>Monday Lunch: Making Sense of the USMNT Roster

Posted: October 4, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

>By Evan Ream
As most of you will undoubtedly know, the roster for USA’s upcoming friendlies against Poland (October 9th) and Colombia (October 12th) has been released. As always with Bob Bradley, there were a few surprises. Before I go over what I think the roster means, here is the roster (note: Brek Shea and Heath Pearce, the only MLS players on the roster are not expected to play in the Poland game as they both play the Colorado Rapids that same night):

GOALKEEPERS – Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS – Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Étienne), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)
MIDFIELDERS– Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Monchengladbach), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Jermaine Jones (FC Schalke), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

FORWARDS – Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Eddie Johnson (Fulham)

Here is what I think about each player being called in:

Brad Guzan is the capable backup and should remain so for the next few years baring a huge drop in form or the emergence of a younger keeper.
Tim Howard is the unquestioned starter and like Guzan, pretty much should be throughout the next cycle. No surprises here.
Carlos Bocanegra
is presumably still the captain of the team but at the age of 31, it is possible that he will not be able to continue throughout the whole next cycle. However as long as he is still performing at a high level, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be called upon at least to provide valuable experience.
Steve Cherundolo is another player like Boca that is getting up there in age but is still the best at his position in the pool. Cherundolo and Boca could be in Eddie Lewis type situations where they start for the first two years or so of the World Cup cycle and then are phased out for a younger more promising player.
Clarence Goodson seems to be the de facto backup center back. Goodson is a decent but not great player who can fill in adequately for either of the starting center backs, but likely isn’t good enough to become a starter especially with all the young talent coming up. 
Eric Lichaj is an exciting player who has seen some but not a lot of minutes at outside back for Aston Villa this year. He along with Sean Franklin and Kevin Alston are the most promising outside back prospects in the set up right now. He is clearly a project player, and although he may get minutes this time, he is not ready to make a big contribution.
Oguchi Onyewu is probably the biggest question mark on this roster. He isn’t getting games at Milan nor is he even making the bench. The real question is if Onyewu is still injured or not. He has claimed since the friendly against the Czech Republic that he is completely healthy, but the way he has been running and his performance in South Africa suggested otherwise. If healthy, he is a starter for sure and that is what we will find out on Saturday.
Michael Parkhurst has not been called up to play for the national team in a long time. He has no future with the team; he is at best a short-term stopgap. While a smart player, he lacks the size to be a starting defender. I think he has only been called up because Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream (who should be called before him), are unavailable due to MLS commitments. 
Heath Pearce was one of the last players cut from the World Cup team and although it was deservedly so, I see him as the player perhaps most determined to prove himself. After being cut from the team, he has been one of the best defenders in MLS this year. Pearce has the talent to be the starting left back for the team and this is his time to prove it.
Jonathan Spector hasn’t been in good form for a while now and the only real reason that I feel like he is being called in is because he is experienced with the team and Bob Bradley knows him well. He also has a lot to prove because he could easily lose his spot as a backup defender to Lichaj, Alston, or Franklin.
Overall, it seems really like a mixed bag. Pretty much every defender is either too old or too young right now. I can see our future backline being made up of entirely players that aren’t on this list. Given the MLS constraints however, these seem like the best possible choices at the time. I feel like our defense needs to be completely rebuilt especially centrally. All of the goals USA allowed in South Africa came through the center of the field so I think it would be prudent to call in Ream/Opara/Gonzalez as soon as possible so they can learn.
Alejandro Bedoya is a young player that many are excited about and while he seems to show some promise, I feel like many have gone overboard to suggest that he is ready for a starting role. He is a promising player, but I just don’t think he is ready. I do think he deserves to be here and it will be interesting to see if he can make an impact in the coming months.
