Saturday, May 14, 2011
Goalkeepers (3): Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, David Yelldell*
*If Brad Guzan doesn't skip out due to his wedding, then he will be one of the three.
Defenders (8): Eric Lichaj, Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Chandler, Tim Ream, Clarence Goodson, Zak Whitbread, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector
Midfielders (8): Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Sacha Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber, Alejandro Bedoya
Forwards (4): Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore, Teal Bunbury, Edson Buddle
Just missing the cut: Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Bornstein, Herculez Gomez, Charlie Davies, Ricardo Clark, Mix Diskerud
I truly believe this will be a tough decision making process for Bradley. The core of the team is getting older, and it's feasible to believe that the integration of younger players to the first team is both needed and expected. With that said, I believe Bradley will want to get younger players experience in this type of tournament against continent foes. Defensively, I could definitely see O Onyewu on this list given his experience but he's been hurt recently for FC Twente and hasn't played at a great level since his knee injury. Bornstein is omitted due to a lack of form for his club side Tigres. It would not surprise me, however to see Bornstein because he's a favorite of Bob Bradley. The back line is a little younger and offers a lot of versatility, with the majority of the players able to play both on the wing and in the center. Ream looks to cement himself on the squad, and I believe both youngsters Lichaj and Chandler will get play time as well. Those two might be the best options going forward out on the flanks (and looking ahead to the 2014 WC when Cherundolo will be 35), so they need time going up against the crafty Central American sides, the athletic Caribbean squads, and of course El Tri.
The ever crowded midfield will have 3 hotly contested spots (after locks Donovan, Dempsey, Jones, Edu, and Bradley). Just based on current form, Bedoya and Kljestan should be on the roster. Bedoya is arguably the best player on his Swedish side Orebro, and Kljestan has been solid for Belgian side Anderlecht. I think Feilhaber makes the side as the creative force off the bench, and he has been a Bradley favorite as well. Diskerud is young and very talented but I just feel Bradley will go for experience in this instance. The much maligned Rico Clark has been a thorn to many United States fan's sides over the years but he's quietly put together some nice games for German team Eintracht Frankfort as not only a midfielder but also a center back. It would not shock me to see Clark on the roster.
The forward line selections is the most fascinating to watch. Will Bradley choose to go for experienced, less exciting players, or the green youngsters that evoke flair and creativity? Truth be told, none of the US forwards are in great form, nor are any of them lethal goal poachers so spots will be open. Altidore will be on the list by default (although his loan in Turkey hasn't exactly been stellar). The 'next big American star' proclaimed by the media is 18 year old Juan Agudelo, and you can bet he'll be on the team as a game changer off the bench with his willingness to attack players 1 v 1 and his mass technical ability. Buddle should be on the squad as a target forward who holds the ball up and uses his size on set pieces. He's also experienced on the world stage as well. The last forward spot is a tough call but I'm going with Bunbury. He's also very young and inexperienced but it's imperative for Bradley to integrate youthful forwards, especially with the anemic production of goals over the last few year. Bunbury has great potential at 6'2, but he's not a lumbering type, rather a smooth player with good technical ability and speed. Due to the fact that both Buddle, Altidore, and Bunbury are similar types of forwards size wise, I can see Gomez on the squad in place of one of the aforementioned three due to his recent scoring streak. While that's the case, I believe Bunbury and Agudelo are the future striking pairing for the National Team, and those two have displayed great chemistry as well.
*While his miraculous comeback has produced great results thus far in the MLS, there's no rush to bring Davies back. Let him continue to get more games under his belt, along with enhancing his endurance and conditioning. Although he isn't quite the same player he was pre-accident, I wouldn't be surprised to see him back on the team in the near future, considering his torrid goal pace.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Friday, April 22, 2011
The region of the world most known for smoked fish and incredibly gorgeous women also produces some good soccer. The leagues of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are not considered to be on par with the likes of England, Germany, and Spain, but they have produced world class players in the past including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson, Michael Laudrup, Peter Schmeichel, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to name a few. These smaller leagues are usually seen as launching off points for young players looking to make a leap to a bigger club. Numerous Americans are benefiting from the creative and underrated soccer played in 'Nordic land'. Let's take a look at a few of them...
ALEJANDRO BEDOYA: The dynamic midfielder has been playing for Swedish side Örebro since 2009, and is considered one of their best players. Interestingly enough, the Miami native never represented the United States as a youth player and flew under the radar as a college player at Boston College. His original move to Sweden was an afterthought at the time but his sparkling play since then has caught the eye of USMNT Manager Bob Bradley. Bedoya has since been capped 7 times for his country and was invited to the 2010 World Cup camp. He ultimately didn’t make the roster (although many people speculate he was the final cut and just missed making the team by a hair), but his energy on the pitch coupled with his hard working mentality has made him a very solid player in the Swedish League. At only 23 year old Bedoya looks to make a move to a bigger European league imminently.
