State of the US (National Team)

Bob Bradley


April’s most urgent question – will Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu be healthy by June? – has been half-answered. USA’s provisional World Cup roster included Onyewu but not Davies (Bob Bradley cited FC Sochaux’s pessimistic view of Charlie’s health as his rationale). Onyewu, though he made the squad, has not seen action since last fall and needs to prove he’s match-fit.

Pressing Issue

With less than a month until USA’s opening World Cup match, Bob Bradley must figure out how to replace Charlie Davies.

We’ve already covered a few options, with the apparent solution being to replace Davies with either Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan. The concern with this tactic involves other outside midfielders’ lack of experience (Stuart Holden and Alejandro Bedoya) or playing time (DaMarcus Beasley). Holden and Bedoya are newcomers to international soccer and Beasley has seen so little time on the field that his club, Rangers FC, is not going to renew his contract.

If Bradley elects to utilize Dempsey and Donovan as midfielders, a few strikersHerculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson, Edson Buddle, and Robbie Findley – will have a chance to earn Davies’ roster spot. Findley and  Johnson most closely replicate Davies’ speed and technical ability, but neither showed much promise in a March friendly against the Netherlands. Buddle and Gomez are the in-form options, with the former netting 9 times in 6 games and Gomez topping the Mexican league scoring chart, but, in a recurring motif, neither has much international experience.

These players, along with the rest of the squad, should arrive at the pre-World Cup training camp this coming Monday. They’ll have a week to impress Bradley and earn a role in a May 25th friendly against Czech Republic, the first of two matches before the manager names the final squad on June 1st.

Injury Concerns

Eddie Johnson is the only US international to recently pick up a knock, hurting his hamstring last week. It’s not a serious injury, but it is ill timed: Johnson could be sidelined for much of the training camp.

The other injury news is of a decidedly more positive bent. Stuart Holden, out since March with a broken leg, came on as a substitute in his club’s final match, and Brian Ching made a similar appearance for the Houston Dynamo two days ago. A strained hamstring had kept the forward off the pitch since April 1st.

Current Starting XI

Ten days remain before the match against Czech Republic. Here’s a guess at the starting lineup:

Changes from April

Forward

Dempsey, who was out with a minor injury last month, replaces Donovan up top and Landon moves back to left midfield. One bonus of starting Dempsey at striker is his aerial ability. Altidore, for all his size and strength, is not a great header of the ball, though Jozy’s improving hold-up play should allow Dempsey to drop back and link with the midfielders.

Midfield

Bedoya, who has been getting significant minutes for one of Sweden’s better teams, gets the nod over Holden, Beasley, and Benny Feilhaber. Like Donovan, Bedoya compensates for his size with excellent pace, technical ability, and vision. If they start together, look for them to periodically switch sides (Donovan and Dempsey have also done this in the past).

Defense

A healthy Onyewu slides Bocanegra to left back and demotes Jonathan Bornstein to the bench. This back four is the same lineup used to stifle Spain’s deadly attack last summer. Onyewu gobbles up balls in the air, DeMerit steps forward to defend in conjunction with the center midfielders, and Bocanegra and Spector use their top-flight experience to confound opposing wingers.

Squad strengths: The team’s most opportunistic scorer – Dempsey – is in a better position to bag goals, both outside midfielders can attack with pace, the center midfielders combine physical defense and accurate vision, good size at forward (Altidore) and center back (Onyewu)

Squad weaknesses: fullbacks (Spector and Bocanegra) lack pace, center midfielders are not known for skilled dribbling, Onyewu has not played a competitive match since last fall, Bedoya has not seen much time against top international opposition, neither center back passes particularly well (this reduces the possibility of a counter)

Contrasting Views

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Alejandro Bedoya will turn the World Cup group stage into his own coming out party. His pace and creativity will only serve to complement Dempsey’s flair for the moment. The Texan will use his Premier League experience to surprise England with an early goal, allowing the US to grab a draw with the favored English and set the stage for a successful run in the knockout round.

Ugly American

Dempsey’s move to forward puts too heavy a strain on the untested Bedoya, who will bow to the pressure of the World Cup. His poor performances put the role of creator solely on Donovan’s shoulders, and Landon will be unable to handle the task alone. The anemic offense is compounded by problems in the back, as Onyewu will come across nagging fitness concerns and be unable to play a full 90 in any match. The lack of offensive firepower and chemistry concerns with the reworked back four enable an underrated Algeria to eliminate USA’s chances of making the knockout round.

One Comments Post a Comment
  1. AG says:

    So, does this mean that we will have no Davies at all? When will we know for sure? Man how much does it suck to have such a promising squad stifled by freak accidents….

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