who I think he’ll take, not the roster I’d choose if it were up to me.
Just for fun, let’s assume that Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu, Stuart Holden, Charlie Davies and everyone else on the injury list is healthy enough to make the trip. And let’s assume Jermaine Jones is not…
There’s no drama here. Barring an injury, it’s Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Marcus Hahnemann taking up the first three roster spots.
I think Onyewu and Jay DeMerit could start in the middle, pushing Carlos Bocanegra to left back opposite Jonathan Spector. Clarence Goodson, Steve Cherundolo, Heath Pearce and Jonathan Bornstein are the likely bets to grab the reserve slots.
Personally, I’d like to see Edgar Castillo or even Frankie Hejduk make the roster ahead of Bornstein, but I don’t see it happening. I don’t want to be overly critical of Bornstein’s outing against the Dutch, but when you concede a penalty that leads to a goal, get away with a clear hand ball in the box and have the ball deflect off you for another goal – it might be time to sit down for a while.
All of that said, his versatility and ability to play as a midfielder makes him an attractive roster option.
With 11 spots nailed down, let’s cast an eye to the midfield.
Landon Donovan and Dempsey are your starting wingers, while Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark are the likely picks for the central midfield.
I think Bradley will take nine midfielders and three forwards, since Donovan or Dempsey can play up front if necessary.
So the other five midfield spots will go to Holden, Maurice Edu, DaMarcus Beasley, Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kjjestan.
Now, we can debate the midfield all day.
I’d rather have Jose Francisco Torres over Kljestan, for starters. And I’m not sure I wouldn’t want Robbie Rogers or Alejandro Bedoya over the hot-and-cold Beasley, but I’m not married to that.
Actually, I thought Beasley was particularly good against the Dutch. It’s keeping him healthy that seems to be the lingering concern.
Jozy Altidore and Davies are locks. I think Brian Ching is the other choice.
I know he’s not a sexy player. He can’t run like Robbie Findley or score in MLS like Jeff Cunningham.
But he’s an international player with seven years’ worth of experience in a national team shirt, and as a true target man, he provides a skill set that the two projected starters do not.
Of course, if any of our walking wounded aren’t ready, it opens the door for some other guys.
Let’s name them, too.
Last ones off
Torres and Kyle Beckerman are alternatives in the midfield, while the aforementioned Findley and Cunningham – along with perhaps Eddie Johnson – are additional forward options.
As for defenders, Castillo, Hedjuk, Frank Simek and even Jimmy Conrad could be on the waiting list.