2010 FIFA World Cup: Who Will Survive the U.S. Final Cut?
The United States announced its preliminary 30-man roster a month before the World Cup begins. The team will be pared down to 23 players by June 1st.
The biggest move: not including forward Charlie Davies on the squad.
Davies has been battling back from injuries sustained in a deadly car accident this past October.
He's made remarkable progress, although it wasn’t enough to convince head coach Bob Bradley that Davies will be ready for the start of the tournament. Davies also did not receive medical clearance from his club team Sochaux (France).
Here is a look at the men who did make the roster, and which players will (should) head to South Africa.
Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Marcus Hahnemann.
All three are locks for South Africa.
Guzan and Hahnemann will compete for the back-up job behind Howard.
Hahnemann has the upper hand following a successful season with Wolverhampton in the English Premier League.
Guzan got little playing time for Aston Villa while backing up former U.S. International Brad Friedel.
Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall, Oguchi Onyewu, Heath Pearce and Jonathan Spector.
Normally, teams will take eight defenders. But the majority of the United States defenders can play any position on the back line.
The belief is that their versatility will enable Bradley to take one less defender, allowing the coach to bring an extra midfielder.
Bocanegra, the captain, is definitely going. So are Bornstein, DeMerit, Spector, Cherundolo and Onyewu. Onyewu will go despite not playing since October because of a torn patellar tendon. Pearce, Goodson and Marshall will compete for the final defense position.
Marshall looks to be the first out from this group. The 2008 and 2009 MLS Defender of the Year has been hampered by injuries.
Marshall had to leave the National Team’s winter camp and has only played in two of the Columbus Crew’s five games this season.
Pearce lost his starting left back position because of a dip in form, caused by a benching from his club team in Germany.
However, Pearce transferred to MLS in September. He’s started and has played well, since then.
Internationally, Pearce starred in the United States in the February friendly against El Salvador. His ability to play mid wing also favors Pearce.
Goodson is a solid center back. He is also very useful on set pieces, which he could offer should Onyewu not be 100 percent.
Pearce should go to South Africa.
He’s played well since getting consistent action at the club level. His ability to get into the offense, either playing fullback or as a midfielder, and his positional versatility is unique among the U.S. defenders. They should serve Pearce, and the US team, well.
Alejandro Bedoya, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers, and Jose Francisco Torres.
Two players, Donovan and Bradley, are guaranteed to be starting at midfield in June. Dempsey will also start, but he could move up top instead of playing on the wing. The biggest question; who starts alongside Bradley in the middle?
It's a crowded field with Edu, Feilhaber, Clark, Kljestan and Torres vying for the position.
Edu and Clark are the two most qualified of the players who have actually started. Though defense is his strength, Edu also provides more offense than Clark.
However, Clark has more experience starting for the national team, is a Bradley favorite, and is currently getting playing time in the German Bundesliga.
Both will make the squad.
Feilhaber will also make the team. He provides creativity in the middle and could be a good compliment to Clark, allowing Bradley and Edu to focus a little more on their defensive strengths.
Torres is a super-sub quality player. He provides a good spark off the bench and can make things happen. He can also, if needed, swing outside and play wing midfielder. He’ll also be in South Africa.
Kljestan will be the odd-man out from this group.
After a hat-trick against Sweden in January 2009, a lot of people thought Kljestan had arrived. Being a guy that Bradley had coached with Chivas USA, Kljestan received every opportunity to solidify that role.
However, he never reached that form again. He struggled mightily for both club and country, even getting temporarily benched with Chivas last summer.
Kljestan is looking better as of late, but it’s just too little too late at a very crowded position.
Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will start on the wings.
Now that Holden is healthy and getting playing time with Bolton, he’s a lock who could very well start if Dempsey starts at forward.
Bedoya has only come on recently, but he has gotten good reviews. A midfielder for Obrero SK of the Swedish Allsvenskan league, the country’s top division, the 23-year-old looks to have his name on the final roster.
Beasley and Rogers will not be as lucky.
Once a prominent member of the U.S. team, Beasley’s stock faded fast. Playing time never came with Rangers and, when combined with injuries, Beasley suffered a drastic drop in form.
He came back into the picture with a good string of games with Rangers, scoring several goals, but had another injury. Soon, things went back downhill.
Rogers was an exciting prospect for the team as they looked to replace Beasley. He has good pace and serves a good cross.
But he hasn’t seen the field regularly for the Columbus Crew over the past two seasons and his last international appearance. He also tried to do too much, holding the ball too long, against El Salvador.
Rogers doesn't have the experience to be playing in the World Cup.
Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Brian Ching, Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez and Eddie Johnson.
Altidore, although his club situation is currently unsettled and his tenure at Hull in the EPL ended with him scoring just one goal, is going to South Africa.
Bradley likes to have a holding forward on the roster and Brian Ching is the only option here. It was surprising that Bradley left off new favorite Conor Casey.
However, Ching went to the last World Cup and, with such a young group, his experience could be valuable.
Without Charlie Davies, Bradley looks for a “speed” option up front with Robbie Findley, who was one of the early options to replace Davies. However, Findley couldn't take full advantage of the situation earlier in the year, and a knee injury has hampered his play with Real Salt Lake.
It’s hard to imagine he makes the final roster.
Buddle, Gomez, and Johnson are the three most in-form forwards the nation has to offer. Buddle leads Major League Soccer with nine goals in eight games. Gomez has scored 10 goals in 14 games for Mexican club Puebla. Johnson has put away three goals in the recent Greek-league playoffs.
None of these guys were on the radar earlier in the year, Buddle and Gomez weren’t even mentioned in the U.S. media guide, but their recently play has deservedly put them in this position.
Johnson seems to be the longest shot of the three options, but he has experience with the national team. He also played in two games in the '06 World Cup.
Johnson has exhibited goal scoring abilities before, and has enjoyed a small renaissance in Greece. The team is familiar with Johnson and he should squeak onto the team.
So, Gomez or Buddle?
Gomez or Buddle?
Buddle has been scoring goals in bunches, but he has never quite scored at this rate. He's playing his best soccer at the right time, but Buddle has never displayed this type of input before.
He’s also been capped just once, way back in 2003.
Gomez (shown here last summer in the MLS) has been a goal scorer in the past. He’s just had a few down seasons. Gomez has only had two appearances with the national team. But they were much more recent; Gomez played in the 2007 Copa America.
Ultimately, Gomez has been the more consistent of the two, so he should get spot for South Africa.