December 2009

Bubble Boys

Many of the men on the 30 man roster have the same chance of making the plane as Taylor Twellman — none.

On Tuesday, USMNT coach Bob Bradley announced the 30 man roster that will begin training in Carson, CA on January 4th – not exactly the usual suspects. Eschewing the four-letter website’s tendency to provide all the analysis or tell the story prior to giving the list (isn’t that slightly annoying?), here are the Yanks in question.

GOALKEEPERS (4): Kevin Hartman (Kansas City), Troy Perkins (Valerenga), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Zach Thornton (Chivas USA)
DEFENDERS (8): Kevin Alston (New England Revolution), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (12): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Jeff Larentowicz (New England Revolution), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)
FORWARDS (6): Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Brandon McDonald (San Jose Earthquakes), Marcus Tracy (Aalborg)

Who’s on the bubble?

Obviously this is not the USMNT first string or anything like it really. Most of the players are MLS guys with five players that play in Scandinavia also making it onto this roster. Most of the guys are solidly on the younger side, with some older fringe guys like Jeff Cunningham making the roster and being given a shot to prove they deserve a spot on the plane to SA next summer.

And really that’s what this squad is about, well that and not wasting the time of European-based players who are in the middle of their season. Which is fair enough anyway, most of those guys have their spots on the WC final roster assured. So this roster is about figuring out who out of the fringe players is going to be involved next summer, and eleven of these guys will probably get the start against Honduras on January 23rd. The first string has faced that team enough times in the past year; a lot of guys from this team faced the Hondurans in the Gold Cup too. Nevertheless, the upcoming friendly will be a good barometer for many of these players.

The young guys looking to get their first caps don’t have much of a shot at South Africa, but the Sacha Kljestan’s and Kyle Beckerman’s of the squad will be looking to cement their place on the all important Roster, yeah with a capital “R.” And some players on this team are probably there to make their cases for starting berths. Those guys include Benny Feilhaber, Jonathan Bornstein, Conor Casey, and Chad Marshall should Gooch not be ready to go next summer.

But this roster also raises some questions with its omissions.

Is Stu Holden not on the roster because he might move to Europe in the January transfer window or because Bob Bradley’s already got him penciled in as an off-the-bench attacking midfielder option in the World Cup?

Why no Frankie Hejduk? He was his usually vibrant self pretty much all through qualifying but looked as bad as anyone’s ever seen him in the friendly against Denmark. Has a bad game by an aging wing back forced Bob Bradley to turn completely away from The Dude? Seems like too reactionary a decision for the Yanks’ man-in-charge given what we know of him. This is the guy who keeps giving Heath Pearce chances for redemption. Most likely Bradley just didn’t feel the need to interrupt Hejduk’s busy surfing schedule by inviting him to what boils down to a kids’ camp version of USMNT training.

And where is Jose Francisco Torres!? I’m with J.F.T. super fan #4 (Yank’s contributor known as Puck) on this. The guy plays well when he comes in, especially the last game he was in, in which he helped the team come back on Costa Rica, but he’s often not named to the roster. This is about as inexplicable as Sacha Kljestan not even being available for the Denmark friendly after providing nothing but offensively creative/dangerous service against Slovakia in his ten minutes of action.

And one final note. Don’t be too surprised if a glut of U.S. regulars join this group of particularly young Americans in Carson, maybe a week prior to the Honduras friendly. We’ve seen that move before, and the coach could just be getting Saved By The Bell: The New Class some senior national team training experience before Zack and Slater show up just in time for sweeps week.