Bob Bradley’s January Call-Ups Barely Old Enough to Drink
The U.S. Soccer Federation announced the players who have been called up and accepted the invitation to the U.S. men’s national team training camp in January. These players are the ones who will play in the next friendly against Chile in California and likely Egypt in Cairo. And the theme of this year’s team is youth.
It was expected that the club would be full of MLS (20 players) and Scandinavian (3) club members, since both leagues are on winter break currently. And because this training camp is taking place almost six months before the Gold Cup, it gives Bob Bradley a chance to try out some new players or some fringe players to see if they fit within his system. However, he seems to have embraced this idea and run with it: the average age of this roster is 23 years old. The most capped player on the roster is Alejandro Bedoya, who at age 23 has six. Twelve players have the chance receive their first international cap in the next two months. Bradley obviously decided to use the winter friendlies to gamble on roster pieces and see if he could uncover some (young) diamonds in the rough for the World Cup roster.
Is this a good strategy? My instinct says yes, as he will have a chance to see if some MLS vets having a good year (Wondo) or young players who have shown flash (Agudelo) are ready for international play. But please let your thoughts be known in the comments section. Below is a breakdown of the roster by position (see full roster here):
Goalkeepers (4): This may be the greenest group of them all internationally, and one which shows how having a good domestic season matters to Bob Bradley. Matt Pickens of Colorado and Sean Johnson of the Fire make their international debuts, along with Celtic/Dundee backup keeper Dominic Cervi. The experienced member of this group is Nick Rimando, who I assume right now would be your starter on January 22.
Defenders (9): Bob Bradley is leaning heavily on Western Conference clubs to fill out his back line, taking players from LA Galaxy (3), Colorado Rapids (2), and FC Dallas (2) on this team. George John was a call-up but declined due to injury. A surprising name on this roster is Ryan Miller, currently signed with Hamstad BK. A University of Notre Dame product, Miller was drafted in 2008 by Columbus and signed by DC, earning a cup of coffee in MLS. Bradley could go a couple of intriguing ways with his back line, focusing primarily on youth and potential (Ream, Wallace, etc.) or giving older players one last shot (Franklin, Ihemelu).
Midfielders (7): Congratulations to Colorado’s Jeff Larentowicz, who after a phenomenal MLS season earned his first national team call up and will likely be given a shot at showing what he can do against Chile and Egypt. He is a potential captain if he does start. South Africa star Mikkel Diskerud makes a return appearance and will be joined by fellow 20 year old Brek Shea. Bradley also called up players like Sam Cronin and Dax McCarty who, although in no way old, have had international appearances already and thus may be getting a second look for potential roster spots in six months.
Forwards (4): A position of serious need sees Bob Bradley making pragmatic choices for his roster. If you need goals from your front line players, you might as well invite the person who did it best last year. As such, welcome aboard Chris Wondolowski and expect to see some playing time this winter. Young stars Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury will also get a second, extended look after positive first impressions in South Africa. An intriguing pick is Justin Braun, who does not have the resume or hype of the previous three but may be a better fit for the team long-term.
Who didn’t make it: Maybe it’s to exorcise the failure of the 2006 World Cup? Maybe Bob Bradley’s seen enough of him? Either way, Bobby Convey is not making the trip to training camp and raises questions of whether his international career is over. Another surprise omission is Geoff Cameron, who has been to three USMNT training camps and seems to be the type of player Bob Bradley would want to look at one more time for potential Gold Cup inclusion.