In this monthly segment, we attempt to answer the question, “Who should we take to South Africa?” Rather than taking the standard approach (doing our best to guess who Bob will take to South Africa), we focus on who we think Bradley should take.
The US has just finished its two-game set of friendlies against Slovakia and Denmark, and, if nothing else, the experience shed a little light on who should and should not go to South Africa. We will continue to play worst-case scenario and assume Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu are injured or too out of form to participate in the World Cup. Again, we don’t believe this is the most likely case, but we believe it will make Bradley’s Babes a little more interesting since those two are locks.
Here is Bradley’s Babes, second edition:
Tim Howard – No change here.
Brad Guzan – Despite allowing four goals in two games, he is still a solid backup.
Marcus Hahnemann – If he’d come along as our #3, I’d take him.
FRINGE – Kasey Keller, Troy Perkins. In the event of some injuries, we should turn to Keller. One of our readers informed me that Keller has said that he wouldn’t go to the World Cup as a third-stringer. I hope a clear #3 emerges before next summer. Right now, that seems pretty unlikely. If Dom Cervi can continue to move up the pecking order at Celtic, he’s got a shot–a long shot, but a shot nonetheless.
Carlos Bocanegra – Still a lock. Although he can play left back, with the injury to Oguchi Onyewu, he should almost certainly be used at center back.
Jay DeMerit – Still waiting on him to recover from his eye injury. Spector or Marshall could potentially take his starting spot.
Jonathan Spector – His performance against Slovakia proved his versatility. We’re hoping that his performance against Denmark was an anomaly. Now, please, let’s give this kid a look at left back!
Steve Cherundolo – His only hope for starting in the World Cup is for Spector will play somewhere other than right back.
Chad Marshall – Back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year at age 25? Not bad at all.
Jimmy Conrad – Still doesn’t get enough credit.
Edgar Castillo – Didn’t get much time against Denmark. I’m not ready to pencil him in as a starter, but he should be given at least one full game in our upcoming friendlies to prove himself.
Clarence Goodson – As I stated in the last Bradley’s Babes, since Bocanegra and Spector can both play left back, and I’m not a big fan of Bornstein or Pearce, I’ll use the final spot on another center back. Goodson, for the most part, showed well in the Gold Cup.
FRINGE – Jonathan Bornstein, Heath Pearce. Goodson is still the low man on the totem pole and could still be displaced by either of these players. Bornstein did not show well in these two friendlies–his defensive shortcomings were once again exposed by Slovakia. (This is even more damning when you consider how little interest Slovakia showed in their attack.) One side note: If Frankie Hejduk ever plays for us again, part of me will die.
Landon Donovan – Might be more of a lock than Tim Howard. I didn’t think that was possible, but our performance in the last two friendlies showed just how badly we need him.
Clint Dempsey – It’s looking more and more like we’ll be forced to use him as a second striker.
Michael Bradley – His pairing with Benny Feilhaber was very promising. He will definitely be in South Africa.
Jose Francisco Torres – Like Castillo, we need to give this guy a start or two in our upcoming friendlies to see what he can do.
Benny Feilhaber – He was one of the few (the only?) bright spots against Denmark. I’m starting to believe in him as a starter. He’s more willing and capable of playing long passes than anyone else on the team (other than, perhaps, Landon Donovan).
Stuart Holden – Since both Donovan and Dempsey could be categorized as forwards, we’re going to go ahead and take a ninth midfielder–Stuart Holden. He’s been solid in his recent National Team performances. We could always use another player capable of playing on the wings.
Robbie Rogers – He might be our best natural winger. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Maurice Edu – I hear he’ll be returning soon. Let’s hope he can find his form just as quickly.
Ricardo Clark – Benny and Junior Bradley seem to be the better combo in midfield. Could move up if Edu doesn’t recover and get some playing time this winter. Will probably get bumped from our list once Jermaine Jones gets capped.
FRINGE – Jermaine Jones, Freddy Adu. Jones misses our list simply because he has yet to be capped. Once that happens, he will most likely be near the top of the midfield depth chart. Still waiting on Freddy…just about ready to give up. People seem to like Kyle Beckerman, but I’ve been really unimpressed when I’ve seen him with the Nats.
Jozy Altidore – Still a lock, even though he’s been really out of form lately. He’s been starting for Hull, and I’m optimistic about the second half of the season.
Brian Ching – I disagree with the assertion that we need a target forward in our starting line-up. Regardless, I think Ching is still the best we’ve got. You hate his woeful finishing, but he does everything else pretty well.
Eddie Johnson – Wow. If you told me a year ago that I’d be projecting Eddie Johnson to make our World Cup roster, I would have laughed. I’m putting him in, but he will only keep his spot if he sees increased playing time in the second half of the season. (That’s a big “if”.)
FRINGE – Conor Casey, Kenny Cooper, Jeff Cunningham, Robbie Findley. Conor Casey has ridden his success against Honduras about as far as he should. I’m believing less and less in him as a World Cup contributor. Kenny Cooper needs to find consistent playing time for his club. His recent injury has hurt his chances. Jeff Cunningham looked alright in the friendlies, scoring our goal against Denmark. He deserves to get called back in, though I’m still not sold. Robbie Findley needs a look sometime soon.
Now that we’ve set our roster, let’s take a look at our prefered line-up:
————————Jozy Altidore———-Clint Dempsey——————
Jose Francisco Torres————————————Landon Donovan
Jonathan Spector——————————————Steve Cherundolo
———————-Carlos Bocanegra——–Jay DeMerit——————–
With Cooper’s recent injury and struggle for playing time at 1860 Munich, we have removed him from the roster and placed Clint Dempsey up top. This makes room for Benny Feilhaber to pair with Michael Bradley in the central midfield–a tandem that showed much promise in the recent friendlies. The most likely change on the back line is Spector moving to center back in place of DeMerit and Castillo playing at left back. This is a little premature–we need to see more from Castillo before we’re comfortable putting him in as a starter.