Bob Bradley has submitted his 30-man preliminary roster for the World Cup, so let the games begin!
No, I don’t mean the football matches – I mean the “Bradley’s a moron!”, “We need a foreign coach!”, “Where’s Freddy Adu??” games. It is, indeed, a hallowed tradition of United States soccer fans to bemoan the hell out of our team and our coach and everything related. I am in general a Bradley supporter – or at least, I don’t want to chase him down with pointed sticks – and while I understand the frustrations expressed by his, shall we say, non-supporters, I often find that a lot of those frustrations are underscored by unrealistic expectations. That being said, I do have some worries about the roster, but I’ll qualify that in a bit.
The group heading to camp is:
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann, Tim Howard
Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall, Oguchi Onyewu, Heath Pearce, Jonathan Spector
Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers, Jose Francisco Torres
Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Brian Ching, Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson
Many of the usual suspects, of course. A quick look-see at some others… Of course, what all USMNT fans were waiting to see was whether Charlie Davies would be included in the roster, after watching his remarkable recovery from the crippling car accident last October. It was his goal to recover in time for the Cup, and while he has returned to full training with Sochaux, the club did not give him medical clearance to join the MNT. It’s heartbreaking having watched Davies’ progress and his optimism to see it come to naught for now, but it’s also quite understandable. He’s likely a long way from being fully match fit, and the last thing we want is for him to sustain a new injury from coming back too soon, and at 23 he’s still in the beginning of his career with plenty of time to get back to where he was and then some.
So, Davies’ absence is not something I will criticize Bradley for, but there are a few inclusions that trouble me. Findley is one – he had a good season last year with his club, polished off by scoring the equalizer to help RSL take the MLS Cup. But he hasn’t shown much so far this season. His international experience with the senior squad is limited to an appearance back in 2007 and three earlier this year, but what matters more to me is his unremarkable play this Spring. A player with so few international minutes needs to prove himself worthy by at least kicking ass with his club team. But there is nothing there to convince me that he will be any kind of threat against the likes of England, or even Algeria and Slovenia.
Other MLSers making me sigh theatrically are Kljestan and Rogers, both of whom have had good runs with their club teams and good showings with the MNT, but both also lack consistency and focus. A hat trick in one game, a few precision crosses in another, great – but when you add in a handful of international games with nothing of note, as both have had, you have to wonder what their reaction will be on a stage like the World Cup. Allowing yourself to fade from the pitch in a game of WC magnitude would obviously be inexcusable, and I don’t know that either of them have the capability to step up their game as much as would be required.
Beasley. Sigh. Next.
Now, as an L.A. Galaxy fan I’m very glad to see Buddle called up. He’s been on fire this season and it has not just been luck or crappy MLS defending – he worked extremely hard in the offseason and he’s proving it now. He is also lacking in international experience, but when a player is riding as high as he is that confidence and focus can have a big impact. Who knows if he will make it to the final 23, but getting called to the camp is a recognition of his hard work and would hopefully keep him on Bradley’s radar for the future even if he doesn’t head to South Africa.
To return to my Bradley-defending roots, and to expand on my earlier statement, I will say that my frustrations are focused on and tempered by the knowledge that he is doing the best he can with what he has available to him. What troubles me is not necessarily who he chose but that we still just do not have the kind of depth in this country that the Bradley-scoffs seem to think we do. The cries for a better squad always make me wonder who the hell they’ve got their eyes on. And hey, it’s not like he pulled a Dunga or a Domenech and left Donovan, Howard and Bocanegra waiting in the parking lot. I do question his tactics at times, his substitution patterns, his slightly-less-than-glamorous sideline wear, but I can’t demand that he make a dozen USian Messis appear out of nowhere. My hope is that the work he does with the group in camp will be enough to push some of these question marks away, and get us at least to the Round of 16.
Then he can come home and everyone can return to demanding he be fired and sending cookiegrams and heart-shaped balloons to Jurgen Klinsmann.