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US Squad Revealed: Talking Points


All the pomp and circumstance of ESPN yielded us a predictable 24 for the upcoming qualifiers versus Costa Rica and Honduras.  Here is the squad:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa: 5/3 SO), Tim Howard (Everton: 9/7 SO)
DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes: 19/2), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA: 1/0), Danny Califf (Midtjylland: 4/0), Jay DeMerit (Watford: 1/0), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew: 17/2), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege: 14/1), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock: 9/0), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United: 2/1), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC: 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Freddy Adu (Monaco: 5/1), DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers: 24/6), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach: 9/4), Maurice Edu (Rangers: 4/0), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus: 0/0), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA: 9/0), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids: 13/0), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca: 4/0)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Xerez: 6/5), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo: 15/6), Charlie Davies (Hammarby: 1/1), Clint Dempsey (Fulham: 15/4), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy: 28/9)
*numbers indicate all-time World Cup Qualifying caps/goals

ALSO INVITED TO CAMP: Luis Robles, GK, Kaiserslautern, Erich Lichaj, MF Aston Villa

Quick Thoughts:

It is a very difficult thing to pick a core of players and stick with them especially since American footballers are scattered throughout the globe and in many club situation are not given the deference that players of other nationalities are given. Yet it is still mind boggling how consistent Bradley’s selections are. It seems first impressions of certain players for him are lasting impressions, unlike his predecessor Bruce Arena who was much more creative with his selection policies.

Several players right now in MLS, Europe and even Mexico who likely would have been given a serious look by Arena in the last two years who have not been called in by Bradley except for the largely meaningless January camp, and subsequent January friendly.

This can be argued both ways: Bradley has a core of players comfortable with one another that will avoid the chemistry and personality issues that characterized the late Arena years. But the other side of the coin is that players that could actually upgrade the US squad and help the national team play with more flair or creativity up front are being flat out ignored.

The names Conor Casey and Kenny Cooper continue to come to mind every time Bradley selects his team. I’ve been calling for Casey’s recall since August 2007 on this website and have seen him recalled just once, for a token appearance in his hometown in a meaningless qualifier after the US had secured passage to the next stage.

Cooper has been selected only twice in the past two years, a shocking omission given his quality and his pedigree which prompted Manchester United to sign him at 18. Cooper has a quality unknown to most American attacking players. A target forward who plays well with the ball at his feet, with his back to goal and when drifting out wide to help stimulate the attack, Cooper could only help the US team. Perhaps he doesn’t fit Bradley’s tactical setup which depends on a target player, usually Brian Ching to hold up play and create for the other attackers.

Benny Feilhaber’s recall is interesting. A very technical player, Feilhaber’s attitude and recent nomadic travels through Europe are a problem, but he simply is too skilled to write off. Feilhaber could provide for Bradley what John O’Brien did for Arena prior to the injury plague that ended his career.

Charlie Davies call in is also good news. Davies has time on his hand since he is due to serve a five game Swedish league suspension, The cultured attacker has been scoring goals at a remarkable rate in the Swedish league over the past two seasons.

Luis Robles has been called in for camp and I believe he should be given the opportunity at some point to oust Brad Guzan as the USA #2 keeper. Only time will tell if he is given an opportunity. Sacha Kljestan has been in poor form for an otherwise stellar Chivas USA team, but being one Bradley’s favorites, ensures he continues to be called.

The recall of Jonathan Spector is not surprising. The West Ham defender has always been a favorite of Bradley but injuries and a deal made last season with Alan Curbishley then the Hammers manager stopped Spector from being regularly called in for the senior national team.

Steve Cherundolo’s injuries and decline in form have forced Bradley to try and accelerate the integration of Marvell Wynne into the national team, hence his inclusion in the team. Jose Francisco Torres will have to complete the Mexican playoffs with Pachuca before he joins the US team. My assumption would be that he misses the training camp in Miami.

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  1. DerrickinSF

    May 26, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    This is a decent squad. Regardless the U.S. problems are more the just picking the right players. Bradley’s style of play has to change for us to begin to control possession, create chances against good teams, and to dictate the tempo of a game. It has to put a premium on keeping the ball hugging the ground, and constant intelligent movement off the ball that is positive and not simply aimed at moving the ball laterally. Regardless, I’d suspect Ching will start and it will be few lineup changes in the midfield and forwards.

    As for Casey, and Wolf and several other strikers brought up, Fair enough they score in MLS but personally i’d prefer Charlie Davies but he’s never going to get a fair shot with Bradley in my mind. Because there’s a double standard. Ching doesn’t need to score or even be useful to play. The other strikers need hat tricks. And there are other players that can make really slow runs and open up lanes for other players.

    Oh Jozy’s fully fit last I heard.

