Since they've committed to announcing the final World Cup roster on ESPN tomorrow at 1pm ET, about 14 hours from now, no doubt Bob Bradley and the USMNT coaching and training staff are locked in deliberation right now.
The coaching staff has had 10 days of training to view the players as well as tonight's recently concluded friendly vs. the Czech Republic. While it was mostly a second-string lineup for both teams, there were clear winners and losers for U.S. personnel in the 4-2 loss.
DaMarcus Beasley . Da Beasley is back. He seems to be sharp, in form, fast as ever, and working hard on his defensive responsibilities. This was the kind of performance we've been waiting for, to give the U.S. the option to slot Dempsey up top and start another midfielder.
Stuart Holden . See above. Holden is back from his regrettable Nigel de Jong broken leg. His crossing ability is second-to-none on the 'Nats, and he also gives the option of slotting Dempsey up top.
Herculez Gomez . No question this guy may be the big winner on the night. He wasn't even on the radar just two months ago. Reports out of camp indicate he has performed well, and he put in a goal tonight to boot. The joy and relief on his face was palpable. In addition, he was involved in pretty much every play in the attacking third in the second half. He looks like a great super sub, and even a possible starter.
Clarence Goodson. Goodson looked good enough to start on the back line if needed. His aerial game has always been dangerous, and we'll need the extra coverage in the middle. He smartly headed Holden's corner kick to Gomez for the second goal.
Edson Buddle, Eddie Johnson, and Robbie Findley. Findley didn't even make it into the game. Buddle was part of the press that created Maurice Edu's opening goal, but did not do much to create chances for himself otherwise. Ditto for Eddie Johnson.
Sacha Klejstan, Heath Pearce. These guys were on the outside looking in. Klejstan's erratic performances continue to cost him. Pearce had a chance to earn a spot on the back line at left back, but that terrible slide and miss that led to the Czech's third goal is what will keep him out of the final lineup. We already have Bornstein to do that.
Robbie Rogers. He's not a loser by performance. He played hard, took a crackerjack shot on goal, and had good crosses into the box. That he was tabbed to take our corner kicks in the second half should be telling. He loses out because of the talented crowd at midfield. At 23, the Columbus Crew midfielder should be good for the next World Cup cycle.
Alejandro Bedoya. Another midfielder who's going to be robbed by depth and the need to bring enough players to cover at striker and the back line.
Now, for the next part, the Final 23 that ride the plane to South Africa.
Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahneman
This is the position with the least mystery. The top three have been established for months. The only question is who will be the No. 2 if Tim Howard can't go? My hunch is Hahneman, who had the better Premier League season, despite Guzan being given the nod for the Czech friendly.
Jonathan Bornstein, Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Spector, Steve Cherundolo, and Chad Marshall.
The big surprise on this list is Marshall, who didn't even play tonight. It's clear from tonight that Gooch, though he can play, is not yet 100 percent, and the coaching staff will be forced to bring eight backline players for coverage. This robs us of the flexibility to take advantage of our strength in midfield and bring an extra midfielder.
Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Torres, Stuart Holden
None of these guys were really in any serious danger of missing the plane, and this is quite a strong midfield. Due to back line concerns, Marshall makes the plane, and strikers on the bubble are dropped, and Dempsey is listed as a striker, though he may start games in the midfield and get bumped forward late.
Brian Ching, Jozy Altidore, Herculez Gomez, Clint Dempsey
It's either be thin with a seven man back line including Gooch being less than 100 percent or be thin up top with strikers. With both Donovan and Dempsey able to play striker and having capable backups such as Holden, Beasley, Feilhaber, and Torres, and defense being, well, all-important, I think Bob Bradley brings an eight man back line.
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