Head scratcher: who replaces Davies?

Grahame Jones at the LA Times has a great piece on the lack of any suitable replacement for Charlie Davies. Over the last year the US team was looking increasingly settled, Donovan emerging as a creative midfield force on the left and Davies making the pacy second striker role his own. With the two on the field we were explosive and dangerous on counterattacks and Davies tendency to pull wide left enabled Donovan to frequently over lap on the inside of him. We have suddenly lost a huge threat on the counter and a ton of energy and pace and Bradley has a very tough choice over who to partner with Jozy. Who can provide that? Maybe no one. However, due to Jozy’s versatility – he has the size and strength to be a target man, as well as the pace and skill to run at people and get behind defenses – Bradley has a number of options. Here are some possible options and some players that could emerge as potential replacements.

If the world cup were to start tomorrow:

1. Landon Donovan. Yes he has been exceptional in the midfield role, but I think there is every reason to think if he is given a floating role off Altidore he could still provide the same punch. This after all is not the same Donovan that go lost in this role over the last few years. With Donovan the formation may take on the shape of more of a 4-5-1 with Donovan in the Steven Gerrard role. This would also enable Feilhaber or Torres or Holden to play in the midfield. While losing Donovan in the midfield is a blow to the attack, it does make us a little more solid and organized defensively, as neither of the three replacements would have the responsibility to roam as much.

2. Clint Dempsey. He scores goals and offers another good aerial threat – remember he played the target man for Fulham for a little while. Moving up front would give us an imposing front line and Altidore has plenty of pace to get behind the defense. It would also enable one of the three midfielders above to get on the field.

3. Kenny Cooper. Yes he isn’t a small pacy striker, but Cooper is very technically gifted and has very similar skills and style as Altidore – who is also not that prototypical target man. It could be their similar styles don’t work well together and that the team would become too stationary. Or maybe their physical and technical prowess is just too much for defenses to handle, especially with Donovan and Dempsey bombing forward. In this set up it is Altidore that takes on Davies role – he does after all have pretty good speed.

Since the World Cup doesn’t start tomorrow – will someone emerge or reemerge like Davies did this year?
In 02 we made a run in the World Cup on the back of to 20 years olds – Donovan and Beasley. Will a new young prospect burst on the scene? The U-20 World Cup shouldn’t give us much hope, but there are still some young players to watch out for. Also there are number of players that could reemerge on to the scene.

Players who could reemerge:

Damarcus Beasley:
He is 27. This team lacks true wingers that can provide width and pace. Beasley is clearly done in Scotland. For him to get back in the picture he would need a January move and would have to play and play well. This would give us that pace that we miss from Davies, but Beasley over the last five years has seemingly become less technically adept.

Freddy Adu: Whether he truly emerges as a professional this year is really questionable, I am not one to count a 20 year old past it. He is in a situation where he should get playing time and he no doubt has the technical and creative skills. I doubt Freddy would be able to do enough to emerge as a starter, but could be an important super sub.

Jeff Cunningham:
Look if Cunningham continues his goal scoring next season, he is worth a serious look. I think he should be called up for the November friendlies and the January camp at the very least.

Eddie Johnson: EJ is still just 25 and has gotten some playing time in the Premier league. A decade ago this would have made him a lock. While I see him riding the pine most of the year, if he gets a loan to a championship side and becomes a starter who knows.

Players who cold emerge

Robbie Findlay: I think he is the most likely MLSer to emerge and perhaps the most intriguing. He has got a lot of pace and has scored goals (averages 1 in 3 in the MLS). He is also young (24) and has some promise. Again could be option off the bench. Remember Beasley emerged in 02 at 20 from the MLS.

Marcus Tracy: He has taken a very similar path as Davies. Would have been a top MLS pick but goes to Denmark instead. He is struggling to get on the field, just as Davies did in his first year, he could emerge as a real quality player – but while he is the same age he is a year or two behind Davies in terms of development.

Robbie Rogers: He wouldn’t be a striker but could be that true winger we are lacking allowing Donovan to push up. The biggest problem is that the MLS calendar gives him little time to prove himself. He could make the squad but I doubt he will emerge as the answer.

My choice would probably be to push Landon up alongside and bring on one of the skilled midfielders. But if Cooper continues to do well at Munich I think him and Altidore would simply give defenses a ton of problems physically. I think Findlay is the one to watch for from the rest. Also you never know about Freddy.


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