5 months from today the US will face off against England. We are now in the stretch run to South Africa so what better time for me to put forth AF’s World Cup squad. On the 12th of each month we will update this roster, as questions get answered, players breakthrough and others fall out of form.
A couple of notes on the selection process. Since the World Cup is six months away and we don’t know for sure who will be fit (Jermaine Jones), who will get pt (Eddie Johnson), and who will be in form, this roster will work off the premise that the World Cup starts one month from today rather than six. In other words, this is to mimic the type of decision Bradley will have to make come May. As a result this means injured players that could be in the running, such as Jermaine Jones and Charlie Davies are out. However, I am making one exception to this rule and that is for Gooch. His recovery is going well and he should be back in training in March. Even if there is a set back and he has yet to play for AC Milan come May, I still think he makes the squad. In other words, we expect him to be there so a further injury setback is equivalent to losing one of the other currently fit members of the team.
A couple of general thoughts and guidelines to the squad. First, a World Cup squad almost always has 3 goalkeepers and 8 defenders. Second, the US has a lot of versatile players that can play different positions – out wide or up top, centerback or fullback, center-mid or defensive-mid. This will give Bradley some flexibility and some ability to be creative with who he brings. Third, this is my squad, not one based on what Bob Bradley will do. Some of Bradley’s favorites are missing and some of the picks are meant to create a bit of intrigue – so feel free to disagree vehemently.
Look for updates to this roster each month as we get closer to the World Cup. So without further ado…
Jozy Altidore - Kid may not have lit the Premiership on fire, but he has grown and developed as a target striker playing at Hull. While I am not sure this is great for his overall progression, it is ideal for this US team which lacks another truely dangerous target man. He can now post up like the best of em. He starts against England.
Landon Donovan - Okay no brainer here. But I put him under striker because I think with the loss of Davies we need someone with pace that can break past defensive backlines. The US is a counterattacking team and Donovan is better positioned to get out on the break up front than from a wide midfield position. I also think that Donovan in the midfield hurts us a bit defensively. Dempsey can slack off when he isn’t up for it, but he will be motivated as hell in the WC. However, my general view is that he should play where ever David Moyes plays him. It was wide right against Everton, but Moyes suggested he may play in the whole as well. If Donovan cuts it enough defensively for Moyes in midfield than that’s where he should play.
Robbie Findley - This was a tough call between Findley and Cunningham, and frankly if he starts MLS on a tear Cunningham has to be in the squad. But Findley has loads of pace, is young and promising, and came on strong last season. Findley is the most like for like replacement out there for Davies.
Kenny Cooper – Okay so after a great start at 1860 Munich, the Coopster has fallen off the radar and picked up a knock and lost his starting spot. Nevertheless, while Bradley has his favorites (Ching, Bornstein) I have mine. In my view Cooper isn’t just a big body, like a Conor Casey, he has pace and technique and is the ideal player to bring on late in a game when we are down a goal as he is quite a presence in the box.
Clint Dempsey - He is also prime candidate to play up top and pair with Jozy. I just think he is a bit sturdier defensively than Donovan. However, Dempsey is clearly well suited to play up top and he is scoring goals for Fulham. In my view, his ability in the air and his strength on the ball makes him a suitable target striker and can back up Altidore if need be in that position.
Stuart Holden – While there are question marks about where he will play and if he will get PT between now and June, he makes the trip.
Damarcus Beasley - Despite the fact that Beasley has not been in form oh about 5 years, he is now. And his pace on the left (or right) is vital. He is I think the closest we get to replacing Davies, especially if Landon moves up top. Right now he starts against England on the left to help neutralize Aaron Lennon defensively.
Jose Torres – He is still young and has yet to really breakthrough with the national team and with Feilhaber there are players that have similar skills. However his versatility – he can play wide and centrally, as well as his skill on the ball make him a good option off the bench.
Michael Bradley – He is a sure thing. The question is does he play deep in the defensive midfield position or does he play further forward. Bradley’s identity as central midfielder is still a bit of a question. He really isn’t a play-making midfield, but as a d-mid you lose his ability to score when he gets into the box.
Maurice Edu – He is finally back from his knee injury. He needs to get his form back, but he is a defensive stud. Playing at Rangers has ensured he gets the physical side of the game.
Benny Feilhaber – The one true play-making central midfield on the roster. Benny is perhaps the best passer on the team and his presence helps solve the traditional US problem of holding on to the ball. He probably won’t start against England, but could in the other games.
Ricardo Clark – If Jones were healthy Clark has a battle on his hands to make the squad, since Michael Bradley can also quite easily play d-mid also. But I like Clark and thing that, while he has a tendency to give the ball away cheaply, makes up for it with defensive bite. He should land well in Europe, strengthening his WC credentials.
Steve Cherundolo - Veteran Bundesliga defender is my right back of choice. He also gets forward well and cut put in good crosses.
Jonathan Spector – Perhaps the most versatile player in the squad, as he can play anywhere on the backline – right, left or in the center. He plays on the left frequently for West Ham. He doesn’t quite have the pace but is a very very solid defender that is good on the ball and can get forward well and is capable of putting in a hell of cross (think Dempsey’s Brazil goal). He starts on the left for me. But with his size he is also capable of playing as central defender should he be needed.
Edgar Castillo – While Castillo is a bit of a newbee he does have loads of pace and he plays in the fairly strong Mexican league. Castillo could potentially also play left midfield and is a player that could be brought on to shift to a more attacking approach.
Marvell Wynne – Although this may seem like a pick out of left field – in some ways it is – but remember Wynne actually started a major qualifier against Costa Rica. Okay that didn’t go so well, but I actually think Wynne got an unfair share of the blame. But the way I figure is that we have cover at left back with Spector, Castillo, and Bocanegra – while Spector is not a true left back he plays that position in the best league in the world. Therefore in selecting a fifth full back, I don’t think there is any reason why this has to be a left back (ie no reason for Bornstein or Pearce). With a fifth fullback I think what we are looking for is someone who can be put on late as another defender to close down. Wynne has got incredible speed and strength, but much like Bornstein has been lacking a bit of technique. This is problematic for him starting, but isn’t as much a problem if we are defending a lead. He’s better in that regards than Bornstein.
Oguchi Onyewu – If he is healthy, he will be there to anchor the backline or at the very least to provide cover.
Carlos Bocanegra - He will likely start centrally, but also can play wide left, where he plays for Rennes. One worrying sign is that Boca’s selection in France has no longer become automatic. But he will be there guaranteed.
Jay Demerit – I was certain Demerit would move back to the Premier League after his performance at the confederations cup. He could start if Gooch is not fit or if Boca plays wide left. He is a great back up to have.
Chad Marshall – This is a bit of a coin toss really between him and Clarence Goodson. Both are good and solid, yet a little raw. I think Marshall has bit more strength to him.
Tim Howard – No doubt.
Brad Guzan - Maybe the best penalty stopper in the world right now.
Marcus Hahnemann - He is starting in the Premier League for Wolverhampton and has a ton of experience. Compared to the other keepers in contention, he has the most experience and would be the one I would enter in the pressure of the World Cup after Howard and Guzan (okay and Friedel).