In the next few days, USMNT Coach Bob Bradley will begin showing his cards and send out invitations to 28-30 players to join his camp in Princeton later this month. Before those invitations go out, it is time for all the fans, pundits and blowhards to pipe in with our opinions on which 23 lucky souls should be on the plane to South Africa.
So, without further ado, and with no Freddy Adu … here is my list:
Forwards – 4
There is no thinner portion of the US team, made unfortunately thinner by the absence of Charlie Davies. As dramatic as it would be to see Davies take the field next month, a mere eight months after his horrific car accident, it is just not going to happen. Davies’ first competitive game, and his first test to see whether he has the ability to sprint, stop on a dime and pick out the right target, cannot be against England. Sorry, but Charlie will have to wait until Brazil 14 to play in his first World Cup.
As for Gomez and Buddle, they get the slots in a slim field because they are doing the one thing that no other US forward is doing right now – scoring goals. They may not be the best, but they are the best right now.
Midfield – 9
All of the sudden, the injured seem healthy, the substitutes are all starting, and our midfield seems surprisingly strong. With Bradley, Donovan and Dempsey sure starters, the competition for that fourth slot in the midfield seems intense. Edu has recovered from his injuries to become a critical player for Rangers. Clark has recovered and is now starting and impressing for Frankfurt. Torres has had an outstanding season for Pachuca. Holden was doing great for Bolton before his injury and is back in full training. If Holden impresses in the camp, he could slot in on the wing allowing Donovan or Dempsey to move into a forward slot. Bedoya probably does not get in any game day roster, but as a rising star, going to South Africa would be a great experience. Bob Bradley has a lot of tools in his midfield, and a lot of options on how to deploy them.
Defense – 7
With Gooch back in training with AC Milan, this all becomes a little easier than it was a couple of months ago. It would be nice for Gooch to have a run out in AC Milan’s last couple of games, but at least he will show up in Princeton fit. This allows Bradley to put in his preferred back line of Bocanegra, DeMerit, Gooch and Spector/Cherundolo. At the moment, I would go with Cherundolo who seems to be playing better than Spector, but in either case, Bradley looks to have all the options for which he could have hoped. The potential wildcard in all of this? Goodson, who has had a rocking season in Norway and looked like the only American worth a damn in the January friendly against Honduras.
Goalkeeper – 3
Howard is the guaranteed starter, and barring something tragic, Hahnemann and Guzan will enjoy a pleasant seat at the festivities. That being said, Hahnemann has been outstanding for Wolves this season – in fact a large measure of credit for the way Wolves has avoided relegation is down to Hahnemann’s work between the pipes. He has been calm when needed, acrobatic when needed and positioned himself particularly well. If Hahnemann’s affection for heavy metal music was the cause of his great form, Bradley would have the rest of the team listening to Slipknot all the time.
I can’t imagine any of these 23 not being invited to Princeton. We will see who their competition is in the coming week.