Monday, August 18, 2008

U.S. National Team Call Ups

The U.S. Men's National Team will continue their CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying on Wednesday in Guatamala. The team Coach Bob Bradley called in contained no real surprises, although I am glad that Bradley did call in Olympic successes Maruice Edu and Sacha Klejstan. But like other commentators, I am not happy that Bradley continues with the same crew of players for his roster.

I know all the arguments for not trying new players when the team only has three days to prepare for the match, things like, you need players who have played together, who know the system, who have experience, etc. Fine, fine, fine. That is an argument for having a core group of players come in, perhaps along the spine of the field. I will grant Bradley a bit of an exception here.

However, that reprieve is only short-lived. Bradley has two years until the World Cup, and while I think the U.S. will qualify, I don't think their performance will be all that good in South Africa if Bradley doesn't start making some changes.

The addition of Mastoreni and Mo Edu into the squad might signal that Bob Bradley may have learned his lesson and will start letting Michael Bradley do what he has proven capable of doing for Heerenveen, attack and score goals instead of playing in a holding midfielder role. But looking at the squad, I am not sure where goals are coming from in the longer term. Yes, Eddie Johnson has scored 8 goals in 8 WC qualifying matches and the stats generally don't lie, but they also don't predict the future either. With Freddy Adu not in this line-up, one of the most creative U.S. players is not going to help.

There are three attackers that Bradley needs to call in.

Charlie Davies. Davies' play in the Olympics, with his speed and vastly improved technical abilities, has earned him a look by Bradley. I don't think Davies is ready to play 90 minutes, but as a 60th minute impact sub, he could be devastating.

Kenny Cooper. Cooper's size (6'3"), speed, goal scoring prowess, and touch on the ball (something generally lacking in American strikers) also means that Bradley is simply insane not to have this once and future European striker on his roster. Cooper can play with his back to goal and he can move to the outside and run at defenders. His constant movement up top will frustrate foriegn defenses, many of whom are used to having big strikers play in the middle.

Edson Buddle. Yes indeed a late bloomer, but he is lighting it up in L.A. despite poor service and competition for the Golden Boot with his L.A. teammate Donovan. Not as big and strong as say Cooper or Jozy Altidore, Buddle has improve his touch, learned to create his own chances and chances for others, as well as displaying a solid work ethic on and off the field. Buddle will never be as creative as say Freddy Adu or Pablo Mastroeni, but the U.S. doesn't need him to be the creator, they need a poacher who can also score on his own--that is Buddle.

So, given that roster space is limited, who would these guys replace. As much as the Fulham fan in me hates to say it, Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson. Neither man is likely to see regular first team action with the Cottagers this season barring a series of injuries for Fulham, neither has particularly impressed me of late with the National Team form and neither are scoring goals with enough regularlity to justify keeping them on the squad. Brian Ching is also a potential victim.

I would also like to see some changes in the midfield and back line, but those are topics for another day.

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