Monday, May 10, 2010

Final Prediction for US 2010 WC Roster

If there's one thing soccer fans love to do other than argue about formations ("I say we try a 4-3-2-1, you know, like a Christmas tree!"), its predicting the 23 WC roster spots.  So before my final prediction, I'm going to list some of my 2010 WC roster predictions starting from 2006. 

June 30, 2006

GK - Tim Howard

Carlos Bocanegra or Steve Cherundolo
Cory Gibbs
Oguchi Onyewu
Jonathan Spector

DaMarcus Beasley or Bobby Convey
Ricardo Clark - I read that he's a great athlete at D mid
Clint Dempsey
Landon Donovan or Freddy Adu

Kenny Cooper or Nate Jacqua (I want to start a big guy)
Eddie Johnson 

Obviously this prediction 4 years ago intrigues me the most.  Not too shabby, eh?  For starters, I didn't realize that Boca's a LB and Dolo's a RB.  But its possible that I was right on 3 of 4 defensive spots.  Not bad.  And I hear Gibbs is doing well enough to have an outside chance at training camp.  I think he's got no shot but I saw so much potential back then before that wicked knee injury.  In fact, he might've been the answer at LB in '06 so that Eddie Lewis wouldn't have been caught back there in the first 5 minutes vs Czech Rep.

As for midfielders ... well, I thought that Landon's best position was central attacking mid with Beaz and Clint on the wings.  Ricardo Clark was a good guess at CDM since he wasn't on the map then.  All indications are that he'll make the 23, even though I'm not high on his recklessness.  We don't need another Pablo.  Beasley has a chance at the roster too, even though his precipitous fall the last 2 years has been disappointing since we all thought he'd be on par with Landon and Dempsey by now.  Dempsey was just an MLS'er then so his emergence as a star now was unforeseeable.

You can tell that I was drawing straws at forward back then.  Not much has changed I guess.  But Kenny won't even make training camp.  EJ could but only because of a late season push.  The big target forward that I was looking for turns out to be Jozy, but we're back to looking for that speedy accomplice that Charlie Davies was in '09 and we hope will be again.

September 10, 2007

Tim Howard
Spector, Gooch, Bocanegra, Pearce
Dempsey Bradley Feilhaber, Beasley
Donovan, Cooper or EJ

After beating Mexico 2-0 in Feb, then again in the Gold Cup Final, then playing Brazil in Chicago (to a draw in my mind - saw this one live), I was sure that newbies Bradley and Feilhaber would be our new central engines all the way to South Africa.  Bradley as the no nonsense enforcer and defensive hustler; Benny as the creative engine behind our strikers.  In fact to me, every position was set except for the 2 fullbacks and the target forward.  Funny thing is LB and one F are still the two positions up for grabs 3 years later.

June 16, 2008

Dolo, Gooch, Boca, Pearce
Dempsey, Bradley, Edu, Beasley
Donovan, Altidore

A horrible defensive performance by our 2 "C" team fullbacks vs Mexico in Feb awards them the 2-2 draw.  It also makes me favor the veteran experience of Cherundolo.  Then a triumvirate of friendlies vs England, Spain and Argentina (like a WC group schedule - great planning by US Soccer) that summer shows how far we have to go to compete with the best.  Good performance: Argentina.  Bad: England (what can we take from that game anyway?  Mostly the fact that we can't play at Wembley.)  It also shows that we are still wanting in the Striker position.  After seeing the potential (and consequent hype machine) of Jozy early in the year, I'm already hoping he'll be experienced enough by 2010.  Feilhaber falls off the map and Maurice Edu emerges as a more competent choice than Clark, especially if Coach Bradley wants two defensive minded center midfielders.

July 15, 2009

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard (S), Guzan, Perkins
Defenders: Cherundolo(S), Onyewu(S), DeMerit(S), Bocanegra (S), Spector, Marshall, Bornstein, Heydude
Midfielders: Dempsey (S), Bradley (S), Jones (S), Donovan (S), Feilhaber, Edu, Holden, Torres, Beasley
Forwards: Jozy (S), Davies (S), Ching
Finally, I actually start listing my 23 man roster.  The epic change in the lineup from the last 3 years is Donovan's switch to left wing.  This tried and true tactic change from the Confederations Cup alters our team makeup completely.  Secondly, the emergence of Charlie Davies up top is an answer to our prayers.  Thirdly, Jay DeMerit's solid play in the Confed Cup moves Bocanegra to our problem spot at LB.  At the time, these last 2 changes seemed to be the best solution to our 2 problem spots: LB and F.  How could the two positions we knew needed work in 2006 still be a problem 4 years later?  Beasley is completely in the dog house but I still thought a two time WC veteran could play his way back in the next year.

