May 26, 2010
The stage was set. Tuesday night's 4-2 friendly loss to the Czech Republic signaled the final tryout for the U.S.'s bubble players in their hopes of making Bob Bradley's 23-man World Cup roster. Performances varied, but none of that matters now as the results are in.
Courtesy of USsoccer.com:
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (All-Time World Cup Roster Appearances)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (2010), Marcus Hahnemann (2006, 2010), Tim Howard (2006, 2010)
DEFENDERS (7): Carlos Bocanegra (2006, 2010), Jonathan Bornstein (2010), Steve Cherundolo (2002, 2006, 2010), Jay DeMerit (2010), Clarence Goodson (2010), Oguchi Onyewu (2006, 2010), Jonathan Spector (2010)
MIDFIELDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (2002, 2006, 2010), Michael Bradley (2010), Ricardo Clark (2010), Clint Dempsey (2006, 2010), Landon Donovan (2002, 2006, 2010), Maurice Edu (2010), Benny Feilhaber (2010), Stuart Holden (2010), José Torres (2010)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (2010), Edson Buddle (2010), Robbie Findley (2010), Herculez Gomez (2010)
As Bob Bradley proves once again, despite his lack of flair for the dramatic and ultra-composed exterior, he never fails to throw in some surprises.
Bob's first surprise (to some) came back on May 10, when he denied Charlie Davies' hopes of a dramatic return to the national team after sustaining several broken bones and a lacerated bladder in that tragic car accident last October. This time, Bob once again surprised with his forward selections by picking four who will all be playing in their first World Cup in South Africa.
Most shocking, perhaps, is the inclusion of Robbie Findley, who was thought to simply be camp fodder and well on his way back to Real Salt Lake to continue his MLS campaign. However, Bradley seems to have elected to take Findley's speed as an option off the bench to make up for the lack of Davies' wheels up top. Even still, the fact that Robbie Findley is going to a World Cup is unsettling.
Houston Dynamo striker Brian Ching, long-thought to be a Bradley favorite for his size, hold-up ability and veteran presence, was left off the final roster, even after impressing against the Czech Republic in the second half with a variety of backheels and a display of clean passing. Taken in his place appears to be L.A. Galaxy striker Edson Buddle, who started off hot in MLS, but has since faded a bit and Tuesday night made just his second international appearance ... ever.
Herculez Gomez, who co-lead the Mexican league in scoring last season and scored the second of the U.S.'s two goals Tuesday night, will deservingly round out the troop of forwards.
Another inclusion that may wow some people after a pretty horrific performance Tuesday night (and most of the time he plays) is leftback Jonathan Bornstein. Often the subject of U.S. fans' gripes, Bornstein appears to simply lack the speed, strength, and overall international quality to be an impact player on a World Cup level. Despite that, it appears coach Bradley has largely opted for versatility with his roster selections, as Bornstein, for example, can play either in defense or in the midfield if needed. Albeit not very well.
For those keeping score at home, that's only eight total players who have been a part of a World Cup roster before, and six who have actually played. A grand total of two have scored a goal in a World Cup before, Landon Donovan in 2002 and Clint Dempsey scoring the only U.S. goal at the disaster in 2006. Youth, hopefully, will be served.
It's important to remember that the United States' performance in this World Cup will not be dictated by many of these surprise inclusions. Some of them may never even touch the field. U.S. success or failure will still be written by the performances of the Landon Donovans, Clint Dempseys and Oguchi Onyewus. But when a team is down and looking for a spark or a crucial goal, one of these players will have to be the guy to step up.