BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, July 14, 2011
Last week US Soccer announced that the US national team would take part in three friendlies in coming months and it's likely that a lot of different players will be given looks with no major tournaments on the horizon.
The Gold Cup taught the US national team many lessons about the state of its team. Many of the key players are aging and the defense needs a lot of work.
The good news is that the time after the Gold Cup is usually the most experimental time of the cycle and Bob Bradley is likely to dig fairly deep into the player pool to look for talent. With games against Mexico, Costa Rica, and Belgium coming up, there will be different opportunities to look at new players.
At this point last cycle, Bradley called into camp players like Danny Szetela, Sal Zizzo, Lee Nguyen, Kamani Hill, Chris Seitz, Steve Purdy, Preston Zimmerman, and a struggling young forward from Hammarby named Charlie Davies.
There is no reason to believe that Bradley won't dig as deep now as he did four years ago
Let's look at each of the three games and see how the rosters may take shape.
August 10 - US vs. Mexico
This is a very difficult friendly for new talent to be evaluated since the midweek friendly is essentially of fly-in-fly-out nature. Many of the European-based players have games the weekends before and after this friendly and there won't be any significant time for the team to practice.
US Soccer has said that the rosters will consist of the A-teams but this is still open for interpretation. Most likely, if team captain Carlos Bocanegra and stars Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and/or Landon Donovan play in the game, it will constitute an A-team for the United States.
Bradley should call in many of the regular younger European based player but the more established players like Jermaine Jones, Oguchi Onyewu, and Steve Cherundolo should be spared the chore of making the long trip for a friendly.
There probably won't be too much experimentation but some players like Jose Torres, Omar Gonzalez and Mix Diskerud who have been given limited time with the USMNT in the past may begin to see more meaningful minutes.
So here is how I see the roster for this rematch against El Tri.
Goalkeepers (2): Tim Howard, Brad Guzan
Defenders (6): Timothy Chandler, Eric Lichaj, Omar Gonzalez, Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Ream, Zach Loyd
Midfielders (8): Jose Torres, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Landon Donovan, Alejandro Bedoya, Benny Feilhaber, Mix Diskerud, Freddy Adu
Forwards (3): Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Clint Dempsey
September 3 - US vs. Costa Rica
With the game against Costa Rica taking place on the West Coast and another game in Europe only four days afterward, it is likely that this game will almost exclusively consist of players in the MLS and Mexican league.
The game will give Bob Bradley the chance to give caps to MLS players who have impressed this season and the roster will be similar to the ones in the annual January camps.
There will be some opportunities for Bob Bradley to get a look at some of the young Mexican-based players who may impress in the early parts of the season. Two names to pay attention to here are Club Tijuana's Joe Corona and Jaguares Adrian Ruelas. Corona was impressive in leading Tijuana's successful promotion push last season and Ruelas is now on loan with Jaguares from Santos Laguna and is likely to see consistent first team minutes.
But the focus should be on rebuilding the national team's defense and Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream will be key.
Here is the team I think we could see for the US-Costa Rica game.
Goalkeepers (3): Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Nick Rimando
Defense (9): Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Zack Loyd, Sean Franklin, Ike Opara, Heath Pearce, AJ De La Garza, Anthony Wallace, George John
Midfield (8): Dax McCarty, Jose Torres, Brek Shea, Eddie Gaven, Robbie Rogers, Benny Feihaber, Jeff Larentowicz, Landon Donovan
Forward (5): Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Adrian Ruelas, Joe Corona, Chris Pontius
September 6 - US vs. Belgium
This game against Belgium will be consist almost entirely of European-based players and it will give Bob Bradley his first chance to have the team play in Europe in almost 18 months.
The team will have most of the first team regulars like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, and Carlos Bocanegra. In addition to that, there will be a few young players also called into camp as Bradley looks at players that he may want to use in the future. Most notably, players like Josh Gatt and Bobby Wood could get their first taste of international play.
There may also be some other surprises too. In Germany Joe Gyau, Alfredo Morales, and John Anthony Brooks are three youngsters knocking on their club's first team door and it is possible they could get first team minutes with their Bundesliga clubs. I don't think the three of them are quite ready yet but if any of them start of strong in the 2011/12 European season they may be surprise selections for the US team in Belgium.
Here is how I see the roster for the US-Belgium game.
Goalkeepers (2): Tim Howard, Brad Guzan
Defense (8): Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, Eric Lichaj, Timothy Chandler, Jonathan Spector, Zak Whitbread, Clarence Goodson
Midfield (7): Sacha Kljestan, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, Josh Gatt, Alejandro Bedoya, Freddy Adu.
Forwards (3): Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood.