Bradley proves appreciative even as he wields the scalpel.
That's when U.S. coach Bob Bradley will announce his final 23-man roster for the month-long tournament in South Africa, though the coach will inform the seven cut players in his current 30-man squad personally prior to that.
"We certainly want to pay tribute to all these guys that have been in this camp, for the work that they've put in and the way they've gone about it," Bradley said after the United States lost 2-4 to the Czech Republic. "We'll have a discussion with each person we're letting go, thank them, let them know how much we appreciate what they've put into it. We try with the way we go about things always to be clear and up-front."
A clearly loyal man, Bradley's hands are tied by roster restrictions and the demand to choose the best players for the job ahead.
"The guys know that now we're at a point where some tough decisions need to be made," the U.S. head coach said.
As he's mulling over the squad choices with his coaching staff tonight and watching a DVD of the Czech Republic match, one factor that will play into Bradley's thinking is fitness. A handful of key components to his team are struggling with injuries, especially in the center of defense but even striker Eddie Johnson played through the pain.
"When you go to the World Cup, physically now the challenges, the demands, the speed of the game, the level of athleticism is incredibly high," Bradley said as he focuses on selecting a squad to play England in the first match of the group stages. "You want to make sure that you feel like players that are going in the 23 are where they need to be in those areas as well as everything else. We've done a lot of work on fitness and there's a time to keep working on that, but you can only make up so much."
Besides fitness concerns, the U.S. squad has question marks in the forward areas. The questions were first posed when Charlie Davies' body was badly broken in a car accident back in October, and the answers won't come until Wednesday.
Besides Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, Bradley called in Herculez Gomez, Brian Ching, Edson Buddle, Johnson, and Robbie Findley to the week-long training camp in Princeton, N.J. in the buildup to the Czech friendly. Gomez, Ching, Buddle, and Johnson each played a half, with Gomez putting himself on the scoresheet for the first time in his international career.
"Across the board with the forwards tonight, you're looking to see how they will be able to adjust to international games," Bradley said in the post-game press conference. "Games go faster.
"One thing I've said to a couple guys throughout the week is, 'When you get into an international game or a top club match, the window for plays is small and the window shuts quickly.' If you're used to that window being a bit bigger or staying open a little bit longer, it doesn't work that way."
Bradley will give a clearer idea of who heeded his advice and took advantage of the window while it was open when he announces the final roster Wednesday.
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