Filling out the WC roster: Strikers/Wingers

We don’t need a target man, we need attacking players. The major challenge for the US over the next six months is to identify a couple of additional dangerous attacking players that can change a game.

My assessment of the current state of the US 23-man world cup squad is that there is currently competition for 2 or 3 spots at striker and outside midfield. This assumes that there are 8 defenders, 3 goalkeepers, and 4-5 central midfielders (Bradley, Edu, Jones, Feilhaber, Clark), leaving 7 spots for outside midfielders and strikers. Assuming that Altidore, Donovan, Dempsey, Holden and Torres are in the squad – that leaves just two or three spots left for additional attacking players.

While Davies is retaining hope of returning, I think the probability of him making the squad are very slim, and for the sake of this piece and for Bob Bradley’s approach to the World Cup he must assume Davies won’t be available. Davies is pretty much irreplaceable. It was not just his speed and knack for goal, but that he had in 2009 moved beyond his developmental stage as a player and had become a dangerous striker in an elite league. That makes him irreplaceable over the short term, since even promising players are not that far along.

However, the situation at striker is not as dire as it may have seemed after Davies went down. Due to the versatility of Donovan and Dempsey – either of whom could play up top – and the emergence of Holden/Torres, Bradley has some flexibility. He doesn’t need to find a starter to play 75 minutes against England. Furthermore, while Jozy has not set the Premier League ablaze, he has emerged as a legitimate target man, playing at Hull and doesn’t need to play alongside another target striker like Brian Ching or Conor Casey. In fact, I would argue that with Dempsey the US in effect already has two target strikers on the roster. Instead, of wasting a spot on a redundant target man, what we need is speed to make up for the loss of Davies and that could be made up for at two different positions striker or as a winger.

In other words, Bradley should be looking for difference makers offensively. Players who he can put in when we are down 1-0 to Slovenia or deadlocked 0-0 with Algeria that can help change a game. I think this means that Bradley can take a few more risks with these final roster spots, as these players don’t have to be a boring but trusted veterans.

Who are the candidates for those final roster spots?

Damarcus Beasley – I have to say I haven’t been impressed with Beasley for about five years. He was plain bad in 06 and his career has struggled since. However finally healthy (actually he did just suffer a slight knock) he is turning the SPL a blaze. I think if Beasley is starting he is a lock for a spot and right now would probably start against England at left midfield to neutralize Aaron Lennon. Chance at WC210: strong

Robbie Findley – Emerged last year playing at Real Salt Lake. He is a young developing player with great pace, not that dissimilar to Davies. Bradley wanted to call him in to the Slovakia and Denmark friendlies, but RSL’s playoff run prevented that. He would be my dark horse of this group to make the squad. Chance at WC210: medium

Marcus Tracy – Plays in Denmark and has good size and athleticism. He is young and relatively unknown still since he hasn’t played all that much in his Danish league, but was a stud prospect coming out of college. His development is on the same track as Davies was – Nordic league, slow but steady start – the question will be does he have a breakthrough spring in Denmark. Chance at WC210: long shot

Jeff Cunningham – Unlike the previous two, he is known. He was simply on fire last year in MLS. Simply put if he is scoring goals this Spring as he was last year he should be on the team. Chance at WC210: medium

Kenny Cooper – I am a fan of the Coop. I think his size and technical ability would cause defenses havoc, especially alongside Jozy. However, he has cooled off after a hot start playing for 1860 Munich in Germany’s second division. My sense is that Bradley is not that big of a fan of Cooper – stemming from him turning down a national team call up a couple years back to get healthy for MLS play run. However, Cooper was called in for the last two qualifiers and should he regain form he should definitely make the trip. Chance at WC210: medium

Eddie Johnson – EJ was riding the pine for Fulham, but with his loan to Greece he has the chance to set the Hellenic world a light. He is definitely a known commodity and one to watch over the next six months. Chance at WC210: medium

Robbie Rogers
– Rogers is not a striker, he is a winger. He has got lots of pace and is developing as a player. If Damarcus Beasley had not revived his career recently, Rogers would have a much better shot. Still an impressive display could put him in the fold. Chance at WC210: low

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One Response

  1. Very interesting. I really like your logic. I too would like to see us go with attacking players and not add any more target strikers. I think you might have too many central midfielders. I would go with Bradley, Feilhaber and then 2 of Clark, Edu & Jones (whoever is healthy and playing best). Torres could go for Feilhaber if Benny isn’t playing well.

    Then we add Donovan, Dempsey and Beasley (or Rogers) to the midfield corps. That leaves 3 spots for strikers – Altidore is a lock. If Davies can’t go and assuming Findlay starts 2010 off like he finished 2009, he goes. I gotta believe that Bob takes Ching if he’s healthy. I’d rather see Johnson if he’s playing well or whoever’s playing best of Tracy or Cooper.

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