MLS Playoff Winners Lose Out On National Team

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MLS Playoff Winners Lose Out On National Team
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The United States Men's National Team has two friendlies scheduled in Europe against Slovakia (Nov. 14) and Denmark (Nov. 18) making those MLS players whose clubs advanced this weekend unavailable for national team duty. Time with the national team is precious to those players fighting to earn their spot on the roster heading to South Africa next summer for the World Cup.

Success with their MLS teams won't be ignored by USMNT head coach Bob Bradley, but those American players will miss out on the irreplaceable opportunity of making an impression in person. Below is a breakdown of the players who might have been called up for the friendlies in Europe, but were unavailable because of the MLS Cup Conference Finals.

Real Salt Lake

Robbie Findley —The speedy forward would have likely gotten a call up for the friendlies, but he will be busy next weekend playing in the MLS Cup Western Conference Finals. Many soccer analysts have highlighted Findley's as a possible replacement on the national team for Sochaux forward Charlie Davies who was injured in a car accident last month. The 24-year-old striker had a career year scoring 12 goals this season in MLS.

Kyle Beckerman —RSL's dread locked captain also had a decent shot of being called up after playing well for the US in the summer's Gold Cup. The US is very deep in quality central midfielders with the likes of Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, and Jermaine Jones all playing in Europe. However, with Edu and Jones both injured Beckerman could have made his case with Bradley in Slovakia and Denmark.

Chicago Fire

Chris Rolfe —Had Chicago not pulled out a victory on Saturday night against the Revs it would have been Rolfe’s last game in a Fire uniform as the 26-year-old signed a contract with Danish club Aalborg BK in September. Instead the former University of Dayton Flyer will get one more chance to wear red and white in front of Fire fans. In his four seasons with the Fire Rolfe has been one of the club’s most consistent players scoring 36 goals in 123 appearances.

Rolfe has a creative ability with the ball in the final third that is very rare in the American player pool. The US could have used his attacking abilities in the 2009 Gold Cup where they ran out of answers in the final against Mexico.

It would have been interesting to see Rolfe get called in had the Fire lost, but if he can find some success next season in Europe he could earn some serious consideration for next summer.

Logan Pause —For the last six years patrolling the Fire’s midfield Pause has earned a reputation as solid MLS professional. The Hillsborough, North Carolina product was a third round draft pick in 2003, but Pause grew into the role that Chris Armas left when he retired from the Fire in 2007. Pause’s hard work paid off this summer when he was called in for this summer’s CONCAF Gold Cup.

With Beckerman and Clark unavailable Pause really would have had a good chance of being called in had the Fire lost. The 28-year-old would've had two matches to make his case with Bob Bradley, but I’m sure he’s happy about advancing in the playoffs. Pause also won the 2009 Humanitarian of the Year Award along with Kansas City Wizard defender Jimmy Conrad this past week for his many charitable works he’s involved with. Pause is a real long shot for the World Cup, but it’s hard not to root for this guy.

John Thorrington —On Saturday night the 30-year-old professional was all over the field for the Fire and scored the first goal in front of a sellout crowd in Bridgeview. Thorrington was probably not going to be called anyway having not played recently due to injuries, but he was a real difference maker for the Fire.

The veteran player can play in the midfield or at right back (where Bob Bradley has used him before). Playing well for the Fire in the playoffs will help his stock rise as a fringe USMNT player. Don’t be surprised if Thorrington gets a call up the January camp. Also I enjoyed his interviewing skills with this Chicago Tribune feature he did with Logan Pause.

Jon Busch —One of the best goal keepers in MLS over his seven years in the league, Jon Busch should be at least considered for national team duty. Busch doesn’t have a great shot at making the World Cup roster with Tim Howard a lock for the starting position, but you never know what could happen before next summer. Although Brad Guzan has been the back up on the national team the past few years, if Howard should get hurt before the World Cup I don’t know if Bradley would be comfortable putting the 25 year old in net for the US. There are a number of other American keepers in Europe, but solid MLS goalies like Busch should be considered too if a crisis does arise. Busch has one cap with the national team and has been called into US camps previously.

After the game Saturday night the Fire keeper was visibly pumped up in a post match interview with Fox Soccer Channel calling out ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas for saying prior to the game that the Fire had no heart. You gotta love awkward television!

