Dec 21, 2010

MLS and Youth Well Represented at USMNT January Camp

U.S. Soccer announced that US Men's National Team Coach Bob Bradley called in 24 players to the annual January Training camp. As expected, MLS players dominated, with only four foreign based players called in to camp. But youth is also well represented in this camp, with six players age-eligible for the 2012 Olympics (played by Under 23 players with three overage players allowed). As always there are some surprises, both in terms of inclusion and exclusion. But for me the biggest surprise is the size of the camp. Usually, Bradley has called in between 25 and 30 players, but this time around opted for a smaller group. Reports are that a couple of players declined to come due to nagging injuries that the player/their club/Bradley thought it better for them to sit this camp out, including San Jose's rookie defender Ike Opara and FC Dallas' steady centerback George John.

Here are the list and my reactions.

GOALKEEPERS (4): Dominic Cervi (Celtic), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Matt Pickens (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) 

Rimando is the old man of the squad at the ripe old age of 31.  I have to think that Rimando is getting tired of getting called into these camps and then not getting any playing time with the A squad.  In many ways, Rimando is as good as Guzan and getting way more playing time than Guzan.  The inclusion of Dominic Cervi while Celtic are still in season is a clear indication that his time in Glasgow is done and Cervi will move on to another club.  Hey, Dom, maybe it is time to look for a job in MLS for a couple of years.  Pickens is a bit of a surprise for me, but with the demise of Troy Perkins' form over the past year (although not all Perkins' fault), this is not a bad move.  Pickens had a great year for Colorado and has earned a call up.  The inclusion of Sean Johnson is exciting for me.  Here was a guy who some people thought wouldn't make it as an MLS keeper and he has clearly shown them wrong.  I would think that Johnson is on the right path.

I had hoped that Bradley would take a chance and bring U-20 keeper Zac McMath into this camp (probably in place of Rimando) just to see how the young man works in a more professional environment (although University of Maryland training sessions are pretty professional in nature).  But then again, McMath is just 19 now and hasn't played professionally.  Let's see what he can do with a club and Bradley still has time to call him in.

DEFENDERS (9): A.J. DeLaGarza (Los Angeles Galaxy), Sean Franklin (Los Angeles Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Ryan Miller (Halmstads BK), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Anthony Wallace (Colorado Rapids), Marvell Wynne (Colorado Rapids) 

Hey Bob, where's Todd Dunivant?  You called the rest of the L.A. Galaxy back line in, what do you have against Bruce Arena's go-to left back?  Seriously, why not call in Dunivant?  Yes, DeLaGarza, Gonzalez and Franklin were going to get called in since they missed the last call-up in South Africa for the playoffs.  Tim Ream was another given for this youthful squad.  In the quest for a left back, Anthony Wallace has shown some promise.  Marvell Wynne is being given another chance, this time a centerback perhaps?  Wynne's renaissance as Colorado's center back put another opportunity in his lap.  In addition to that jaw dropping speed, he is a physical guy with a lot of strength, but I am not sure he is international caliber.  

The surprises for me are Ihemelu, Loyd and Miller.  Loyd just doesn't impress me much.  Yes, he can get up the wing from right back, but his crossing needs work and he is very suspect in my mind defensively.  When I think of FC Dallas' back line, I think of George John, not Ihemelu.  The only other time I have seen Ihemelu in a U.S. jersey, I was unimpressed.  As for Miller, I just don't know enough about him, but that is what the January camp is for, to look at players who haven't been part of the set up before.

Everyone is probably going to ask, what about Heath Pearce, Bobby Convey, Clarence Goodson and maybe Chad Marshall?  The short answer is that all four are known quantities.  For Pearce and Convey--Bradley can call on either of them at a moment's notice and know exactly what he can get and if Bradley is looking forward three years, why spend the time?  Both will be considered in teh future, both had great years and no one should look at this as a snub.  Goodson just completed a move to a new club and needs to get acclimated there.  Goodson, for me, is a first choice centerback right now and Bradley didn't call any other regular first teamers anywhere else.  Marshall is another known quantity and right now, that quantity is, in my mind, not good enough.  I would rate Gonzalez, DeLaGarza and George John as better MLS centerbacks right now than Marshall.

