The World Cup is less than a year away, and the question on the minds of many U.S. fans is, who is going to represent the U.S.A. in South Africa?
The list I'm providing below has rankings based on chances of going next year along with comments. Another consideration for Bob Bradley is team balance among positions and having enough depth and cover, which will be addressed here as well.
No Doubt About It, They're Going
1. Tim Howard, GK—The best goalkeeper for the 'Nats and one of the best in EPL. He showed his worth in South Africa last month.
2. Landon Donovan, M/F—He came into his own at the Confederations Cup, shedding the Landycakes image and becoming "Mandon"; we need both his offensive skills and his leadership qualities.
3. Oguchi Onyewu, D—A beast in the air, his move to AC Milan is just rewards for his improved play for both club and country.
4. Clint Dempsey, M/F—With the criticism gone that he lacks heart/is ineffective, he showed truly why he can be capable of magic on the field at any moment. Question now is, should he play more upfield?
5. Carlos Bocanegra, D—El Capitan will be there, and he showed quite well at left back, but will he stay there?
6. Michael Bradley, M—Regardless of who else is paired in the middle with him, Boy Bradley will be in South Africa.
7. Charlie Davies, F—Yes, he is that important to this team, with both his work rate and his physical play. Just an all-around pest to defenders, he's going to improve by moving to France.
8. Benny Feilhaber, M—There's a reason why he has been the first sub off the bench: he provides creativity, calms the pace down, and can possess the ball. It looks like he's back to being 2007 Benny.
9. Jozy Altidore, F—Big and strong, he shows flashes of his potential but still needs to improve. Despite that, he's a threat any time he comes in the game. The question is whether or not he'll get regular PT this year at Villareal or whereever they loan him to.
10. Jonathan Spector, D—With his performance in S. Africa coupled with Steve Cherundolo's injury, he has to be the No. 1 right back option right now. Can he also play left back?
11. Jay DeMerit, D—Really improved his stock in Confederations play and is probably a better partner in central defense with Gooch than Boca.
12. Brad Guzan, GK—Was a force against Egypt, he is without a doubt our number No. 2 keeper right now.
Probably Going, But We'll See
13. Ricardo Clark, M—What a motor in the midfield, if only he could control his penchant for wild challenges. There's so much competition at center mid, it is ridiculous. Has had a great partnership with Bradley in the center of the field.
14. Maurice Edu, M—I like the fact he can also play center back in a pinch, and Bob values flexibility. He would be a sure bet if not for his injuries, should be back playing in September.
15. Steve Cherundolo, D—He is still shaking off the rust but showed his quality again in recent Gold Cup play.
16. Jermaine Jones, M—The only concern is that he actually hasn't made the switch official, and he's coming off a leg injury. But he is a quality player that we may see paired with Bradley to allow the latter to play more offensively.
17. Brian Ching, F—despite the criticism, he is one of Bradley's favorites for his ability to hold the ball up and attract defensive attention.
18. Chad Marshall, D—We need another center back for depth, and he has helped his cause with good showings in the Gold Cup.
19. Robbie Rogers, M—Need a backup for Landon on the left and he's been a beast in the last few games.
20. Stuart Holden, M—Scoring and is otherwise a threat going forward and has really rocketed up the depth chart. Is probably the No. 1 backup to Deuce right now.
21. Jonathan Bornstein, D—We need a bona fide left back, and, despite his deficiencies, he's the guy right now, but I'm hoping Edgar Castillo can push him.
Got Some Work Left to Do
22. Jose Francisco Torres, M—He's a great talent, but apparently Bob doesn't rate him as highly as most U.S. fans. Perhaps he's seen as a lighter version of Benny Feilhaber by Bob and his staff but with more defensive liabilities.
23. Troy Perkins, GK—Probably our No. 3 keeper right now, but who knows?
24. Frankie Hejduk, D—I love his leadership qualities and how he plays with heart, but do we need a third RB?
25. Danny Califf, D— Likely ranked fourth or fifth among the center backs, he'd go just to make up the numbers and to provide depth.
26. DaMarcus Beasley, M—If he can get some playing time and become the Beasley of old, he can supplant Rogers at that left mid position. But it's a big what "if" still.
27. Freddy Adu, M—Showed very little in Gold Cup games. Clearly needs to be playing first team ball somewhere to have a shot at making this roster.
28. Conor Casey, F—Hasn't done much, but he's a little better than Cooper right now, so he may get the backup role to Ching.
29. Kenny Cooper, F—Had a chance to really raise his stock in Gold Cup play but did little. Time is running out for him to impress.
30. Edgar Castillo, D—Probably better at Bornstein in going forward, but like Bornstein, a bit of a liability in defending. Still, if he's playing well and is serious about playing for U.S., I say bring him in and see what he's got.
31. Heath Pearce, D—He was, as of last year, the player with the most minutes on the team, but he's just getting into form and is trying to find PT somewhere.
32. Sacha Kljestan, M—Ugh, he has been just horrible. But Bob Bradley likes him.
This team is deep in the central midfield, right back positions. Some questions.
1. How many right backs to take?
I think if he had the choice, Bradley would take Cherundolo, Spector, and Hejduk, but we probably only need two at this position. If one of them can play left back or center back, that would help his chances immensely.
2. How many center mids to take?
Again, we are deep here and it will help if one of these players are versatile to play, say, left or right mid. I believe Jones, Bradley, Feilhaber, and Edu will go (if the latter regains health and form). I think Clark can sneak into the roster as well, but that would mean one less traditional striker or defender. Then again, Edu can be listed as a central defender behind the likes of Gooch, DeMerit, and Marshall.
3. How many strikers to take?
I think Bradley will take no more than four and may only take three: Davies, Altidore and Ching. The reason is that Donovan and Dempsey are listed as midfielders, but they can also play up top.
So, as of now, this is the team I would take to South Africa (assuming health):
F: Davies, Altidore, Ching
M: Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Jones, Feilhaber, Holden, Rogers, Clark
D: Bocanegra, Onyewu, DeMerit, Spector, Cherundolo, Bornstein, Hejduk, Edu, Marshall
GK: Howard, Guzan, Perkins