Topic: US National Team
U.S. National Team coach Bruce Arena was on Argentine television last week, where he talked about his plans for the World Cup (and, because it is Spanish-language television, also sang a duet with a large-breasted woman and was tormented by a diabolical puppet). I didn't see it, but it was picked up by a great soccer blog called Du Nord. Apparently, he went into an incredible amount of detail. If you're interested in reading the whole thing, follow the link in the last sentence, then scroll down the page (about 1/3 of the way, as of this posting) until you find where he posted links labeled "one, two, three," and so on, up to eleven. I found numbers one, five, and eleven especially interesting.
Here are some of the things we found out:
- Bruce's starting center two are Oguchi Onyewu and Eddie Pope. I'm sure that the Onyewu part won't surprise anybody, but there are a lot of people who will be disappointed to see Pope in there. I feel like a lot of people are down on Eddie Pope because of the Jeff Agoos debacle in 2002, and they share a lot of similarities (both are distinguished but aging backs, have had their form called into question recently, and are Bruce Arena favorites from his D.C. United days). Personally, I prefer Cory Gibbs as Onyewu's partner in the back, but I'm comfortable with Pope. Honestly, center back is the position about which I spend the least amount of time worrying, as I am comfortable with any of our first four options for the two center spots (Carlos Bocanegra being the fourth). Just as long as Greg Berhalter doesn't see the field.
- Damarcus Beasley will be starting at left mid. So any talk of a battle between Beasley and Bobby Convey for the starting left mid spot can be put to rest.
- McBride's strike partner will be Landon Donovan, if anybody. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks that Eddie Johnson has been playing like shit lately.
- Bruce actually took out a piece of paper and drew a lineup. It looked like this:
Yes, that's essentially a 4-5-1, though Bruce did leave Landon Donovan's position up in the air a little bit, saying that Landon would play "maybe up top." Personally, the debacle in 1998 (in which we played an extremely weird 3-6-1), the Easter game against Mexico, and my general disdain for overly-defensive soccer make me skeptical of any single-striker formation, so I hope Bruce does end up putting Landon up top in a 4-4-2. Bruce drew a question mark next to Reyna in the other central midfield spot, then said "maybe Pablo Mastreoni, maybe John O'Brien." Other comments in the interview made it seem like Mastreoni currently has a slight edge (also, it was reported this morning that John O'Brien picked up a minor calf strain last week). Bruce also drew a question mark at the right mid spot, then said "maybe Clint Dempsey," but didn't offer any other name. I would assume that the alternative to Dempsey is probably Bobby Convey.
Though Bruce drew the lineup pictured above, other comments he made throughout the interview (i.e., "Beasley can play on the left or centrally," "Reyna, O'Brien, and Mastreoni in the midfield") could lead you to believe that Bruce has something more like this in mind:
If this is what he's planning, I like it. For one thing, you've got your best eleven players on the field (Dempsey is good, just not as good as John O'Brien). Also, it allows space for our outside backs to do what they do best: make offensive runs down the wings. Furthermore, this has the flexibility to either become a 4-5-1, a 4-4-2, or a 4-3-3, depending on exactly where Beasley and Donovan decide to play. Maybe Bruce is considering playing the first lineup versus the Czech Republic (when control of the midfield will be vital), then using this one against Italy (when we will probably try to attack the wings).
I want to get on the record with my prediction of the U.S. World Cup roster before they announce on Tuesday at 6PM on Sportscenter. Here's my best guess:
Goalkeepers: Kasey Keller, Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann
Defenders: Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Pope, Cory Gibbs, Carlos Bocanegra, Greg Berhalter, Eddie Lewis, Steve Cherundolo, Frankie Hejduk
Midfielders: Landon Donovan, Damarcus Beasley, Claudio Reyna, Pablo Mastreoni, John O'Brien, Bobby Convey, Clint Dempsey, Ben Olsen
Strikers: Brian McBride, Eddie Johnson, Josh Wolff, Taylor Twellman
This has been my prediction for a long time now (definitely since the game against Jamaica last month), and it seems that the most debatable part of this prediction is probably right, as the Washington Post is now reporting that Ben Olsen will make the World Cup roster. That is awesome; it's good to have D.C. United represented, and Ben Olsen is my favorite player. Very much deserved.
Incidentally, Yanks Abroad posted this exact same list last week. So it seems that the soccer nerd community is reaching a consensus.