World Cup dreams vanish.
Among the players who saw their dreams shattered at the 11th-hour:
Charlie Davies: Most of U.S. Soccer held their collective breaths, crossed their fingers and prayed to higher poweres that Davies could recover in time to play some sort of role in the World Cup. But it was not meant to be apparently as Davies was the biggest name left off the World Cup roster. If he were healthy, Davies would have been not just a lock to be on the squad but to be included in the starting lineup. Instead, a car accident that claimed the life of a fellow passenger also doomed Davies' fate.
While it may be disappointing in terms of soccer and the World Cup, U.S. teammate and friend Sacha Kljestan put it in another context on Tuesday: "It's pretty sad. He's come a long way but obviously they feel he's not there yet which is disappointing to him but that's the realization of it... I'm sad for him but I'm happy he's alive."
Conor Casey: Remember on Oct. 10, when the U.S. faced a difficult two-game stretch to close out qualifying? The first game seemed like an insurmountable challenge as a frenzied crowd at Olimpico Stadium in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, awaited. Instead, the U.S. stunned the hosts with a 3-2 victory and clinched a spot in the World Cup. The hero of the day? Casey, who scored goals 11 minutes apart and helped give the U.S. a lead they never relinquished. Aside from that performance, injuries to Davies and Brian Ching seemed to help his cause. However, the torrid form of both Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez seemed to seal his fate.
Frankie Hejduk: A starter for the U.S. in the first three Hexagonal matches, Hejduk offered something few others on the roster could - years of experience and an unrivaled work ethic. Hejduk was in both the 1998 and 2002 World Cup teams and saw his World Cup dreams in 2006 shatter due to a knee injury. Having been given up time and again as too old, Hejduk continued displaying fine form for both club and country, when Bradley called on him over the last three-plus years. However, depth on the right side with both Jonathan Spector and Steve Cherundolo available doomed him, and the surfer dude from San Diego will have to be content with his season at Columbus.
Freddy Adu: Is this really a surprise? Perhaps to many who long ago pegged him as a future star for the U.S., it is. However, Adu's fall from grace in Europe, which saw him bounce around from league to league before finding a place in Greece, was a precursor to this exclusion. So too was his limited time with the U.S. national team. His 181 minutes during 2009 did not bode well. Adu also had the misfortune of finding himself in the middle of a crowded midfield. Still, Adu's fans need not fret. Adu turns 21 this summer and will have plenty of chances to break through with both club and country before the 2014 World Cup.
Jimmy Conrad: In 2006, Conrad was one of the few players who distinguished himself in Germany. Conrad came on as a substitute against Italy and helped a nine-man U.S. side tie a 10-man Italy team 1-1. It was the lone blemish for Italy, who went on to win every other match they played, including the World Cup final. Conrad, though, fell far out of the national team picture afterward. Conrad played six games in 2007, just one in 2008 and three a year ago. His lone effort in 2010 was a match against Honduras, in which he was given a red card a quarter-hour in.
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