  2. Tommy

    May 26, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I really cannot complain about the selection. Cooper is unproven at the international level and taking him to Costa Rica and then to South Africa would be a risk. Maybe Josh Wolff could have provided some experienced depth should Jozy not be fully fit but otherwise a pretty straight forward selection.

  3. Ian

    May 25, 2009 at 11:10 am


    MLS is not better than any of the leagues you name and that really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that training sessions in MLS are never as competitive as the training sessions in any European first division and most second divisions and since Bradley is a maniac about training pitch form, MLS guys are always going to be less in demand for him. The next coach may see it differently, rewarding guys who play regularly in our domestic league.

    Yes Bradley is a bit of a eurosnob. But he has to keep his job. MLS guys are on the whole less sharp than those playing in europe because the defending is so poor in the league and it is also very physical when compared to most euro leagues. Only the MLS guys he trusts get called in regularly.

  4. Ian

    May 25, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Sacha Kljestan isn’t good enough to play at the international level against legitimate opposition. IF he plays at Saprissa we will get smoked.

    I say give Bornstein a shot at left back or at left mid leaving Pearce at left back. We’ve seen enough of Beasley to know he’s had it.

    The Confederations Cup is the most important event for us since World Cup 2006. I din’t know why some people are minimizing it. Since we play in CONCACAF and never lose at home to teams from the region but struggle on the road in what are hostile atmospheres that don’t resemble a World Cup in any way. this is the best measure we will ever get of ourselves.

    Will we pass the test? I have hope, but also my doubts.

  5. Terry

    May 25, 2009 at 7:06 am

    Larry, MLS i better than half the leagues where Americans play. Yet Bradley continues to pick people based on reputation and perception of foreign leagues. MLS for example is much better than the Norwegian League where Feilhaber currently plays.

    Califf, Perkins, Goodson etc have an inflated reputation in Bradley’s eyes because of playing in a less quality leage than MLS.

    Also Kartik always makes the comparison with the obscure and absurd. Who the hell is John O’Brien?

  6. Seybold

    May 25, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Feilhaber: when was the last time any other USA midfielder put a forward in on goal as well as he did in Copa America 2007, when he put Eddie Johnson of all people in on goal against Argentina, no less.

    How many times have Bradley, Mastroeni or Edu put a forward in on goal like that against top-notch opposition? Ever? Don’t get me wrong, they’re OK as defensive midfielders, but if you’re down a goal at the Saprissa late and need someone who has that vision, who can make the killer pass against a packed CR defense at the end of a match, they’re aren’t many options. He’s one of the few. The John O’Brien comparison is apt–if he can regain form and play the way he did in the 2007 Gold Cup final the USA team could have an entirely new dimension.

    And the Mexicans sure wouldn’t be glad to see him!

  7. larry

    May 24, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    MLS and USL don’t break for internationals.

    Two years ago MLS played its final during an international break.

    Last year USL did the same and some players were actually missing!

    The Confederations Cup has become a presitigious event. Sure it’s a cash grab but its no different than the World Cup being 32 teams instead of 16 or 24, the English Premier League starting matches in the middle of the day UK time to take advantage of the Asian audience or the UEFA Champions League another basterized event which no longer simply pits champions because UEFA is chasing the almighty Euro or pound.

    So to not take it seriously would be insulting.

    As for this team, the idea of calling guys from MLS, a third tier league when we have players in top leagues fighting each and every day for their positions in the club and playing time would be silly. A few good MLS players are notable. Landon Donovan and Pablo Mastroeni.

    MLS internationals are not very good either. The only one I would rteally rate highly is Amado Guevara. The rest of average players at the international level. Angel was even bleow average of Colombia.

    Bradley is doing the right thing. His player selection has been smart and he has a atactical savvy most American coaches lack. I say let him see out the cycle regardless of how we do this summer.

  8. Vnice

    May 24, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I firmly believe that the MLS and USL need to stay summer leagues. Sorry…as leagues, they cannot survive without summer fans. That’s the way it is. I am pretty sure a way can be found to not have any MLS play during international stints, though.

  9. eplnfl

    May 24, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    John, yes, Brian is quite the guy and I hope to see him at Soldier’s Field for the Honduras game. You too, I’ll buy a beer or two for you.

    I am far from the tool of the inward looking self centered and totally insular English media that you associate me with. While I follow the EPL read some of my recent posts on how it has become a big boys club only. The MLS actually gives the average fan much more for his money since your local team has a chance to win every once in a while. England can’t say the same or Scotland for that matter. As far as the English mens team, the most over rated bunch of professional sportsman that can be found. You understand my feelings then.

    The Confederations Cup is totally made up, who cares especially the year before the World Cup. It’s a FIFA money making scheme. It should be treated as such. I’m for a regional tournament and hope the Gold Cup becomes a event as big as the European or South American ones.

