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Jeff Maurer's Soccer Blog
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
The US Roster: Who Should Make It, Who Should Be Cut, and Who Should Be Put to Death?
Topic: US National Team

Ramping the soccer blog back up in anticipation of the World Cup. I hope to write a post every day, and since I will be: 1) going on vacation next week, and 2) seriously half-assing my job for the duration of the Cup, it might actually happen.

Last night we saw the US scrubs lose 4-2 to the Czech scrubs - I'm sorry..."szcrubs". Bob Bradley will name the US 23 at 1PM today. The loss to the Czechs confirmed what I've been feeling for a long time: this team doesn't have a lot of depth. My level of confidence really plummets once you get outside the core group of guys.

I don't want to get into the Gomez vs. Buddle/Beasley vs. Bedoya debates. Those are depressing. You know how on "Lost" they kept saying "once you talk to the smoke monster, it's already too late"? In the World Cup, once you start contemplating that Edson Buddle might be your best option, it's already too late. So, instead of simply naming my preferred 23, here are my feelings on all 30 guys.

I'm feeling good. Jozy, Dempsey, Landon, Bradley, Holden, Bocanegra, Gooch, Demerit, Cherundolo, Howard.

These are the core guys - this is our best team. Yes, I rate Cherundolo above Spector, though I know that Bob Bradley has them the other way around. And yes, I like Holden a lot; I think he's going to break out in 2010 the way Dempsey did in 2006.

Please, Bob: take this list and make a lineup out of it. I know that means putting Dempsey up top (nothing wrong with that) and sliding Bocanegra left (not ideal, but not bad), but just do it.  There are ten of these guys, but not to worry: there are still decent options before the talent level falls off a cliff.

*Also feeling good: Guzan and Hahnemann. I like them both. If this were club soccer, I'd be on the phone with England about a trade. But we're unlikely to see either of them, so I'll keep them in a separate category from the field players.

I like those odds. Spector, Edu, Torres.

These guys are usually pretty good...usually. Each has a glitch in his game. Edu's passing can get sloppy. Torres, who plays in Mexico, sometimes succumbs to the curse of Mexican soccer: he forgets that you get points for GOALS, not for stringing together meaningless passes. Spector plays every game the same: 89 solid minutes, good passing, a few enterprising runs up the flank, one catastrophic mistake. Still, I'd feel pretty good about seeing any of these guys on the field.

At this point, we're at 13 guys (plus the two extra goalkeepers). You can make a lineup out of these 13, inserting Edu for more defense or Torres for offense. Spector can slide in wherever you need him in the back, meaning you can afford to lose one guy. But outside of these 13, the talent level really starts to drop off.

Serviceable subs: all is not lost. Ching, Clark, Feilhaber, Goodson.

It's true: I am not a Ricardo Clark fan. I think he's serviceable...nothing more. Also true: I am a Brian Ching apologist. I, unlike many US fans, am not filled with dread when he takes the field. And I think that Clarence Goodson might be the Jimmy Conrad of 2010. Here's how to best describe my feelings about these guys: if they come in when we have a LEAD, I'll feel okay. They can play - I don't expect them to come in and suck. But if they come in when we're behind or tied - i.e., we're relying on them to provide a spark, or they represent our best option - then I won't be feeling very good.

I've got a bad feeling about this. Gomez, Buddle, Bornstein, Beasley, Bedoya, Rodgers.

Remember the Ghana game in 2006? Remember when Reyna got stripped for Ghana's first goal, hurt his knee, and Ben Olsen came in to replace him? Now, I'm a DC United fan; Ben Olsen is my favorite player, and I was pumped to see him come in. Everyone at the Arlington Drafthouse, where I was watching, applauded. But I know the rest of the nation had...well...a somewhat different reaction. Sort of a nation-wide sinking feeling. A collective "so, it's come to this, has it?" That's the way I'll feel if any of these guys get on the field. It's not that they can't play - on any given day, any of these guys can be pretty good. And I'll be praying that they come up big. But I won't like our chances.

About Beasley, Buddle, and Gomez: past performance does not necessarily predict future results. I am so sick of hearing about Beasley's World Cup experience. He had experience in 2006, and that didn't keep him from sucking. He's also been getting Freddy Adu-level minutes in Scotland. Buddle and Gomez are both riding hot streaks, and both have some impressive tools (Buddle's pace and size, Gomez's shot from distance). But both also have many, many years of MLS mediocrity on their resumes. As a baseball fan, I need to see more before I'll be convinced that either are experiencing anything more than a temporary spike in form.

Please God, no. Kljestan, Marshall, Findley.

My days as a Sacha Kljestan apologist are over. He just turns the ball over too much; I thought it might go away, but it hasn't. I like Marshall when he's healthy, but he's clearly not healthy. Findley is Eddie Johnson Junior: his speed makes everyone ignore the fact that he hasn't yet shown that he's any good at soccer.

Put him in a rocket, shoot it into space, turn off the tracking equipment. Heath Pearce, Eddie Johnson.

The second and third Czech goals were bittersweet: I wasn't happy that they scored, but they DID both contribute to hopefully keeping Heath Pearce off the plane. I'm sorry: he's just not national team caliber. He only plays one position, and he doesn't play it well. Leave him at home, take seven defenders, and use Edu at center back if you absolutely have to. Eddie Johnson is still riding that hat trick he scored against Panama in 2004. Eddie Johnson, Smashing Pumpkins, Margaret Cho: they haven't been good for a long time. Give up the ghost.

Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 10:28 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 May 2010 12:02 PM EDT
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