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U.S. Men's National Soccer Team Gold Cup Roster Announced

Big ChilContributor IIMay 24, 2011

CARSON, CA - JANUARY 22:  Bob Bradley coach of the United States follows during the friendly soccer match against Chile at The Home Depot Center on January 22, 2011 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

National team coach Bob Bradley announced the 23 players who will represent the United States in June's Gold Cup, the regional championship for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). The 2011 Gold Cup is particularly important as the winner gets a berth in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, a pre-World Cup tuneup. 

The United States won the 2007 Gold Cup and went on to shock Spain 2-0 in the semi-finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup before falling to Brazil 3-2 in the final. This preparation against World Cup competition presaged the United States' finish atop Group C in the 2010 World Cup.

With that in mind, these are the 23 players chosen:


Goal:
Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Nick Rimando

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Eric Lichaj, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson, Tim Ream, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector

Midfield: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, Freddy Adu

Forwards:  Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Chris Wondolowski


There are some surprises here, especially in the midfield and forward positions. We'll go over the roster position by position.

At goal, it's no surprise that USA's No. 1, Tim Howard, is set to man the pipes. Normal first backup Brad Guzan is getting married in June, so that duty falls to our World Cup No. 3, Marcus Hahnemann. Hahnemann is a more than solid shot stopper for Wolverhampton, and deserves the role. The third goalie is Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando, who is going to stay with his club during the tournament, and will only join the national team if one of the first two goalies is not available.

The eight defenders chosen are a relatively solid group. The one surprise is that Timothy Chandler was not selected. The 21-year-old Chandler shone during the March Argentina and Paraguay friendlies with his ability to get forward aggressively from the right fullback or right wing positions.

According to Bradley's conference call with media, the decision to not call up Chandler stemmed from discussions with the player and his club. Chandler has just finished his first full season as a pro in Germany's top flight, and by playing in the Gold Cup would not have a rest before his season picked up again.

Bradley made the decision to leave him off the squad in view of preserving the player's club situation with an eye toward having Chandler available for the World Cup cycle. 

At left back we have options with team captain Carlos Bocanegra being backed up by both Jonathan Bornstein and Eric Lichaj, who is normally a right back but finished his season at Leeds on the left.

In the center, World Cup veterans Oguchi Onyewu and Clarence Goodson buttress youngster Tim Ream and are also supported by captain Bocanegra and Jonathan Spector. Spector can play all four back line positions as well as midfield. Ream is on the squad for his ability to pass out of the back, and to groom him for the upcoming cycle. 

At right fullback, Steve Cherundolo came off an excellent season at Hannover 96, and will be supported by Eric Lichaj and Jonathan Spector. 

World Cup veteran Jay DeMerit was left off most likely for nagging injury and form issues—he's only played a handful of games in the past 12 months, though most have been recently for Vancouver Whitecaps FC. 

The midfield contains no fewer than three surprise inclusions. The first five, Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Jones and Edu were pretty much set in stone. National team supersub Benny Feilhaber has brought his quality on the ball to the New England Revolution and will again bring good wing service as well as his ability to play alongside the defensive central midfielders. 

The surprise inclusions are the final three, Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers and Freddy Adu.  Most people thought Mikkel Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya, both of whom were enjoying good ends to their seasons in Norway and Sweden, respectively, were in this conversation ahead of Rogers and Adu.

Without Timothy Chandler in the mix, Bob Bradley appears to have gone for Rogers' pace on the wings over Bedoya's scoring prowess. Rogers can stretch defenses and does provide quality service into the box, though he never quite developed his game to the next level during the last World Cup cycle and only has a mediocre MLS season to show so far. 

The inclusion of Freddy Adu is a bit of a head scratcher. It's been a few years since Freddy got his last national team action, and most recently he's been playing well in the Turkish second division, a notch or more below Major League Soccer.

Bob Bradley commented on Freddy Adu, "Typically playing in the second division in Turkey doesn't bring you back into the scene. He's shown us soccer qualities that will help our team. It seems like a good opportunity to get him back in with us, where we have a good month together and challenge him and hope that he has continued to grow and mature."

While it's all fine and good to bring a promising player back into the fold and not let them go to rot, Adu has typically not had a well-defined role on the national team. He's not a winger, and both of the central midfielders tend to be defensive destroyers and distributors. Adu is probably suited to a five-man midfield, which we won't see much of this Gold Cup.

Bradley's comment of having Freddy for "a good month together and challenge him and hope that he has continued to grow and mature," indicates that Bradley is using a valuable roster slot for a developmental move for the next cycle. Don't expect Adu to play more than a few substitution minutes. His best chances will be in the group stage if the U.S. is winning, or has the group won by the third game. 

Kljestan is a versatile midfielder with some attacking flair. He finished the season well in the Belgian league and is well known to Bradley. He wins the lottery between himself, Diskerud and Bedoya. 

Having brought nine midfielders, Bradley opts for only three strikers—Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo and Chris Wondolowski. We can go ahead and pencil in Clint Dempsey in this position as well, whether we bump him upfield late in games, or start him should injury or production woes hit the striker corps. 

Going with only three strikers for a three-week, six-game tournament plus a pre-Cup friendly against Spain is a bit surprising. We all knew Altidore was going to get the call as our main target man. Agudelo, as exciting as he's looked in his three national caps, doesn't play 90 minutes for his team, the New York Red Bulls. After Agudelo, we're bringing 2010 MLS Golden Boot winner Wondolowski, who is on good form again this season. 

The big surprise is the non-inclusion of Sporting Kansas City's Teal Bunbury, who has definitely been on the national team developmental radar.

Bunbury was called up for both the South African and Chile friendlies and scored against Chile.  At age 21, he's a better bet than the 28-year-old Wondolowski for the next World Cup, but apparently Bradley decided that current form in MLS was more vital to winning the Gold Cup. 

Wondolowski has 38 shots, 14 on goal, and five goals, good enough for third in MLS, versus 17, seven and three for Bunbury. Wondolowski shows that he finds/creates opportunities on goal, and that's something the striker corps sorely lacked in 2010, though Wondolowski has yet to play with the national "A" team, his sole cap coming against Chile last January. 

Contrast Bradley's leaving of Teal Bunbury off the squad in favor of a statistically more productive striker in Wondolowski versus the use of a roster spot on Freddy Adu. The Gold Cup takes up about a month, and with only three strikers, and only one true target man among them—Jozy Altidore, whose productivity can be suspect—goal production could be at risk.

Agudelo has looked brilliant in a substitution role with two goals in three caps, but he doesn't play 90 minutes for his club.  Can we expect this 18-year-old to all of a sudden carry this load for the 'Nats? 

If Agudelo is not playing ninety minutes, it's Wondolowski and Altidore. What happens if one or the other picks up cards, injuries or is not productive?

Yes, we have Dempsey waiting in the wings, which means that most likely Feilhaber or Kljestan get bumped up to a starting wing role. If Altidore gets hurt or is not producing, none of Agudelo, Wondolowski or Dempsey are target forwards. It would have been best to have brought a fourth striker such as Bunbury, Herculez Gomez, Edson Buddle or Kenny Cooper in favor of the ninth midfielder.

Regardless, the roster is set, and let the games begin! 

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