    Brazil is loaded with talent even when you send out a B team. Yet, almost every WC Brazil has a struggle qualifying. Why, maybe they should take things more seriously. The US is a soccer nation that must play during the summer, MLS can not be robbed of talent for every dreamed up event. Yes, the MLS needs to adjust it’s schedule for a internatioanl weeks, but for the Confederations Cup, not.

    Good piece really.

  10. John

    May 24, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Also if this event is “made up” why would Brazil take the team they are taking. They have a much deeper player pool than we do and if it really meant zilch they could experiment. Even that experimental squad made up of domestic talent from Brazil would thrash the likes of Chris Wingert, Tim Ward and Josh Wolff that Kartik wants to send.

  11. John

    May 24, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    here is Brazil’s squad that Kartik and EPLNFL advocate us experimenting against. Send kids and MLS guys if you want to lose 8-0.
    Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Inter Milan), Gomes (Tottenham Hotspur), Victor (Gremio)

    Defenders: Maicon (Inter Milan), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Alex (Chelsea), Juan (AS Roma), Lucio (Bayern Munich), Luisao (Benfica), Kleber (Internacional), Andre Santos (Corinthians).

    Midfielders: Anderson (Manchester United), Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos), Josue (VfL Wolfsburg), Ramires (Cruzeiro), Elano (Manchester City), Felipe Melo (Fiorentina), Julio Baptista (AS Roma), Kaka (AC Milan)

    Forwards: Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla), Nilmar (Internacional), Robinho (Manchester City).

    Sending the MLS based squad Kartik advocated last week would result in an 8-0 thrashing and a loss of Bradley’s job. Thankfully he did not take the advice of some on this blog.

  12. John

    May 24, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    EPLNFL, are you serious?

    What tournament ism’t made up if the Confederations Cup is? Honestly don’t tell me the Gold Cup means anything because the Gold Cup was created only because FIFA was beginning the Confederations Cup the next year and CONCACAF needed a championship.

    You must be one of those people so glued to the English media that you say what is the confederations cup? It cannot be legitimate because England has never participated. In this nation we take tournaments against the elite seriously. Have you seen Brazil’s selections? Don’t tell them it is a made up tournament!

    Brian Zygo, the stud commentator from 1560 knows to what he speaks. If we bomb out of the Confederations Cup without getting a result in Costa Rica or Mexico, Bradley will likely be replaced.

    As for this squad, Bradley knows he needs results and isn’t messing around as Karlik would like. Maybe in the Gold Cup you’ll see some experimenting, but not before that.

  13. eplnfl

    May 24, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    I am ok with the selection. Let’s hope in the next two qualification games the youngsters get their chances. Getting 6 points and getting the young players minutes is the key.

    Brian we would all like a good showing this summer in SA but I think you are wrong to call it a make or break event for Bradley. The Confederations Cup is a made up event and shouldn’t be held. Yet, if you get some of the young players a a chance to play quality sides it’s of value. Nothing more.

  14. Soccer Guru

    May 24, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Bradley’s squad selections continue to be insulting to the average fan.

    So many guys from Europe that he hasn’t looked at in a while deserve call ups. Frank Simek, Danny Szetela and Jerimiah White for starters.

    Bradley at least understands that you cannot trust MLS guys under pressure circumstances and I am pleased he brought Spector back.

  15. Jason

    May 24, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    I agree that Conor Casey is a big ommission. He combines Ching’s hold up play with Cooper’s touch and Jozy’s strength. While each of these guys are probably better in their respective areas, Conor may be the most well rounded US forward capable of playing in a target role,and without a stellar performace by Kasey Keller last night he has his second hat trick of the year. I would like to see Conor up top with Jozy. They would pair well and be dangerous on set pieces.

  16. Joseph

    May 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Of course Beasley is still in the team. This guy cannot even get a game in the SPL! Thankfully, Eddie Johnson is dropped replaced by Davies.

    Any chance we’ll get to see Marco Vidal soon?

  17. Max

    May 24, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Bradley’s selections are as predictable as what happens when we play better European nations.

    So many players that could be selected have not been. Cooper and Casey are good ones, but so are several defenders and midfielders playing in MLS.

    I disagree with you on Benny. What exactly has he done to earn a return call up to the team when so many players are preforming well in MLS and Europe and yet don’t even get a look?

  18. Brian Zygo

    May 24, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I think the team that Bradley fields at the Confederations Cup and how they perform will be the true test of whether Bradley should lead this team in South Africa. Will we see the kind of play we saw against Argentina or the kind of play we say against England. If the USMNT just falls apart in South Africa this summer, US Soccer needs to take a serious look at the coaching situation before South Africa 2010.

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