Houston Dynamo

Stuart Holden —The creative midfielder was touted by many as the US’s best performer this summer in the Gold Cup. This year also so Holden become a MLS All Star, a  substitute against Mexico in Estadio Azteca, and a starter replacing an injured Clint Dempsey in the final two World Cup Qualifiers. Holden made everyone forget about Dwayne De Rosario in Houston leading the Dynamo to the playoffs and a second place finish in the Western Conference.

Holden’s extended service to the US in the Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifying has him well positioned to make the World Cup roster. It appears likely that Holden will be heading to Europe once the season is over, but he will need to find a club where he can earn consistent playing time if he wants to keep knocking on the door to USMNT's starting lineup.

Ricardo Clark —A favorite of Bob Bradley, the defensive midfielder had a surreal summer in South Africa with the national team upsetting Spain and almost winning the Confederations Cup over Brazil. Clark has been for the past year the first choice of Bob Bradley to pair with his son, Michael Bradley, in central midfield.

Clark’s play at the Confederations Cup and during World Cup Qualifying earned him some attention from European clubs, but rumors have died down since the summer of a move to Europe. Clark looked pretty banged up on Sunday, but with all the competition in the US midfield he can use every opportunity he gets to solidify his place on the national team.

When Jermaine Jones gets healthy many have the Schalke 04 talisman penciled in to replace Clark, but if Clark continues to play well he certainly will be in the mix for South Africa.

Brian Ching —Though the Hawaiian striker often drives a large contingent of US fans crazy, the two time MLS champion is a consistent target forward. Ching may not score goals like it’s going out of fashion, but his overtime winner in Houston on Sunday was truly inspiring. You could see how bad he wanted that goal. Though he won’t win any popularity contests with US Soccer fanatics, Ching will be in the battle for a spot on the trip to South Africa all the way up to next summer.

Bobby Boswel —It amazes me how unheralded Boswell has been over his career as he’s won two Supporter’s Shields and a MLS Defender of the Year Award with DC United and anchored Houston’s solid backline the past two seasons. He almost signed with a Turkish club after the 2008 season, but he ended signing a new four year deal with Houston.

Boswell has been off the US radar for awhile, but he really should be considered being one of the best center back s in MLS. Boswell should be in the mix for making the USMNT along with Jimmy Conrad and Chad Marshall. Now all he has to worry about is keeping Landon Donovan and David Beckham at bay next Friday night in LA.  

Brad Davis —Am I a nerd for thinking this guy look like he could have been a hobbit in Lord of the Rings? Ok, I’m definitely a nerd, but Hobbit or not Davis can play. The midfielder just makes things happen on the field for the Dynamo. The Dynamo have been one of the top teams in the league without a goal scoring machine striker much in part to the play of the 27-year-old.

The service Brad Davis provides his teammates is among the best in MLS this side of David Beckham. At the 2009 MLS All Star Game, Davis played wonderfully scoring the All Stars’ only goal in the 1-1 loss to Everton on penalties. After being snubbed by Bradley for the Gold Cup, I would have really liked to see Davis back in the USMNT picture, but the Dynamo will continue to battle for another MLS Cup.

Geoff Cameron —The second year man has been great in his roles both as a central defender in both the midfield and the back line for the Dynamo. After a excellent 2009 season that saw Cameron start the All Star Game, many had the former University of Rhode Island Ram fast tracked for national team duty.

Cameron would have been a nice addition to the Slovakia/Denmark friendlies because of his versatility in both the midfield and defense. Keep your eye on this kid in the years to come.

LA Galaxy

Landon Donovan —There really was no reason for the US's best player to be involved in the upcoming friendlies. Then again whenever the national team suits up US fans want a victory and having Donovan on the pitch makes a huge difference. The Galaxy are playing well and the Beckham experiment is finally showing some positive results. Let Landon enjoy it after enduring the darkness of the previous two seasons in LA.

Todd Dunivant —The Galaxy left back has been solid this year for Bruce Arena on a backline that was one of the best in MLS in 2009. Borenstein's play towards the end of World Cup Qualifying has the Chivas USA star the front runner for the left back job with the national team, but the position battle is far from over. Edgar Castillo has been pumped up by many as Borenstein's main competitor, but the former Mexican international has yet to play for the United States.

Dunivant is not a track star going forward, but he might be a better defender than Borenstein and Castillo. Castillo has admitted that his defending needs work and Borenstein has made several blunders that have cost the national team in the past. Dunivant's solid defending, experience (two MLS Cups), and consistency should put him in the mix for the left back job.

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