By Allen Ramsey
The U.S. National Team finally released its roster for next Wednesday's match in Azteca against Mexico and despite the delays in sending out the list there were very few surprises.
Honestly, only three names jump off the page as surprise selections and most people would not be shocked if two out of the three weren't on the gameday roster. Chad Marshall, Stuart Holden, and Conor Casey rounded out a team that was otherwise the normal list of names.
Marshall will probably be dressed and on the bench as the third option in the center of defense. His inclusion knocked Danny Califf out of a roster spot, but the Columbus Crew defender is considered by many to be the future of the U.S. backline. Letting Marshall get a taste of the atmosphere in Azteca, even if he doesn't see the field, is not a bad idea for the future.
Casey gets another chance to impress in camp, and if his showing against Everton in the MLS All-Star game can be replicated most wouldn't have a problem with him seeing some playing time. The problem is he's buried behind Charlie Davies, Jozy Altidore, and Brian Ching. I wouldn't think he'll be dressed or on the subs list on Wednesday night. Bradley will probably only carry three strikers and Casey seems to be the odd man out.
Holden had a good showing in the Gold Cup on the wing and could be included in the side on Wednesday, but something tells me he too will be on the outside looking in. The Dynamo midfielder essentially replaced Freddy Adu on the roster and will probably have a similar fate, watching the game from the sideline.
One glaring omission was Columbus Crew defender Frankie Hejduk who has been a favorite of Bradley's over the last few months. But Jonathan Spector's emergence at the right back coupled with Steve Cherundolo's recovery from injury, plus an strained quad, kept the long time USMNT veteran out of the roster.
The competition between Cherundolo and Spector at the right back spot is something to keep an eye on. Spector, when healthy, may be one of the best defenders the U.S. has ever produced. But Cherundolo has the veteran presence that Bradley is know to favor and could be the better option for the hostile conditions that come with a visit to Mexico.
The other three spots on the defense seem to be set with Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, and Carlos Bocanegra holding steady to their positions from the latter stages of the Confederations Cup.
Jonathan Bornstein will be the replacement for the left side should anything happen to Bocanegra, and could also be used as a more defensive option on the left side of midfield should the U.S. find themselves leading in the later stages of the match.
In the midfield Bradley brought in the usual suspects. Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey will all likely resume their roles from the Confed. Cup with the main question being who will start beside Bradley in the middle of the park. The betting money should be on Ricardo Clark who does more of the dirty work in the middle than either Benny Feilhaber or Jose Torres, but all three are credible options.
Feilhaber will likely see some time on the pitch even if he doesn't get the start. With the ability to play in the middle or on either wing the 24-year-old has proven that he can impact a match as a sub. Torres may not be used as he has seemingly fallen somewhat out of favor with Bradley. But having a player with his ability on the ball and his knowledge of the Mexican game one the bench is not a bad thing and he should be part of the gameday roster.
Questions and varying opinions surround the three players that could be starters up front if Bradley decides to stick with his 4-4-2 alignment. Altidore and Davies are the fan favorites to get the start but Bradley may want to use Ching, a player he clearly trusts, in Azteca. All three should see the field with Dempsey also a likely option to push up front in the later stages as he did with great results in the Confed. Cup.
No surprises are expected in front of goal where Tim Howard is the clear starter and Brad Guzan continues his understudy role.
In all the roster includes twelve players who will have to make the trip in form Europe, seven players who call Major League Soccer home, and one player from Mexico's top league.
Allen Ramsey is an associate editor of Goal.com US.
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