Bob Bradley’s tenure as United States National Team manager has gone about as well as can be expected: A CONCACAF Gold triumph, several victories in the “old world” and thus far a smooth run in qualifying including an elusive win over Guatemala. So with this in mind, clearly their will be no coaching change for the US in the next several years. But Coach Bradley unlike his predecessor Bruce Arena seems to be reluctant to use current club form as a guide to player selection. Arena, almost to a fault felt it necessary even during World Cup qualifying to call in any in-form American player to give him a look.
Bradley seemed to take the Arena philosophy early in his tenure. Bradley’s first year and change on the job saw the call ups of about 70 players. However since the March friendly with Poland, Bradley’s selections have become less and less creative and more and more predictable. Thankfully some of this predictability has been the now routine call ups of Frankie Hejduk and Eddie Lewis both of whom spent a year without being called in after World Cup 2006 when younger players tried and ultimately failed to fill their positions. Unfortunately this also means the continued routine call ups of Eddie Johnson, now playing his trade in England’s second division, Clint Dempsey who has scored one club goal in the last nine months, DaMarcus Beasley whose role should be filled by Lewis until the later retires, and Ricardo Clark who has looked completely out of his depth in his last four matches for the United States.
The return of Clark to the national team for critical qualifiers is totally unjustified. Despite playing on MLS’ dominant team, Clark’s confidence is in the tank. He has been most unimpressive to me while playing for the Dynamo this year other than in a few glimmers. Eddie Johnson and Brian Ching the current US strikers have scored goals in only one match for the US in the last fourteen months: that match was an 8-0 thrashing of Barbados. Had Arena still been managing the national team, in form Kenny Cooper or Charlie Davies would have surely been called into this squad if for no other reason to judge them in camp.
Clint Dempsey not only has played poorly for the US, but seeing him in person now in several US matches over the last 12 months I fear he has gone from having a monster killer instinct to disinterest in the national team. This probably comes from being overworked at Fulham and now confused about his role there, thanks to Manager Roy Hodgson’s tactics. DaMarcus Beasley is a player whose hustle wins him accolades from American coaches and whose Champions League experience gets him love in the press, but whose utility on the international level appears to be waning. Beasley’s first touch and creativity are completely devoid when he needs it the most and I personally am much more comfortable with a wily veteran like Eddie Lewis on the pitch than Beasley whose mistakes and poor positioning are more likely to cost you points than win you anything.
Bradley’s call in of Marvell Wynne is long overdue. For some reason with Wynne available for matches against Mexico and Barbados earlier this year, Drew Moor was called in ahead of him as the first choice right back. Also the call up of Mexican-American fullback Michael Orozco who hopefully can earn his first full US Cap is a welcome sign.
The omission of Kenny Cooper, and Freddy Adu the most creative player the US has are glaring. Arena most certainly would have called both players in to camp in a similar situation. Only time will tell if Bradley’s decisions are justified.
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