Last week, Team USA Coach Bob Bradley named his roster for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. To reward his first team’s massive performance this Confederations’ Cup, he is giving his stars a break and putting in...
I think the correct term is “junior varsity”. See for yourself: http://web.mlsnet.com/news/mls_news.jsp?ymd=20090625&content_id=5521428&vkey=news_mls&fext=.jsp
Freddy Adu, Marvell Wynne, Heath Pearce, Charlie Davies, and Luis Robles are the only players joining the Gold Cup team on a plane from the Confederations Cup in Johannesburg. Nineteen men on this roster are playing or have played in MLS. Only Pearce, Robles, Davies, and Jeremiah White have not.
Bradley’s motives here, unlike most of his tactical substitutions the past two weeks, are easily understood. Like the MNT Coaches before him, Bradley is looking to MLS to find the right bench that will sustain and amplify the USA’s world-beating momentum for the next summer’s trip to South Africa.
Needless to say, this selection brings up many questions. Some serious, others less so.
For this first part, we will just focus on the serious, long-term effects of this roster on the 2010 squad.
How many 2010 spots will be contested? Probably six.
Coach Bradley did not play six substitutes this Confederations’ Cup: Danny Califf, Jose Torres, Pearce, Adu, Wynne, and Robles. Let’s assume Bob Bradley needs to see more from these players.
Add to that three of Bradley’s underachieving substitutes—DaMarcus Beasley, Conor Casey, and Sacha Kljestan. Beasley is probably safe because of Bradley’s faith he will return to form.
That makes eight open spots. Subtract two open spots for the introduction of Jermaine Jones and the re-introduction of Maurice Edu, and you have six spots up for grabs.
Can any of the newcomers seriously challenge for these spots? Maybe two or three. Let’s go by position:
Goalkeeper: Robles is probably safe. He’s the only one with Bundesliga experience.
Defense: Wynne and Pearce will have their hands full defending their places. Bundesliga and MNT veteran Steve Cherundolo is back from injury. Michael Parkhurst, with an improvement in form from a season in Denmark, can steal the other spot.
Midfield: Team USA has too much depth here. Assuming Jones starts, Edu and Benny Feilhaber are locks for the bench, while Ricardo Clark and Kljestan have some proving to do. Jose Torres will prove himself at Azteca in August (you heard it here first).
At this Gold Cup, Stuart Holden or Davy Arnaud will make the strongest challenge for Kljestan or Clark’s spot. Sorry, Kyle Beckerman, we have two defensive mids—Jones, Edu—a holding mid in Michael Bradley, and, therefore, no room for you.
Forward– It’s official: Freddy Adu is sleeping with Bob Bradley’s daughter.
Only a vindictive father could keep the creative Benfica winger on the bench this Gold Cup. He and Charlie Davies need solid performances to assure their spots.
But with Brian Ching and Kenny Cooper in the line-up and Bradley’s good graces, it is completely possible Adu could be riding pine throughout the Gold Cup. For his potential, let’s hope not.
Could any of these players start for Team USA in 2010? Maybe Steve Cherundolo. Perhaps Freddy Adu. Most likely, no one else.
While the talent gap between MLS stars and their European alumni is tightening, it is still too wide to confidently say these newcomers will usurp any starting places.
I do not see anyone except established MNT veterans—Ching, Cherundolo, and Adu—shaking up the starting lineup come 2010.
But some of these MLS stars and alumni should provide the spark off the bench in 2010 that will relieve pressure off of the unlikely stars of the Confederations Cup.