With the last-chance-saloon match in Tampa safely in the Yanks’ rear view mirror, all eyes in the world of American soccer now with cautious optimism fix themselves on Amsterdam, where at least a skeleton of Bob Bradley’s World Cup side prepares to take on Holland Wednesday afternoon. Bradley’s roster includes a nearly complete version of 2010 Cup side locks, minus of course the injured, as well as a small group of mostly European-based players who still harbor hopes of a seat on the plane to the U.S. base camp in South Africa come the beginning of June. A full look at the American locks for the summer, as well as our first projected roster of 2010 will come before the Netherlands match, but for now let’s focus on the most interesting “fringe players” in the brief pre-Netherlands camp. This is a fitting starting point for any analysis of what the final roster will look like given that this is the final match before Bradley makes his roster official in May. Due to the myriad of relative locks sidelined with injuries, particularly in the U.S. midfield, a slightly beyond cursory glance at these players is even more appropriate.
The “last chance/final audition” group for the Amsterdam match is more than likely as follows, in no particular order: DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolves), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers), Stu Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jay DeMerit (likely safe, Watford), and Eddie Johnson (Aris Thessalonik). At least a handful of the players listed above will join Bradley’s group of mainstays in South Africa. Among them, four names stand out—but first, a brief, I –promise- I- haven’t- been- drinking- in- the- press- box aside about four notable omissions from the Netherlands “final audition” group. That group includes Brian Ching, Kenny Cooper, Freddy Adu, and Sacha Kljestan, respectively. Each is addressed briefly in turn.
Ching: Most likely played his way onto the plane in Tampa. His performance finally aligned with his legendary effort, and more impressive than his goal was his half –chance volley onto the frame and his aggressive and tenacious runs that changed the nature of a rather dull match. To be clear, Bradley did not omit Ching—he simply gave a Warrior a deserved break after an extended training camp.
Cooper: The fact that Bradley brought Eddie Johnson is a hint that he is still looking for a speed option, which will be all the more important if Davies can’t hold up physically to the rigors of soccer training. What does this have to do with a hold-up striker? A great deal—it means Bradley is more concerned with finding that spot on the roster than getting a final look at Cooper, who is simply not playing enough in England to warrant another look, especially after Ching’s masterful performance in Tampa.
Freddy Adu: His run of form at Aris is impressive to be certain, and I’ve long believed Adu feeds off confidence more than any player in the American pool, including the famously streaky Clint Dempsey. Adu’s omission is the toughest to read, as he suffered a hamstring knock this weekend and may have been withheld due to injury. Still, it has to be disappointing for Adu that he doesn’t get a chance to rectify his out-of-shape, disinterested and humbling cameo in last year’s Gold Cup.
Finally, Sacha: Like Chinger, Sacha probably is getting a well-deserved rest after a massive performance in Tampa. Unlike Chinger, his World Cup place is nowhere near safe and he’s likely going to be one of the most difficult choices Bradley will have to make. Kljestan certainly provides an offensive spark, but his run of form in MLS and his dismal Confederations Cup still linger like that clingy-ex-girlfriend who keeps commenting on your Facebook status. In short, there’s a chance Sacha is player 23—but that may depend more on what Stu Holden, DaMarcus, Mo Edu and Torres do this week than it will on things Sacha can control. What he could control this late in the game, he did control, and full credit to him for that.
Neil W. Blackmon is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org