Who will be left behind?Fifty-six days! That’s how long we’ve got before the World Cup officially gets underway, and here in the USA there are still tons of questions that need to be answered. With injuries still holding back several players, playing time lacking for others, and a few outsiders making late pushes for roster spots, Bob Bradley will have some tough decisions to make in the coming days.
Here’s a glance at some of those decisions, along with my choice for who should go, as well as the choice I think Bradley is most likely to make.
We’ll start up front.
The choice here is who to take if Charlie Davies isn’t fit, and under the assumption that Jozy Altidore will start up front.
The race is between Herculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson, and the MLS contingent of Conor Casey, Brian Ching, Edson Buddle, Jeff Cunningham and Robbie Findley.
My Take: For me, it seems clear the Clint Dempsey- who is a lock for a roster spot no matter where you see him playing- should be the starter along with Altidore, meaning I only need to carry two other strikers.
I would argue that Eddie Johnson is the most like-for-like switch with Davies. His pace could help open up the field and he could provide a spark given the right chance. He time in Greece has been good though far from spectacular. I would also take Gomez simply because he’s proven that he can score goals in a solid league and do it as a bench player. With Altidore and Dempsey both being bigger players who can hold the ball, I don’t see the need to carry a third member of this group as a target player.
What Bradley Will Do: I see Bradley taking Casey and Ching if the latter can recover from his hamstring injury and adding in Findley or Cunningham as his change of pace player. I think Bradley still hopes to start Dempsey in the midfield and will carry the extra striker in hopes of keeping his midfield as strong as possible and having one of them get hot at the right time.
In the middle, where the US has its greatest amount of depth, Bradley also has his greatest struggles in terms of injuries. We’ll assume that Jermaine Jones is out of the running and that we’re listing Dempsey as a striker. That leaves Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu as the only fully fit locks in the midfield.
Injuries to Ricardo Clark, Stuart Holden and Benny Feilhaber have limited their playing time. DaMarcus Beasley, and Freddy Adu still aren’t playing regularly. Jose Torres has had a solid season in Mexico, but was not at his best in his last national team outing. And the MLS midfielders still in running, Sacha Kljestan, Kyle Beckerman and Robbie Rogers, have not been impressive.
My Take: I think Holden should be fit. If so, he makes the team, possibly as a starter with Dempsey up front. Feilhaber is back on the pitch, playing limited minutes already, so he gets a spot. Clark has earned his trip through qualifying and the US will need an extra holding mid given that they can't make it through a competition without somebody getting suspended. Beasley makes my squad because of his experience and the fact that he is fit and has been playing well when he gets on the pitch for Rangers. It's much the same logic for Torres. I would also take Rogers as my last midfielder simply because he offers a unique threat with his pace.
What Bradley Will Do: I actually think Bradley and I agree here for the most part. I think he’ll leave either Rogers or Beasley at home because of the extra striker and the depth on the wing with Feilhaber, Holden, Donovan and Dempsey.
At the back the big concern is Oguchi Onyewu, but aside from that the backline looks solid.
Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Spector and Steve Cherundolo have all had nice seasons. Jonathan Bornstein will almost certainly be part of the team, and Clarence Goodson seems to have made a place for himself on the plane to South Africa.
Assuming Onyewu isn’t fit, that only leaves one spots if the US carries three keepers. My inclination here is that Heath Pearce and Marvell Wynne are the two in the running for those spots, but Chad Marshall and Jimmy Conrad could both have their names brought up.
Assuming Onyewu is fit in time the back line is set.
My Take: I don’t see much in the way of tough choices here until it’s time to pick a starting XI. If Onyewu is hurt I think the spot goes to Pearce, mostly because Bocanegra would almost certainly play in the middle for the entirety of the competition.
What Bradley Will Do: He’ll hope Onyewu can get fit without actually playing in many matches. If Onyewu is injured, I see him taking Pearce.
Assuming the USA takes three ‘keepers, Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Marcus Hahnemann are pretty much locks, though Hahnemann is the likely one to be the benchwarmer all through the tournament, with Guzan the first choice should anything happen to Howard.
My Take: I would prefer that Guzan have more playing time, but I believe in giving youth experiencel.
What Bradley Will Do: It's a tricky question. Guzan is still largely untested, but is clearly a good player. I can see Bradley leaving Hahnemann on the bench if a backup is called for.
Goal.com wants to know what you think. Leave your picks for the USA's roster in the comments below.
Allen Ramsey is an associate editor of Goal.com USA. The Ramsey Report runs every Thursday on Goal.com.
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