Sunday, June 28, 2009

Five Americans Who Improved Their Stock In South Africa

The Confederations Cup was a chance for the U.S. Men's National Team to show how they stack up against some of the best teams in the world. To be sure, the U.S. showed that they still suffer from a great deal of inconsistency and uneven play. To be sure, the U.S. certainly showed that they can play against the best in the world. But I have to say that there were some lessons to be learned.

However, I think there are five American players who will greatly benefit from their performance on the international stage. Here are my five (well six really as I will explain).
  1. Charlie Davies. In terms of making the most of his chances, Charlie Davies will not be employed in Sweden for much longer. He proved that he ready to make the next step up in his development. He showed not only speed, but also strength, smarts and drive. In the final against Brazil, Davies was leading a brilliant counter on the left side. He had the speed to blow by the Brazilian defense, but at that point the U.S. was up 2-1 and he did the smart thing, he stopped, pulled the ball back and played into the midfield in order to hold possession. Davies fought for the ball, and left everythign on the field against Egypt, Spain and Brazil. He has truly been a revelation for the U.S. MNT this tournament. I would expect a move to the Netherlands or even Germany. I think the Netherlands would be the best move.
  2. Landon Donovan. Along with Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan proved that he is truly a box to box midfielder. His fitness is amazing, covering about 7 miles of ground a game, for five games in two weeks. That is absolutely necessary for a tournament player. What really cemeted Donovan's salability in this tournament was his defensive work. Donovan has long been known solid attacking midfielder, lots of pace, and nose for the goal. But in this tournament Donovan was clearing balls from the defensive box. He was harrying the opposing full backs and making a great nuisance of himself, clogging up the midfield and forechecking. If MLS gets any sort of decent offer (upwards of $5 million), MLS has to let the man go. He has earned the right to go abroad and the MLS, if they are truly interested in growing the game in this country have to let Donovan go.
  3. Oguchi Onyewu.Gooch was an absolute beast this tournament. He is on a free transfer this summer and Gooch's performance will probably earn him another $10,000 a week in salary. Quick review, two time, back-to-back, Belgian league champions; solid, improving play international play against some of the best strikers in the world. My biggest knock against Onyewu in the past has been his reckless challenges resulting in yellow cards, but he has really improved in that category and that makes him vastly more marketable. Rumors are pointing to Fenerbache in Turkey, a couple of lower level English Premier League teams and now a couple of Italian clubs including Fiorentina. Given the reputation of the Italian league in terms of defensive play, I think Italy would be a brilliant move.
  4. Benny Feilhaber. After his glory in the Gold Cup that got the U.S. to the Confederations Cup, Feilhaber dropped off the radar screen. While Feilhaber showed in the Brazil games is that he is not 90 minutes fit, I think he is the definition of an impact sub and more importantly, Feilhaber can be the guy to make a difference. If the game is tied and Bradley needs to make a quick tweak to the game to show something different, Feilhaber can do that. If the U.S. needs to manage a game while being up, Feilhaber can hold the ball up, control the match and control the ball. If the U.S. needs to chase a game, Feilhaber can bring the skills and vision to find that necessary goal. I would like to see Aarhus in Denmark give this young man some 90 minute games. Feilhaber should not move this summer, but maybe the January window.
  5. -tie. Ricardo Clark. In know there are a lot of haters out there about Rico Clark, but leaving aside the red card against Italy, Clark demonstrated why he is a solid holding midfielder. Yes, Clark needs to work on his first touch, but his positioning, energy and discipline have greatly improved. I think he and Maurice Edu will battle for that holding midfield spot and that is good for the U.S. I think Clark is ready for a move to Europe and with the rumor that Rennes (where Carlos Bocanegra plays) would be a good choice. Jay DeMerit. Stepping in for the injured Carlos Bocanegra, the big DeMerit showed that he is a good choice. Yes, DeMerit made some misjudgments at times, but I think he showed that he is a quality center back. DeMerit and Gooch really worked well together and even on the first Fabiano goal yesterday, DeMerit did everything right. If his left foot was three inches to the right, that shot was blocked. DeMerit should get some good hard looks from lower level Premier League teams.
I really tried to pick either Clark or DeMerit, but really they came to be a toss up.

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