2010 FIFA World Cup: Who Will Start Up Front for the Americans?
Eight months ago, fans of the USMNT knew that Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore were their starting strikers.
Eight days ago, those same fans knew that Altidore would still start, but weren't quite sure who would partner him
Now, they know absolutely nothing.
When Altidore suffered a mild ankle sprain in training, many feared the worst. However, word has since come out that he is expected to be fit for the opening match against England on June 12. But, after the performance put on in the friendly against Australia by the other strikers, will he?
Make no mistake about it, Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley, and Herculez Gomez played fantastic. Buddle's brace was taken with calm composure, and Gomez's finish was a joy to behold. But fans who were only looking at the scorers' sheet missed the main lesson of the day.
Those spectators paying a little bit more attention saw that Buddle and Findley have already developed a spectacular understanding. Their movement off the ball, the interplay of their passing, and the way that they confused the Australian defense were all at a far higher level than could have been expected. How do you break up a strike-partnership like that?
To be fair, there are some points against starting Buddle and Findley on June 12. Altidore is still a quality striker, and Gomez showed off his ability to finish coolly. Perhaps most glaring was Findley's knack for missing when it was easier to score.
That being said, Findley's contribution is more about his pace than his ability to finish. His pace frightened the Aussie defense back, providing space for Dempsey and Donovan to weave their magic. Combine this with his ability to get in positions to score—he can't miss forever—and it is hard to imagine him not starting up front for Bob Bradley.
What then of the other starting position? Gomez is a fantastic finisher, but he isn't exactly known for his ability to hold the ball up. He is likely to be more of an impact sub than a starter. Altidore is a good target man, but at this point the edge has to go to Buddle.
Between Altidore's injury (even if his ankle recovers, it will likely still be a little weak), Buddle's form, and the understanding developed between Buddle and Findley, the signs are pointing to the Galaxy striker getting the nod.
Whoever would have thought this to be the case? A month ago, rare was the opinion that Buddle and Findley would even be on the plane to South Africa. Now, they just might represent their nation's best hope up front.
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