Michael Bradley needs no explanation to be on the roster. When he is healthy he should start, it’s as simple as that. If Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are the only two world-class field players USA has, then Bradley is a close third and in the next four years, I expect him to surpass both of them.
Maurice Edu is another promising player who could ultimately end up being the other center mid next to Bradley. Edu is a very athletic player who has somewhat limited skill on the ball, but he makes up for it with his tenacity and goal scoring ability. Edu has shown well so far in the Champions League with Rangers and should always be on the squad when healthy.
Benny Feilhaber is tearing it up in Denmark right now. Unfortunately, he is only tearing up the 2nd division, but there are still positives. Although he has always been one of the best players on the ball in the pool, he has struggled to score goals until this year. Perhaps being in the 2nd division is helping his game, but only time will tell. Like Edu, he deserves to be in every squad when healthy.
Holden_2492751Stuart Holden is, surprisingly, the player that I am most excited about in this squad. I mentioned earlier that Donovan and Dempsey are our best players and Bradley is on the upswing, but I am of the opinion that Holden could be the best of the four. As an automatic starter at Bolton this season, Holden has been a revelation in his two-way play. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Iceman needs to be an automatic starter no matter what the formation for the next four years. Holden can and will be our next Donovan.
Jermaine Jones will apparently finally make his much-anticipated debut for USA and it will clearly be interesting to see how he plays and what he can offer for the team. If the USMNT is to keep playing with two central midfielders, then he should be the automatic starter along with Bradley, the only question being: will this hurt Edu’s development? That is a topic for another time though and I think we are all excited to just see what he brings to the table.
Brek Shea is definitely a project, but with the amount of talent he has I think it is important for him to be involved in the set up. As a talented and athletic left-sided midfielder, I think he needs to move to Europe in order to continue his development. It will be also interesting to see if he can be the answer to USA’s omnipresent left back problem. I feel like he is so versatile that if given the chance he could excel there.
Overall: There aren’t too many surprises here. I know a few people would have liked to see Mix Diskerud, but perhaps he isn’t ready. Landon Donovan is the only big name that was left off the squad, but he is clearly burnt out, and with the Galaxy in the middle of the Supporter’s Shield race, it doesn’t make sense to call him in. Lastly, Rico Clark surprisingly didn’t get a call, but I guess that’s what happens when you don’t get playing time for your club team unless your name is Onyewu.
Jozy Altidore is struggling for club but is still the best forward we have at the moment. Being just 20 however, he has a lot of room to improve and if he isn’t getting that many games at Villarreal, someone needs to give him some and in this case, that someone is Bob Bradley.
Clint Dempsey is not really a forward nor should he play as one. I feel like he was only included in this group so that it wouldn’t look like Bob Bradley included just two forwards on the roster. This being said, DEUCE has been tearing it up for Fulham lately which can only mean good things for the USMNT. It will be interesting to see if Dempsey can keep his form for the next cycle without becoming burnt out as he often does.
Eddie Johnson has been getting games at Fulham by default and may possibly get some for USA by default as well. I feel like the self-proclaimed “Grown Ass Man” needs a move back to MLS to regain his confidence because he just can’t seem to score in Europe. As good of a guy as he is, it’s sad that he is really our third option at forward at this point in time.
Overall: Nothing surprising here except maybe the Herculez Gomez omission. We need more forwards
With all these players being called in, and our lack of forwards, I think USA badly needs to switch to a 4-5-1 or more specifically a 4-2-3-1 in order to take advantage of the huge number of quality midfielders in the pool. This is where Frat Boy Stu comes in handy. He must be given the keys to the offense and play as our attacking midfielder. This is how I want the team to look for the friendlies:

Feilhaber    Holden   Dempsey
Bradley   Edu
Lichaj   Bocanegra  Onyewu   Cherundolo

Obviously, this would be pretty close to a first choice lineup. With Pearce unavailable for the first game, I would like to see Lichaj there, but we will probably see Spector. In addition, Feilhaber could sit for Bedoya who is more of a natural winger. Also if Bradley feels like Jermaine Jones is the starter ahead of Edu, then he will play him there, but there is no way Bradley Jr. isn’t starting. If Bradley decides to stick with a 4-4-2 it will probably look more like this:

Altidore   Dempsey
Feilhaber   Bradley   Edu   Holden
Lichaj   Bocanegra   Onyewu   Cherundolo

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