So Bob Bradley has less than a month to make a decision on who’s in and who’s out of the USMNT. Unfortunately, for Bob the options are narrowing not expanding. Injuries to Stuart Holden, Benny Feilhaber and of course Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu are cause for some serious concern – not so much that they won’t be back – all should be fit – but that each will be rusty and out of form. In general, there are about 20-21 players that would seem to be locks, while few have really emerged to own the remaining few spots.
Last in: Bedoya, Pearce/Bornstein, Beasley.
Just missed: Casey, Gomez, Eddie Johnson
Strikers: Altidore, Davies (Donovan and Dempsey)
The striker problem appears to have no solution. No one besides Jozy Altidore has stepped up to fill the role. Robbie Findley who started against Holland but played himself out of contention in my mind. Findley did not impress in any of the three friendlies this year and looked out of his depth in Amsterdam. Brian Ching, who has done nothing the last few years in my mind to make the squad, got injured and will likely be out until mid May. Meaning he should be out. That leaves Conor Casey, Eddie Johnson, Jeff Cunningham, Hercules Gomez (who is tearing up the Mexican league), Edson Buddle (really?) Kenny Cooper, and of course Charlie Davies. Of these I think the only one I would take would be Davies.
This may seem crazy. But frankly, I think we are deeper at wide midfield areas than any where else and I think one can make a valid argument that Dempsey and Donovan are more dangerous up top than out wide. While there is an argument to take Conor Casey as a back up target man, I think Dempsey can effectively play that role should something happen to Altidore. The one danger with this approach is that it is dependent on Davies being capable of playing a full 90, if that’s not the case than Bradley may need to bring another striker. The other thing is that I think the US has the players to play a very effective 4-5-1, therefore needing fewer strikers.
If Bradley feels the need to take another striker, I suggest eni mini miny mo because the choice won’t be the answer.
Midfielders: Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Feilhaber, Edu, Clark, Torres, Holden, Beasley, Bedoya
10 may seem a lot of midfielders, but this could just as easily be 8 with Donovan and Dempsey. The two somewhat controversial inclusions here would be Damarcus Beasley and Alejandro Bedoya. Beasley has not been a regular at Rangers, but his pace and experience, as well as some quality performances, make him potentially useful sub off the bench.
Bedoya is an X factor player, who unfortunately plays outside midfielder a position we are fairly deep at. However, Bedoya is still a relatively unknown playing in Sweden. But remember last year, Charlie Davies was a relative unknown playing in Sweden and now our World Cup hopes are resting on his recovery. Bedoya is the last player in my squad and should Davies not be 100 percent, Bedoya might get the axe.
I think overall, Bradley could think about playing some 4-5-1 as mentioned above. There are a number of players who could play the #10 role behind the second striker from Feilhaber, Donovan, Holden, and Torres. I respect sticking to what got you here with the 4-4-2 – and that will be the default formation – but I think should Alitdore go down, instead of playing guys that just aren’t good enough but will fit in the 4-4-2, Bradley should have the 4-5-1 as a back up.
Defenders: Onyewu, Bocanegra, Demerit, Cherundolo, Specter, Pearce, Goodson, Bornstein
This is unchanged from the past iteration. I will reiterate my discomfort with Bornstein. He was atrocious against Holland and just doesn’t have the confidence on the ball and i his distribution to cut it. He is a potential calamity. In fact, he is really only in the squad because he will be in the squad. And therefore I have Heath Pearce in the squad, because I would never play Jonathan Bornstein. Pearce is another player that could be cut for another striker, but given the propensity of American defenders to get carded, it is probably wise to bring 8 defenders – although Specter and Bocanegra can both play centrally and wide.
Goalies: Howard, Guzan, Hahnemann.
The only question here is whether Hahnemann has done enough to jump Guzan in depth chart.