JAMIE HILL - Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Often, the rosters of US national team camps are as notable for the players omitted as they are for players included. Bob Bradley's 24-man January camp is no exception.
So when the boys in red, white, and blue convene in Carson, CA to prepare for the friendly against Chile, which players will have the right to brood at home over their snub?
Bradley brought two veterans and two rising talents, but he ignored the man who was arguably the best in MLS in 2010: Kevin Hartman. However, despite his return in the playoffs, Hartman has been hobbled by the MCL that was damaged by Thierry Henry's brainless behavior. Furthermore, the Dallas netminder will be 40 in 2014 meaning that he is more likely part of the NT's past than part of its future.
Two highly-regarded young central defenders will not be making the trip to the Home Depot Center: George John and Ike Opara. Rather than being ignored, both are beset by injuries and are thus unavailable.
There are several other accomplished centerbacks who were not invited. Chad Marshall and 2010 MLS Best XI member Nat Borchers turned in good seasons, but did not receive the call. The absence of the Houston Dynamo's Geoff Cameron is also likely to cause consternation among the rank and file supporters of the US team.
Bradley's choice of fullbacks was the most unexpected element of an unexpected squad. Rookie part-time starter Zach Loyd will report to camp instead of more experienced players like Hunter Freeman, who just joined the Houston Dynamo after two strong years with IK Start. Kevin Alston is another young right back who has shown promise, but apparently failed to catch Bradley's eye.
As is always the case with the US, options at left back are limited, so most expected Bobby Convey to join the fray after his renaissance season with San Jose. Whether Bradley is unimpressed with the former Reading man or whether he chose to go with younger options is unclear.
With so many midfielders in the midst of European league seasons, the center of the park is an area in which Bradley was forced to dig deep into the player pool. Jeff Larentowicz will relish a chance to earn his first cap, but an MLS veteran like Kyle Beckerman could feel unfairly overlooked.
Columbus Crew midfielders Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers have seen action with the national team as recently as last month, but were left out of this month's roster.
Benny Feilhaber, while available, is a player whose qualities are well known and as such Bradley decided to award a spot to a youngster like Eric Alexander.
Chivas USA's midfielder Michael Lahoud certainly feels snubbed after announcing he will consider pursuing an opportunity with Sierra Leone, the country of his birth. Despite his full-throated expression of dismay, the group that believes that Lahoud's exclusion was an injustice remains a very small minority of US soccer fans.
Considering the January camp has become something of a youth movement, one might have thought that Eugene Starikov would be called up and evaluated after a promising run with Tom Tomsk of the Russian Premier League. However, the young winger will have to wait for an opportunity.
The biggest MLS names to not appear on this roster are Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley. The pair are seeking contracts in Europe and therefore are unavailable for the camp.