When Bob Bradley released his 23-man World Cup roster on Wednesday, one decision shocked Yanks fans across the country (although, as anybody who read my last article will tell you, not me). Brian Ching, the Houston Dynamo striker and Hawaii native, was not included in the 23-man roster.
Among the reasons given were: Brian Ching is the hardest working American striker. Brian Ching is a consistent finisher. Both of these are valid reasons to put him on the final 23. But I have another question. Have you, ever, while watching a match, seen Brian Ching come off the bench and thought: Ching has this. Is he the guy you feel relieved to see coming off of the bench for the Yanks? Ever? Even for the Dynamo? (Okay, maybe this is hyperbole, but you get my point). Or have you said (as I do), hmm, “other striker” must be tired. Now we have to put Ching in.
Ching is a standard, safe pick for striker, and while his play off the ball helps open up the game for other players, he is not the type of player who can change the game. He simply does not ignite a game when he comes on the field. He is a solid American striker who is invaluable at the MLS level. He is, however, not what the US needs at the international level, especially in a knockout tourney. What they need is someone who, simply by stepping onto the pitch, can win a match with moments of sheer class. They need someone who will score goals, and to me, this is not Brian Ching. IF he was selected, I cannot think of a situation where Bradley would have played Ching in this World Cup. In virtually any scenario, Bradley has better alternatives on his bench.
In addition, he is injured, and Bradley was deeply worried about his fitness going into the World Cup. As he is a fringe player (would not start unless others were injured, unlike Gooch), it was not worth risking a spot on him, when you could have a fit (even if less talented) alternative. Bradley clearly noted that injury played a role in his decision, and as he is not a key component of the national team picture, he was not selected to the final 23.
Lets take a look at the other three strikers whom will represent the United States in place of Ching, and see how they match up (and in what scenarios they could be used):
Herculez Gomez: A ruthless striker who has shown he is capable of scoring at the international level. Talented enough to be a starter, even, I do not think that Ching was really ever considered as a pick over Gomez. Aside from looking eerily like President Obama, he has the benefit of being four years younger than Ching (and thus potentially eligible for another World Cup cycle).
Robbie Findley: Okay, I was pretty lost as to this one. But to be honest, I think that Findley was picked for one reason alone…speed. England looked vulnerable when Mexico could run at them with sheer speed, and this alone has to be Bradley’s reason for including Findley in the final four strikers. He is fast, and can create chaos up front. Again, I doubt that he will see any playing time in South Africa, but a lot of the guys on the team (especially Bocanegra) seem to really like him.
Edson Buddle: In my opinion, this was Ching’s spot that was taken up by Edson Buddle. To me, to have both Buddle and Ching is a waste, they are both big work-rate guys, and are both effective MLS level strikers. The question is, do you take someone who has little form but a long track-record with the Nats, or do you take someone who is in incredible form with virtually no track record. Bradley chose the latter, and he was right. The reason, at least to me, is the potential upside. With both Buddle and Ching you will get a high work rate, and a ton of effort opening up space for your other striker. I think in terms of class, they are about the same. But in terms of form, there is no comparison. The Yanks are down 1-0 against Slovenia. The World Cup on the line. Sub time, Dempsey falls back to midfield as, say, Holden or Beasley comes out due to an injury. You have 25 minutes left. You have (only) Buddle and Ching on the bench. Do you put Ching on? I really don’t think so—you go with the guy on form, who by all accounts has impressed Bradley during camp. You go with Edson Buddle.
Ching was probably left off the roster due to injury. I do, however, believe that even if he was fully fit, Ching’s current form and the alternatives at Bradley’s disposal makes Buddle and Gomez the right picks over Ching, assuming it was those three fighting for two spots (which I think it pretty clearly was).
Here’s hoping the Yanks have a great display against Turkey, where we will likely see Gomez and/or Buddle coming off the bench. Even to the most avid Ching supporters (including Brian Ching himself), I urge you to stop whining about what could have been, what Ching could have done. That does not matter. Our national team is now the 23 men selected by Bradley, and now the question must become who to play, rather than who should be there.
Sean McElroy is a staff writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached on Twitter at @sean_mcelroy.