However, Bradley's 2 goals vs Mexico in Feb shuts up his nepotism critics and cements his spot.  As does Jozy's hat trick in a WC qualifier.  But the biggest news is the fact that the top Bundesliga defensive midfielder, Jermaine Jones, was switching to USA, due to his American serviceman father.  We are all disappointed that he also was plagued by a non-healing leg, literally for the entire next season.

March 4, 2010

Tim Howard
Brad Guzan
Marcus Hahnemann

Oguchi Onyewu
Carlos Bocanegra
Steve Cherundolo
Jonathan Spector
Jay DeMerit
Jonathan Bornstein
Heath Pearce (His crossing has been great. Bornstein's been terrible)
Clarence Goodson (Has a nose for the ball, even though he's twig-thin)

Landon Donovan
Clint Dempsey
Michael Bradley
Stuart Holden
Jose Torres
DeMarcus Beasley (Alejandro Bedoya if Beaz is not fit)
Maurice Edu
Benny Feilhaber
Jermaine Jones (Ricardo Clark if JJ's not healthy)

Jozy Altidore
Brian Ching
Charlie Davies (please make a miraculous recovery. please. okay fine, Robbie Findley then)

Starting Lineup if everyone's healthy:
Donovan-Jones - Bradley-Holden
Spector - DeMerit-Gooch-Dolo

Hahnemann rightfully re-emerges and takes over the backup keeper slot after a great season in the EPL, while Guzan apprenticed under Friedel.  Edgar Castillo was all the rage for a couple months but now looks out as Pearce/Bornstein climb back above him onto the plane.  Goodson seems to have snagged the 4th CB spot by having a nose for the ball.  Alejandro Bedoya lands on the map as a winger option in front of Rogers and maybe even Beasley.  Jermaine Jones may have visited the team in the Netherlands but Clark is his only substitute if no miraculous recovery is on JJ's horizon.  Charlies Davies' replacement is still up in the air.

Final Prediction:

GK: Howard, Hahnemann, Guzan

CB:Onyewu, Bocanegra, DeMerit, Goodson
FB: Spector, Cherundolo, Bornstein, Hejduk

CM: Bradley, Edu, Clark, Torres
WM: Donovan, Holden, Feilhaber, Bedoya

ST: Dempsey, Altidore, Ching, Buddle

GKs: The 3 keepers are obvious.  I'd bet Howard or Hahnemann (or Friedel for that matter) would start for England.

Defense: We have several players who are versatile.  Spector can also play LB and even CB if absolutely necessary.  Bocanegra is a better CB, but could very well start at LB for us.  Bornstein, though I have no comprehension as to why (- he's short and frail, not tall and strong), seems to be an option at CB as well.  I would bring Hejduk as my 8th defender - his energy is contagious and this might be more beneficial than anything Pearce or Bornstein can do on the field.  Also, he plays RB in a pinch.  I nearly opted for Cory Gibbs, who tore his knee right before WC '06 but Hejduk (who also suffered a knee injury after being chosen) deserves it more.  I guess there's little chance Hejduk will actually go so maybe this isn't so much a prediction as a wish, but there's always surprises, right?  Lastly, I would personally rather take Pearce instead of Bornstein (even though he's a Bruin) because I still think he crosses the ball far better.

Midfield: Edu and Clark are the options at defensive midfielder to play alongside Bradley.  Torres and Feilhaber are the other selections at CM although both will need a Edu/Clark/Bradley paired with them.  Donovan, Holden and Bedoya are our wingers, (Feilhaber can play there too) since Clint is our best option up top.

Forward: As much as I'd love for Davies to reach his goal, I just don't think he can regain his speed and strength to be effective internationally.  So Dempsey and Jozy are our starters with veteran Ching booking a place with his ability to do dirty work (as long as he's fully recovered).  Lastly, in a battle between in-form strikers, Gomez and Buddle, I would hope Gomez wins out because of his speed.  In my opinion, if Buddle were to make the plane, Ching should not.  But since Buddle is Landon's current teammate, Bob will opt for the benefits of that pairing.

Possible campers left at home: Pearce brings little more than Bornstein does so Bob picks 1.  EJ and Gomez lose out to Buddle.  Adu and Kljestan can't overtake talented duo Feilhaber and Torres.  Conor Casey's overlooked because of Ching's superior work rate.  Beasley's lack of form disqualifies him in what is likely the last cut.

Tomorrow, we'll learn the identity of the (no more than) 30 players invited to US training camp, from which the final 23 are chosen.  Interestingly, of my 23, only 8 were on the 2006 WC roster - Howard, Hahnemann, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Donovan, Dempsey, Ching (Hejduk also chosen but injured).  However, 6 of our 11 starters this time will likely be WC veterans - Howard, Gooch, Boca, Dolo, Donovan and Dempsey have more or less been firmly entrenched in the starting lineup throughout this entire 4 year cycle.



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