BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Bob Bradley today announced his Gold Cup roster and while most of the obvious picks were made, the surprising omissions and inclusions will be talked about a lot in the days and weeks ahead.
The most obvious omission on the roster is that of FC Nurnberg's Timothy Chandler who, according to most reports, was initially invited by Bob Bradley to be on the team but was either dropped or withdrew after discussions with his club.
This decision has a lot of people concerned over Chandler's international future but it more closely resembles a conflict between Nurnberg and the US as opposed to the German national team and the US. The facts strongly suggest that the club is trying to protect a key player that it will rely on heavily next year. Nurnberg is generally a small club that overachieved this year but normally fights in the bottom half of the Bundesliga.
Chandler is one of the team's most promising young players and they want to assure that he is well rested heading into his first full season as a first team professional. A key fact in all this is that Nurnberg's preseason begins on June 26 and if Chandler played in the Gold Cup, he would have no break from the game during the offseason.
While clubs cannot refuse to release a player for the Gold Cup, the decision clearly fell on Chandler who likely went along with the wishes of his club.
As for a potential switch with to Germany, it remains most unlikely Chandler will all of a sudden leave the US setup. It is very rare for a player who is playing for one national team to switch to another national team without some sort of falling out of favor with the coach. By all accounts Bradley wanted Chandler and Chandler initially wanted to go.
Should US fans be worried about losing Chandler? Perhaps they should a little because during the last five months he was one of the top fullbacks in the Bundesliga. But the odds still greatly favor that he will play the US. Chandler has gone on record saying how much he liked playing for the US in March and that he did not like his experiences with Germany at the U15 level.
Germany has yet to show any interest in Chandler since the U-15 level and making the German national team is extremely difficult. It is unlikely he will want to leave the US national team where he can play in perhaps three World Cups and be a key player for the next ten years. For Germany, it is still a long shot he will make the team with only 15 Bundesliga appearances under his belt.
The inclusion of Freddy Adu is also very surprising pick as he has struggled for most of the past four years since making the move to Europe. However now he is on his fifth team during that span and he has begun to see some success with Rizespor of the Turkish second division.
The real issue is whether he will still be able to help the US team but, unfortunately, the low level of play of the Turkish second division does not offer any real glimpse as to whether or not he will be effective on the international front.
Adu clearly has a good friend in Bob Bradley because his performance in recent years does not make him deserving of this callup. The fact is that very few coaches in recent years who have seen Adu every day have felt he could help their team.
Adu is unlikely to start at the Gold Cup but he will likely be asked to be an offensive sub off the bench. Bradley has a lot at stake in Adu's callup. If Adu plays well, Bradley looks like a genius for believing in a player that has had a lot of hype but has produced few results. If Adu struggles, fans will wonder why Bradley felt the need to call in a player playing at a level far below the standards of the US national team.
The exclusion of Alejandro Bedoya is perhaps the most controversial decision because he has been playing very well this season for Orebro in Sweden. While Bedoya has struggled at times for the USMNT, it must be noted that under Bradley he has been playing wider in the midfield but for his club he has been playing centrally. It is for his club while playing in the middle of the field that has seen Bedoya become a consistent top performer in Sweden's top league.
When looking at the reasons for Bedoya's omission, it was likely the selection of Adu that probably kept Bedoya off the team. Both play similar positions for their clubs in attacking positions in the center of the field. Based on current form and consistency, the decision doesn't add up. Bedoya has four goals in nine games and he is regularly involved in Orebro's attack. He is playing for a better team in Orebro and in a better league in the Allsvenskan. This summer, Bedoya is likely to attract interest from teams in higher leagues while next year Adu will likely still be in the second division of Turkey.
The decision to go with Adu over Bedoya is a gamble by Bradley. He is hoping that Adu will be able to provide a spark late in the game but by not having Bedoya, he will lose out on the far more complete player.
The exclusion of Mix Diskerud was a decision that was likely after the young midfielder was selected to the roster for the March friendlies but did not get off the bench in either game. Diskerud is still only 20 years old and will be a important player for the Olympic team next year.
The exclusion of Teal Bunbury was also a surprise after he impressed in his first two caps the past year. His potential to be a good player is obvious but he has been struggling in the early goings of the MLS season. It is unclear though how much his ineffective play is the fault of Bunbury or how much it is because of a very weak supporting cast at Sporting Kansas City. It should be noted that after playing with Canada, Bunbury's change of affiliation with FIFA was completed in March and he is now permanently tied to the US team.
The decision to go with Wondolowski over Bunbury is justifiable. For most of Wondolowski's career, he was not worthy of a USMNT cap. The truth, however, is that he has been playing very well for over a year. It's also not that he has been scoring goals but rather it's that he's been scoring a wide variety of different types of goals. He should be able to dominate CONCACAF competition with the way he has played the past year.
Finally, the decision to go with Robbie Rogers was a surprise and one that will draw a lot of criticism. Rogers has been an interesting player during his past appearances with the USMNT. He has struggled quite a bit but every so often he plays well and reminds everyone there is a great deal talent in his game. In his last cap against the Czech Republic before the 2010 World Cup, he was very dangerous late in the game.
Rogers' inclusion makes sense in that there really aren't many natural wing players in the US player pool. Most of the time, Bradley is forced to play central midfielders out on the wing and away from their natural position. This is the case with how Stuart Holden and Alejandro Bedoya have been used. Rogers gives Bradley a pure winger on both the left and right sides.
All in all, it's a strong roster. The decision to bring in Adu at the expense of Bedoya was the most questionable but it is unlikely to have a significant impact on the team.
The absences of Chandler and the injured Stuart Holden deprive the American team of two of its best players in Europe this past season. Still, if the American team can compete well without a few of its best players, it will only speak volumes about the ability of the team in the future.