Forward Thinking: The USA Has its 23 for South Africa

So the suspense is over. US Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley has named his 23-man roster that will represent the nation in the upcoming World Cup, which begins June 11.

Much of the team was pretty well known before today, based on those who didn’t even need to be in uniform for last night’s 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic, and how others had been reported to be training in the run-up.

It seemed the big question was up front, and that was answered today with an emphatic, “Huh?,” when word spread on Twitter via Mark Connolly that Brian Ching had been spotted in the Hartford airport, on his way home. Ching didn’t make the 23 (the full list of those who did is below), but Herculez Gomez, Edson Buddle, and Robbie Findley all did.

Looking at the immediate reaction from folks on Twitter and other venues, the Ching omission has received the most outcry/vitriol. I admit to being surprised by it, as well. I know he was returning from injury, but I didn’t think there were multiple options better than him – and I honestly thought that there was one spot to be had for either Buddle or Gomez, not one for each. The forward choices are going to be the area where Bradley is most often (and perhaps, most harshly) judged before, during, and after this World Cup. If Findley shows himself not to be ready for the big stage, and Gomez doesn’t produce in the 15 to 30 minutes he’s likely to get in any particular game, the critics are going to be loud and intense against Bradley’s choices.

But, I would argue that while the forward choices are getting all the attention, I don’t think that this is the area is going to make or break this team. The defense does indeed include a player also returning from injury in Oguchi Onyewu, and a player I’ve simply never been a fan of in Jonathan Bornstein.

Now, there’s certainly a possibility that Onyewu, who looked a half-step off last night, will gain fitness between now and the opener. But as I mentioned last night, if he starts and goes 90 vs. a good England squad in the first game, will he recover enough to be useful for the second and third matches? If not, the US could be in trouble. The group could very well be beaten by teams attacking quickly through either sharp, fast passing, or speedy runs. The defense showed some recovery ability at times last night to break up chances, and that was good, but at least against England, the US can’t let that many chances be created.

The strength of this team is in the midfield, with an asterisk. I really like the group, and I’ve even warmed up to DaMarcus Beasley’s play a bit. But Bradley has an interesting challenge of who is going to play where. Given that his team’s toughest group game is the first one, Bradley has little time for experimentation. The upcoming friendlies against Turkey and Australia must provide the answers as to who is going to play where for the group to be most effective offensively and defensively.

Another factor effecting the midfield, and the reason for the asterisk, is the play of the forwards. If Landon Donovan or others in the group have to do more to cover up for ill-performing forwards, the overall midfield might not be as much of a strength. This is the risk we see with Bradley’s selections of Buddle, Gomez, and Findley.

There’s not much to talk about regarding the goalkeepers, as long as Tim Howard stays healthy and sans cards. It is open for discussion how, based on last night’s performance by Brad Guzan, Bradley views his No. 2 spot between Guzan and Marcus Hahnemann.

Not making the cut were:

* Chad Marshall
* Heath Pearce
* Alejandro Bedoya
* Sacha Kljestan
* Robbie Rogers
* Brian Ching
* Eddie Johnson

Beyond Ching, I can’t argue any of these, and I applaud Bradley for finally dropping the bad habit that is Kljestan. He’s a decent player, but he’s not one of our best 23.

Here is that 23. Roster decisions and curiosities aside, I’m stoked that we are finally to this point. I’m stoked that the opening game of the World Cup is now literally just days away, and happy for all my friends who will be headed to South Africa shortly to root on the United States.

I’m going to do my best to not get caught up too much in any more of the roster bickering, and simply enjoy the moment. I still think the US will advance, and I still think this has the chance to be a very good World Cup.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton)

DEFENDERS (7): Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton), José Torres (Pachuca)

FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla)

What is your take on the Ching omission? Who made the 23 that shouldn’t have? And now that the roster has been named, how do you think the US will do?

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16 thoughts on “Forward Thinking: The USA Has its 23 for South Africa

  1. Personally, I cannot fathom how Bradly continues to include Bornstein in the team. I realize left back is an Achilles heel of sorts for the US and Pearce leaves one wanting as well but good lord, Bornstein is just as much of a defensive liability as he is. I don’t have a solution sadly but the sooner American MLS coaches quit playing favorites for mediocre players somehow getting on to the national team, the better!

  2. I really think we must put Clark or Edu on that Left Back postion. Sure is not their natural position at all, but anything is better then Bornstein. Edu as we have clearly seen is not cut up to play that CB spot, so the left might fit him better. Put the best 11 out there, Borstein is not even top 25.

  3. I just hope Bocanegra can handle LB this time around. Also, I’m glad you saw the Ching competition as being between Buddle & Gomez. The breathless talk seems to about how Findley took Ching’s spot.

  4. How is Robbie Findley good enough for the World Cup roster but not Bedoya nor Ching? Otherwise I’m somewhat content though I’m still mad about giving up 4 goals to a team that won’t even be in South Africa.

  5. If someone had said two years ago that only 3 of our final 23 would be MLS players, would you have believed it? (And, of course, one of the three could be playing anywhere in the world but just happens to be playing in MLS by choice.)

  6. Guys – BB is not measuring the ‘best’ player against player and picking the most skilled player. Rather, he’s picking his players by the systems, roles and tactics he’s going to employ as well as the opponent’s weaknesses, versatility and chemistry with other guys on the team. It’s a much more complex dynamic than pure skill or experience that we see…

  7. It does appear that Findley was already in in the Bob’s mind, and it was Buddle, Gomez, and Ching on the bubble. While that may be true, it does not make sense. Findley is neither presently on good form nor a historic contributor nor brings the target man skills of Ching.

  8. With the exception of Bornstein and to certain extent his kid (not because i dont think he is good enough for the 23 but you know he is going to be starting) I dont have major complaints.

    I would actually like to applaud the brave and rightful decision to leave Ching home, the man is useless against any other competition that is not CONCACAF all he would be doing in South Africa is wasting space. Also thank you no more EJ thank GOD.

    I would like to have seen Robbie Rogers make it, I really think that he adds a certain versatility to the team but I guess we needed to find room for Bornstein somehow.

  9. Plan A better be “score early and often” because that is the most suspect defense I have seen for the US in a while.

  10. Right — it’s 4 MLS players. My bad.

    Incidentally, it ocurred to me that my comment might be construed as anti-MLS. I think it’s the opposite really. The MLS seems to be preparing good U.S. players to play anywhere in the world, as virtually all of the roster has some MLS connection.

  11. So….Bornstein being constantly out of position and fouling is a part of our systems, roles, and tactics?? Awesome…can’t wait

  12. So you’re advocating Brian Ching at left back then? Because otherwise I completely fail to see the relevance of that response.

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