Availability over youth. Calendar over necessity.
Such are the conclusions derived from Bob Bradley's latest roster, the final one of 2010.
Upcoming United States games against Poland (on Oct. 9 in Chicago) and Colombia (Oct. 12 in Philadelphia) fall on international fixture dates and Bradley was free to select any American player he saw fit. Instead of plundering from MLS clubs and giving in-form players an opportunity to show Bradley what they have to offer, he passed on such opportunities.
There are exceptions. Brek Shea and Heath Pearce were each called in, although Shea is the only one of the duo with upside.
Perhaps the annual January camp is the time Bradley feels most comfortable in bleeding new MLSers into the national team. Every January, a slew of MLS players with varying levels of international experience converge on Home Depot Center for a month-long camp, and next year will likely follow that pattern.
It would have been interesting for Bradley to give more than just two MLS players a chance. It would have been interesting for Chris Wondolowski to head to US camp and possibly earn his first cap, an accomplishment that would have been a befitting of his fantastic MLS campaign. Justin Braun is another forward who has taken giant leaps in MLS this season, but won't get the chance to show his international worth until January at the earliest. The central defender of the future may have been called in, in the form of either Omar Gonzalez or Tim Ream, while Sean Franklin may have started his own battle to contend for the right back spot.
Instead, Bradley has called on players who are known commodities. And there's not a lot of youth to go around. Three players - Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo - are over 30. Only seven from of the 20-man roster are 24 years old or younger.
Perhaps more alarming is that all but five of the players have 10 caps or more. It matters not whether the U.S. wins or loses these games, yet the roster is stacked with players who have been there and done that with the U.S. national team. On the squad are 13 players who were on the World Cup team this summer.
These games would have been a great opportunity for the next batch of Americans to receive a shot, for young and untested players to mix in with a handful of veterans and get a feel of the international game. This game should have been planned with 2014 in mind, and if Cherundolo and Bocanegra are still integral parts of the team by the time Brazil rolls around, perhaps the next phase of development will not have netted much.
Now, there are some players with huge upside on the squad. Shea is one of three uncapped players on the roster. Eric Lichaj and Jermaine Jones are the other two, and both players are talented enough to be starting for the U.S. by the time the Gold Cup arrives in June. Alejandro Bedoya drew rave reviews with his limited time on the U.S. team before the World Cup while Stuart Holden is a much more polished player at the club level now than he was in June.
Still, it feels like a wasted opportunity to integrate new blood into the team. And while that will likely happen in January, it will be three months too late by then.
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