As noted earlier, George John and Ike Opara were injured.  Aside for Dunivant, I would like to have seen Gale Agboussomonde called in again, but I am not sure of his club commitments (if he has one).

MIDFIELDERS (7): Eric Alexander (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes), Mikkel Diskerud (Stabaek), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Dax McCarty (D.C. United), Brek Shea (FC Dallas) 

The question going around is when was the last time a unused MLS Final sub was called into the January Camp.  I can't remember one, but that is what you get with Eric Alexander.  Here's a stat for you-23-year-old Alejandro Bedoya has the most caps on this roster--six (6).  I am really happy to see Jeff Larentowicz on this roster.  He was, in my mind, the Man of the Match in an otherwise dreadful MLS Cup final.  Larentowicz earned this call up.  It will be interesting if he can make an impact on the first team.  Dax McCarty has also played well and I can see working his way onto the first team.  It is good to see Sam Cronin on this list.  Cronin, who like Marvell Wynne, was a Toronto FC reject, found a good place and good club in San Jose where Frank Yallop really allowed him to develop.    Shea had a horrid game against South Africa and a not very good MLS Cup Final.  Maybe Bob Bradley can man manage away some of the nerves that seem to plague Shea in big games, because his club form is usually been pretty consistent this year.  Diskerud, is well, Diskerud.  He showed what he can do in South Africa as a sub, now it is time to see him as a starter--that has to be his goal.  

As for excluded players I would like to have seen, I have to start with Geoff Cameron.  Cameron came back from a tough injury to put some very good shifts in for Houston.  Cameron is versatile, comfortable pretty much anywhere is the center,  and maybe that versatility is what is hurting him now.  Would it have hurt to call Andy Najar in?  This is after all a training camp and there is no requirement that Najar even be named to the squad to face Chile.  But calling in Najar would have been a chance to expose him to the U.S. set up.  I know he is a couple of years away from his citizenship, but what would it have hurt.  I have never been impressed with Eddie Gaven, but Columbus' Robbie Rogers still has a case to make, so it is somewhat surprising that Rogers wasn't called in.  Yes, he is pretty well known to Bradley, but it is something of a surprise.

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

What is interesting to me with this foursome is that none of them are real good a holding the ball up with their back to goal.  Braun is the closest to that Bob Bradley standard but I would think that even Edson Buddle is better at holding the ball than Braun.  Agudelo and Bunbury are quick, exciting and full of potential.  They have just enough (good) arrogance to make them good strikers and have some skill to go with that arrogance.  Of course, everyone jumped on the Agudelo bandwagon after he scored in South Africa, but that is hardly what caught my eye.  Agudelo kept looking for the goal and when he wasn't looking for the goal, he was looking for guys in front of the goal.  Bunbry also impressed in his short stint in South Africa.  Now it is time to see what they can do for 90 minutes.  They need to be aiming for the start.

We all knew Wondolowski was going to get called in, but while Wondolowski maybe a good MLS striker, I just don't see him doing it on the international level.  The same goes for Braun, but the thing in Braun's favor is that he is 23 and Wondolowski is 27.  I just don't see a 27 year-old, uncapped, player who until this year had never scored more than 10 goals in a season breaking into the U.S. Squad.  This was a nod to Wondolowski's achievements in MLS, but that is a poor reason to call him in.  I can see Bradley hoping to coach Braun in to a holding striker, in the mold of Brian Ching.  Braun has that burliness and strength in the air with a bit more pace than Ching.  But Braun is not there yet, but perhaps three weeks with Bradley will get him moving in that direction.

Half the players on this squad do not have a cap at all.  As noted, of the twelve who have a cap, Bedoya has the most with six.  McCarty, Rimando and Wynne have four each.  That is not a lot of international experience, but as Bradley noted, he is looking at youth.  Well he has it and can these players step up and make an impact for future call-ups for the Gold Cup?

What do you think, who is your biggest surprise and your biggest snub?

No comments:

Post a Comment