Just 4 months from today the US will face off against England. There have been some changes to the last AF World Cup squad.
Players dropped: Damarcus Beasley, Marvelle Wynne, and Chad Marshall. Players added: Charlie Davies, Jonathan Bornstein, and Clarence Goodson.
A couple of other developments.
First, Donovan’s performance in the midfield has given me more confidence in his defensive qualities, meaning that I moved him into the midfield as opposed to him playing up top.
Second, given Ives story about Davies comeback, I have to put him in the squad. This creates a choice between Beasley and Findley. I got excited by Beasley’s comeback, but got hurt again and he hasn’t played in a month. So after a good effort from Findley against Honduras he gets the nod over Beasley.
Third, while there is generally good news on the attacking front, especially relating to Donovan, Altidore, and Davies, there is now some reason to fret about the defensive midfield spot. Maurice Edu has not been playing and seems to be fighting off an injury again. Ricardo Clark made a great move to the Bundesliga, but unfortunately has picked up an injury, raising some concern about whether he will establish himself in time. Jermaine Jones appears a lost cause. While Michael Bradley can certainly play as a defensive midfield, I think it would be better against England to go with two destroying defensive midfielders. Furthermore, players in this role are the ones who get cards, so depth here is crucial. Definitely this is a position to watch for.
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 is starting to pull it together and England is noticing. He has grown and developed as a target striker playing at Hull and he can clearly play that role for the US. He can now post up like the best of em. He starts against England.
Charlie Davies – Ives glowing story on Davies comeback makes it seem that he is well on his way to get fit before May, even indicating he could rejoin his club in France in April. Now there is a long way to go. He hasn’t kicked a ball competitively in months and we don’t know if that burst of pace is still there. But that being said, even if he is not 100 percent, he is an inspiration to the team and that in itself can make a difference.
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 fell off the radar, picked up a knock lost his starting spot, and was sent to Plymouth in the Championship. 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.
[Next in Line: Conor Casey, Eddie Johnson, Jeff Cunningham, Freddy Adu. Granted Cooper is sort of weak choice and one of these guys or a winger could get the nod over the Coopster]
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.
Clint Dempsey - He is also prime candidate to play up top and pair with Jozy and that is becoming more likely given Donovan’s form in the midfield. 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, making bringing Casey or Ching unnecessary.
Stuart Holden – We are still waiting on Holden to get on the field for Bolton but he makes the trip. Holden suffered a bit of a knock in training and needed some work to get fit, but he should see plenty of time with Bolton. The question is, does he start against England?
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.
[Next in Line: Damarcus Beasley, Robbie Rogers, Alejandro Bedoya. Beasley is the last one out for me right now, if he starts playing he will be back in]
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.
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.
Maurice Edu – While he is finally back from his knee injury, he picked up another injury and has barely played since June. He also seems to be a bit down the pecking order right now. 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. However, should he not feature much the rest of the season his place maybe in doubt.
[Next in Line: Kyle Beckerman, Sacha Kljestan. Beckerman has a shot due to the injury/lack of pt. Kljestan is not a a defensive midfielder so he is a real long shot for me]
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. In fact, if Beasley is not on the squad I would go to him if we are looking for a pacey winger on the left over Robbie Rogers.
Jonathan Bornstein – I have gone back on this. I am pretty torn here to be honest. I still think Bornstein is just not good enough and that if Bradley wasn’t the manager (in the sense that Bradley coached him at Chivas) Bornstein is not even in shouting distance of making the roster. His touch and passing ability is horrendous which really hurts the team, but he has improved defensively and he has considerable pace, as demonstrated by his ability to cope with the speedy Hondurans a few weeks ago. Bornstein has also become an internationally experienced player – he went to the confed cup, he was there in qualifying – and in coming on as a World Cup sub he would probably not be as much of a dear in headlights as other MLS players. He would be my fourth choice left back and would only be used late in games to protect a lead – ie you bring off a striker or Holden and tell Bornstein to run around and clear the ball. I had Wynne taking this spot but his atrocious performance has made me drop him.
[Next in Line: Heath Pearce, Frank Simek, Marvelle Wynne, Daniel Williams (starting at RB in the Bundesliga). Pearce could leap frog Bornstein with a good MLS display and Daniel Williams would be intriguing.]
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.
Clarence Goodson – After the Honduras friendly I have to give the nod to Goodson who looked more mobile and was brave on the corner. He jumps ahead of Chad Marshall to take the last defender spot. However, this is still a bit of a coin toss. Both are good and solid, yet a little raw. I think Marshall has bit more strength to him and should he have a good start to the MLS season he may leapfrog.
[Next in Line: Chad Marshall, Geoff Cameron, Jimmy Conrad]
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).
[Next in Line: Troy Perkins, Nick Rimando]