BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, May 9, 2011
With the Gold Cup roster expected to be named in just a few weeks, it is becoming clearer what the US National Team will be like now that most European seasons are winding down and the MLS is fully underway.
So now is as good a time as ever to offer up a prediction as to who will make the team and who won't for the 23 coveted roster spots.
1) Tim Howard Just one word: obvious
2) Brad Guzan His loan to Hull City gave him some much needed playing time and preserved his number two status. There were some reports that his upcoming wedding was going to prevent him from playing in the tournament but he should be with the team this summer.
3) David Yelldell As a starting keeper getting valuable minutes in Europe, he has a good chance to be the number 3 keeper this cycle with a shot to maybe take the #2 spot
4) Oguchi Onyewu He struggled in his last few appearances but his presence and experience are needed. His ball distribution remains a weakness but he will continue to see important minutes for the USMNT.
5) Carlos Bocanegra Is the USMNT captain and can be the team's starter at either left back or central defender.
6) Steve Cherundolo Coming off a great season for Hannover and is aging like fine wine. At some point this cycle he may get replaced at right back but it won't be by this summer.
7) Clarence Goodson maybe the best US central defender right now and his move to Brondby has been one of the better moves recently for a USMNT player.
8) Timothy Chandler The newcomer of the year for the USMNT will be a welcome addition but it's unclear if he will be primarily used as a right back or right wing.
9) Tim Ream Will likely be consistently involved with the USMNT for the foreseeable future as the number of young central defenders in the player pool is thin. His play in MLS has been great and his passing out of the back gives the US team more options.
10) Eric Lichaj While the strong seasons of Cherundolo and Chandler in Germany make it tough for Lichaj to get time at right back, his emergence at left back for Leeds makes him an obvious pick. He may also see time on the right as backup to Cherundolo if Chandler moves to the midfield.
11) Jermaine Jones has done very well for Blackburn so far this season and he is likely to start in key games for BobBradley
12) Michael Bradley while his loan to Aston Villa has not worked out well, Michael is still important to the USMNT and his performances in the last two friendlies were solid.
13) Landon Donovan Obviously still a huge part of the team and his play in MLS has improved in recent weeks.
14) Clint Dempsey Is having yet another stellar season for Fulham but it is very interesting to see where Bob Bradley will continue to play him. It is very likely that Dempsey could move to forward thereby reducing the need for four pure forwards on the roster.
15) Maurice Edu While he struggled a little bit in the last two friendlies and his play for the Rangers in recent months has been uneven, Edu is still a very important piece of the puzzle for the USMNT even if he comes off the bench.
16) Benny Feilhaber It will be interesting to see how Feilhaber's move to MLS will help him in the coming months but the level of play is higher than the Danish second division. Feilhaber's career with the USMNT has been wildly inconsistent with extreme ups and downs. Still, he has sometimes brought a great spark when coming off the bench.
17) Alejandro Bedoya Has been off to a very strong start for Orebro and while he was considered a bubble player just a few weeks ago, he has probably done enough to force Bob Bradley's hand be included on the Gold Cup team
18) Sacha Kljestan After many years, Kljestan still remains a mystery to the USMNT. His performances for club and country have been uneven but his coaches still believe in him and he does see important minutes for Anderlecht.
19) Jonathan Spector A move to the midfield for West Ham has seen Spector get more playing time for West Ham but it's tough to standout at club struggling on so many levels. Spector's problem is that he has not put in a good performance for the USMNT since 2009 Confederations Cup but his versatility makes him an important backup option at many different positions.
20) Mix Diskerud Is on the very edge of the bubble but can probably make it as the last player on the team. He will be in midseason and should be at peak fitness in time for the Gold Cup. He can gain valuable experience in the group stages of the Gold Cup but probably won't see the field in the later stages.
21) Jozy Altidore He has not been producing as much for the USMNT has he should be and his play for Bursaspor has been uneven. In the last series of friendlies, he struggled when playing as a lone striker but a partnership with Juan Agudelo or Teal Bunbury is exciting.
22) Juan Agudelo He makes the team and is one of the brightest young American players around. All of his performances for the USMNT so far have been successful.
23) Teal Bunbury It's unfortunate that he missed the last two friendlies with an injury, but Bunbury's first two USMNT caps and his play in MLS make him a safe bet to make the team. His energetic partnership with Agudelo has been very fun to watch.
A few notes on the key omissions
Edson Buddle has never quite found his way for Ingolstadt but he still gets time with the club which has improved ever since his arrival.
Jay DeMerit looked soild at times in the last two friendlies but his presence on the USMNT does not make the team younger. One established central defender willl have to make way for a younger Ream and the best bet is DeMerit.
Charlie Davies is a popular choice to make the team but he is probably best staying with DC and continuing to play. He has done well in his comeback but with Dempsey's ability to move forward, the need to take a fourth striker is unnecessary and Altidore, Bunbury, and Agudelo are ahead of Davies at the moment. Even if Bradley were to take a fourth striker, Davies would be in a battle with Gomez, and Buddle.
Herculez Gomez continues to be one the streakiest players in the USMNT pool and taking him is simply a gamble because you never know if he is going to be hot or cold.
Jonathan Bornstein continues to get frequent callups to the USMNT despite erratic play for club and country. This speaks largely due to the lack of options that are at left back than it does for Bornstein's positive play. He still remains in contention as a backup left back but Eric Lichaj's recent play on the left for Leeds pushes Bornstein out.
Jose Francisco Torreshas played better in recent months for Pachuca but it's tough to see him cracking into the team at its deepest position.
Marcus Hahnemann Is still a good keeper, but at 38 years old, it's time to break in younger players.