Photo by Eric Beard/AFootballReport.com
The Yanks will clash with Petr Cech and the Bohemians this evening in East Hartford in the first match of their World Cup tune-up schedule, appropriately dubbed “The Send-Off Series.” New Czech coach Michal Bílek is trying to put his stamp on the national team by auditioning a cast of anything but regulars prior to a World Cup that his team will miss out on. It’s a far shout from the thrashing that Pavel Nedved and his compatriots put on the USMNT four years ago on the grandest stage, but Bílek will be looking to find a few gems that can slot in and make a difference in Euro qualifying.
What does this mean for the Yanks in the match tonight? Essentially it means that as much as Bobbo may tinker with the lineup, our boys should still be more cohesive and effective than their opponents. The result in this match isn’t as important as answering the questions that will have to be sorted come June, but unless they trot out Jaromir Jagr we shouldn’t lose to them on our home soil, even with helmet head Petr Cech still in goal.
So how does Bob Bradley go about getting U.S. revenge, four years too late? There are a couple schools of thought. Bob can name what should be the starting team in Rustenburg on June 12 and really give the 2010 World Cup Yanks a test drive, or he can focus on the starting slots and roster spots which are still up for grabs, letting the contenders make their respective cases. He’ll most likely save the first option for this weekend’s game against the stronger Turkey squad, a team that actually brought their starters to the States and dropped the Czech’s 2-1 a couple days ago. That means tonight we’ll probably get a look at the most hotly debated position battles; as a card carrying U.S. Soccer nerd, I’m REALLY excited!
GK: I’m thinking we’re going to see Howard for a half and probably Guzan for a half. Those guys are good. So is Marcus Hahnemann for that matter. If Tony Meola gets in, chug your beer.
D: The left back dilemma is well documented, and sadly the only LB we’ve seen play back there for any appreciable amount of time for the national side is Jonathan Bornstein. At this point even Bobbo has to realize that Borny’s a known quantity out there, and the news ain’t all good. Expect two of these guys to get the nod over the course of the 90: Bocanegra, Pearce, Spector. I’ve had to endure Spec playing out of position at left back for West Ham all too often this season and have since made up my mind that he’s a right back. The discrepancy in form between Confed Cup RB and barely-not-relegated LB was appreciable, so I’d rather see Jon have the opportunity to compete with Cherundolo for the starting right back role.
In the middle, expect Jay “Kid Rock” DeMerit to be ever present while Gooch tries to prove to everyone he’s healthy. I personally will not be taking my eyes off Onyewu while he’s in the game, he’s that important to our World Cup, but that’s no surprise. The second half will bring with it a sizeable drop in class as Clarence Goodson and/or Chad Marshall get on the pitch and try to make the squad.
M: Maurice Edu, your time is now. Right now Mo is still behind Ricardo Clark on most “experts’” depth charts, but he should be given the shot to prove he deserves the other center midfield role next to Michael Bradley. Expect the likes of Kljestan, Feilhaber, Bedoya, J.F. Torres, or Holden to supplant at least one of the CM’s as a sub in the second half. Speaking of Holden and Feilhaber, like Gooch those two will probably use this match as a fitness test.
Out on the wings we’ll see a couple of the aforementioned offensive players along with DaMarcus Beasley. Yeah I know that’s a bunch of names, but I’ve got no clue who Bobbo’s actually going to start. We’ll probably kick off with at least one from the Dempsey/Donovan contingent on the pitch, we are the U.S. after all. I’m interested to see Bedoya play, he’s the new American hype, why not see if he can justify it.
F: If I thought predicting who we’d see on the wings in the USMNT midfield was tough, this is pretty much impossible. Akin to what he’s doing with his son and a rotating cast in the central midfield, Bradley will be rotating to hopefully find a striking partner for Jozy Altidore. Brian Ching, with his out of this world work-rate and the fact that Jozy’s netted a hat trick while paired with Ching in qualifying, can make a good case. But a guy like Edson Buddle was brought into the fold because his skill set more closely parallels Charlie Davies, and we all know that combo worked. Buddle will probably get a look tonight, but what of Herculez Gomez? And the possibility of moving Dempsey or Bedoya up top? We’ll all just have to watch the drama as it unfolds.
Whatever happens tonight, Bob Bradley may well name his World Cup 23 on Wednesday; here’s hoping his final round of cuts are as measured and savvy as the selection of the initial 30.
Jon Levy is a senior writer and managing editor for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @TYAC_Jon.