By now you have probably heard the Bob Bradley deadline of May 23 to announce his call-ups for the U.S. National Team. This is a critical call-up, as not only will these players play in the 2011 Gold Cup but also in the friendly versus Spain. As such, Bob Bradley will likely go the opposite of Camp Cupcake and take a veteran lineup to Foxborough.
But should he? What should be the goals of the US Men’s National Team, June 2011 edition? I’d argue the following should be the goals of Bob Bradley’s squad, in this order:
- Win the Gold Cup and punch the ticket to the Confederations Cup
- Begin finding the players for the 2014 World Cup
- Not embarrass the country in the Spain match
In order to do this, Bob Bradley should bring a mix of veterans and up-and-comers, and in the process take a few gambles with this team. Here are my suggestions by position for Coach Bradley, as well as a few predictions of who he will actually bring. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section:
Keepers He Should Bring: Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, and Bill Hamid
Keepers He Will Bring: Howard, Hahnemannn, and David Yeldell
Until he proves otherwise, Tim Howard is the #1 keeper for this team and that will not change during the World Cup. The #2 keeper should be someone with experience who can step in during an emergency, so Hahnemann fits that profile as he transitions from Europe to MLS. Brad Guzan is seemingly on the outs with Bradley plus scheduled his wedding for the end of this month. Bradley could go with David Yeldell to continue the German connection but could again give Dominic Cervi a chance to earn a place on the team, despite the fact he can’t even get a start for his club team. One day Howard will be too old to play for this team, and the US needs to begin planning for that now. The final spot should go to a young stud who should begin to be groomed to be the next Tim Howard; the two MLS candidates right now are Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, with Hamid getting the call due to having a better season so far.
Defenders He Should Bring: (starters) Tim Chandler, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, (bench) Steve Cherundolo, Zak Whitbread, Tim Ream, Jonathan Bornstein, Chad Marshall
Defenders He Will Bring: (starters) Cherundolo, Goodson, Onyewu, Bocanegra, (bench) Chandler, Bornstein, Ream, Whitbread, Eric Lichaj
The backline is up in the air, but you can bet Bradley will go conservative here. The U.S.’s biggest problem has been conceding early goals, so Bradley will likely thwart this by throwing out a veteran lineup. My thought is that the Gold Cup is put up or shut up time for two U.S. defenders – Tim Chandler and Gooch. Gooch is coming back from injury and it’s time to see if he can be an international starting defender before 2014 qualification. Tim Chandler took the soccer scene by storm with a good showing against Paraguay; now’s a good time to see if he can maintain the hype.
Midfielders He Should Bring: (4-2-3-1) Michael Bradley, Jonathan Spector, Landon Donovan, Mikkel Diskerud, Clint Dempsey, (bench) Benny Feilhaber, Brek Shea, Alejandro Bedoya
Midfielders He Will Bring: (4-4-2) Donovan, Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Dempsey, (bench) Edu, Feilhaber, Bedoya, Jonathan Spector
I have always been a believer in the U.S. playing with 5 midfielders, with Bradley and Spector alternating between making advancing runs and playing back in the holding role. Donovan and Dempsey are locks to start but the U.S. needs someone with vision and talent to make the right pass to get the wings and forward the ball in scoring chances. Although young, Diskerud has shown flashes of this ability and he should get a chance now. If nothing else, a call-up binds him to the U.S. On the bench, Brek Shea has shown the ability to be a world class midfielder, with FC Dallas’ recent good run of form showing how good Shea can be. Bradley, however, will probably fall back into the comfortable 4-4-2 and keep his standards in the midfield. The bench for Bradley will also be experienced, with players we’ve seen before who have specific talents for specific scenarios.
Forwards He Should Bring: Teal Bunbury, Jozy Altidore, Chris Wondolowski
Forwards He Will Bring: Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Herculez Gomez
Let’s be ambitious. If Bradley plays a 4-2-3-1, he needs a lone striker type, something Altidore is not. He is talented enough to make the team, but he needs a second forward up front with him. Agudelo could be that guy, but he is in danger of over-exposure and over-use this year. Let’s see if Bunbury is as good internationally or better than Agudelo. In the same vein, let’s give Chris Wondolowski one more chance. The guy can score in MLS, so let’s see if he can do the same for the national team.