SEAN CUNNINGHAM: Cunningham is an interesting story. He plays at Molde FK in Norway and just this last weekend made his first appearance for his club side. The 18 year old is not unknown in European soccer circles however. The Michigan native was offered a contract in his junior year of high school by Mainz 05 of the German Bundesliga but ultimately turned it down. He is an intriguing prospect though, if for nothing else than that he plays left back, that elusive position that the USMNT has had an incredibly hard time filling (to say the least). He is also a member of the youth USMNT set up, playing for the U-18 team.
MIKKEL ‘MIX’ DISKERUD: Although Mix (as he’s affectionately known) is only 20 years old, the offensive minded midfielder has been a constant for his Norwegian club side Stabæk since he was 17 years old. Now in a starting role, he looks to make a push to a Norwegian Premier League championship. Diskerud is the son of a Norwegian man and an American mother. He has represented both nations as a youth player and recently has chosen to play for the United States (to the dismay of Norway) and has already gotten two caps with the Senior National Team. His technicality and skill on the ball is impressive as is his ability to spray the ball around the pitch. He looks to be a fixture on the USMNT in the midfield for a long time to come.JOSH GATT: The 19 year old 5'9 winger made the move to the Norwegian club Molde FK in this year after spending time in Austria. At Molde he along with fellow American Cunningham is under the tutelage of the former Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Ironically enough Gatt is compared often to his coach, displaying incredible pace and a willingness to attack the goal. Gatt was just recently brought into the National Team pool, where in his second game with the U-20 team, scored 2 goals and had 3 assists in a 5-0 win versus Canada. Gatt has been getting minutes for Molde and is now firmly in USMNT Manager Bob Bradley's sights after his promising play for both country and club.
CLARENCE GOODSON: The centre back took a rather unconventional route to Europe, as he did not start playing in Norway for IK Start until he was 25 years old (which is somewhat old). The former MLS player started and played for three years in Norway and his solid play allowed for a move to a bigger club Brondby in Denmark. His play also put him on the National Team radar, and as it’s currently constituted, he’s in line to possibly start in the middle. The 6’4 player is great in the air and displayed grit when representing the United States in the 2010 World Cup.
*OTHER YANKS OF NOTE: Midfielder Benny Feilhaber formerly of the Danish side AGF Aarhus has since transferred to New England Revolution of the MLS. Forward Chris Rolfe, formerly of the Chicago Fire has played sparingly in two seasons for Danish side Aalborg AK. Forward Marcus Tracy, a teammate of Rolfe at Aalborg has suffered multiple knee injuries that has resulted in only 15 appearances in more than two years.
*CHARLIE DAVIES, the United States forward started his professional career in Sweden with Hammarby, scoring 21 goals in 56 appearances.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Wait a second...the last American soccer 'poster boy', or even Pelé as some foolishly suggested was Freddy Adu. The immensely talented Ghanaian, who turned down a multi-million dollar offer made by Inter Milan at 13 years of age made his first MLS appearance at 14 years old after being selected as the top overall pick by D.C. United. He unfairly was supposed to resurrect soccer in the country and truthfully he did enhance the interest in the floundering MLS. Various marketing schemes in the forms of commercials and product placement plastered Adu's face all over MLS paraphernalia, thus making Adu a household name. With that notoriety came immense pressure and promise, which Adu has failed to live up to. Since Adu made the move to Portuguese side Benfica in 2007, he has bounced around 4 countries and 5 teams while battling conditioning and maturity issues. The huge promise that surrounded the (only) 21 year old has all but vanished as the embattled Adu is currently applying his trade in the second division in Turkey for Rizespor. Using Adu as an example, should US Soccer fans pump the breaks on the Agudelo train?
Sure, Agudelo is extremely talented. He possesses not only great skill and pace, but a maturity beyond his years. His willingness to attack defenders 1 v 1 is not seen very much with American forwards and his knack for scoring is sorely missing on the USMNT. His interviews are extremely impressive and he comes off as a very bright kid. Rumors are that Atlético Madrid in Spain and other European teams are sniffing around Agudelo, but Juan insists that he wants to play and get minutes in the MLS for his club side NY Red Bulls. What is the point going to Europe at 18 years old to sit on the bench when he can play consistently close to home? He understands the bigger picture and the humility displayed by Agudelo was all but lost by Adu who is considered to be very arrogant. But is that all Adu's fault? The United States has a habit of greatly glorifying 'the next best thing' whether it has to do with the sporting world or not. Adu fell to that pitfall, but time will tell if the same level of expected greatness will hinder Agudelo. For the USMNT and American soccer fans, let's hope not.