USMNT Roster: Hey. Where's "Coop"?*

* When I said I couldn't deal with hashing this stuff out a couple hours back, though that was probably a function of not having a concrete roster available.

But the more immediate inspiration for this post came from reading the rant posted on An American's View by Brian Garrison, who vigorously took issue good-sized chunks of U.S. Coach Bob Bradley's roster. Being the low-temperature type, I'm not as amped as Brian; the fact that this is a friendly - yeah, a friendly against Mexico, but a friendly all the same - also takes the edge off a bit.

Still....there are decisions to answer for on the roster, which, as posted on the site, looks something like this:

Goalkeepers: Joe Cannon (Los Angeles Galaxy), Tim Howard (Everton FC)

Defenders: Chris Albright (Los Angeles Galaxy), Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Bobby Boswell (D.C. United), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Bryan Namoff (D.C. United), Eddie Robinson (Houston Dynamo)

Midfielders: Brian Carroll (D.C. United), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Bobby Convey (Reading FC), Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC), Joshua Gros (D.C. United), Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids)

Forwards: Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Eddie Johnson (Kansas Cit y Wizards), Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution)

By and large, I agree with Brian. There are, however, some minor points of departure; let's list these in order of significance:

The "Gooch Call" or lack thereof: I agree we'd probably be better with Gooch, but this is a friendly. He just joined his club last week, so let the man settle into his new digs. That's his job over there; we're the confection - at least till we're playing in competitive matches.

Mapp over Beasley: While I'm equally baffled at Beasley's absence, call this a chance to see how Mapp does as a two-way player. The argument for Mapp is the same as Cooper; let's see how he does in a competitive setting.

Mastroeni/Clark: I don't mind this central pairing. I also think/hope it's not what we'll see - more on that later.

Twellman's Feet: I think they're mediocre. I've seen TT give away too many layoffs while playing as a target forward. Don't get me wrong - I love the guy as a player and can see him charging like a thick-bottomed top - but he's best as a "poor man's Robbie Fowler, e.g. a pure poacher. He can score with his feet just fine, but passing? Not so much.

I think that's it...well, almost. Brian did something I kind of liked when assessing the roster: he took a stab at what he thinks Bradley will do. I see value in that exercise - it's playing with "the team you have" in a sense; call it the "Rumsfeld Option" - even if I hope he's wrong about the line-up. More to the point, my Evan Williams pickled brain can't handle that level of thought today. Here's the team I think Bradley will field, which, curiously, matches the team I'd field out of these players (now this is probably pointless, but we'll compare notes after Wednesday):

Goal: Tim Howard 1st half; Joe Cannon 2nd half

-- Albright -- Boswell -- Conrad -- Bocanegra --

-- Dempsey ------ Mastroeni ------- Mapp ---

-------------- Donovan -------------------

----- Johnson(1) ----------- Twellman/Rolfe* ----

* I split this one because I think Rolfe will get the nod if Twellman's even feeling moderately off.

I think Bradley's going to start the game conservatively, in defense especially, which is why I'm seeing Bocanegra; Boswell is the big question mark to me. In fact, while I'm at it, here are the player calls I'm not seeing: Eddie Robinson (too thuggish*), Bryan Namoff, Brian Carroll (not high on either player), Joshua Gros (except perhaps at right back...gawd, I don't mean for a DCU bias to come through, but, Lord, it's hard to avoid the impression, isn't it? Let's put Franchino in there....kidding! I'm kidding!), Rolfe (I'm not sold on this guy yet), and, with a big, cross-country "you-are-so-totally-correct-Bob-Bradley-owes-you-an-apology," Eddie Johnson. Brian's thoughts on Eddie Johnson mirror mine; he needs a year of good club ball at a minimum before coming back into the fold.

Finally, here are places we (almost) agree:

Where's Coop? Seriously, unless his grandmother died or something* I don't see any reason to "rest" Cooper. Let's see what this (big) cat can do in a tough game. One last detail: it's undeniable Cooper played very well for Dallas in 2006 and he looked decent against Denmark - but that was only one game and not against the strongest opposition. He had an encouraging outing, but that's not enough to dub him our best option at forward. For the rest, though, hell yes, we should see how he handles the next step. Calling this "bullshit" is exactly right.

Mastroeni v. Clark: As noted below, play Clark. I don't think this will happen and agree Pablo's a risk; I can't, and won't, deny that. But it also only takes a trip back to the 2002 World Cup to suggest Pablo's not a bad starter; I remember him getting so deep under the Mexicans' skins that he had them ripping their hair out on the way to picking up cards. He's a good player for this scenario. But, like Brian, I'd rather see Clark...we need to see how he plays against a team like Mexico, not least because he's a better player - i.e. he's got a better game beyond destroying.

Holy Crap. I've written enough today.

Hat tip to Brian for getting the ball rolling. Have a good weekend, all y'all.

UPDATE (1): As I walked to the train, it occurred to me I've got a bit of a disconnect in this post. That I say Eddie Johnson shouldn't have been invited on one hand, while listing him as a starter on the other doesn't really add up. It's Twellman's status that allows it to do so - though I won't insult anyone's intelligence by claiming this occurred to me when I wrote the original. If Twellman were healthy, I would have gone with a Twellman/Rolfe front line; it's not quite "big/small," but it would be similar in practice. With Twellman recovering from a hernia situation, I would think the Revolution wouldn't be all that keen on him going a full 90. That's where Johnson starting makes sense. It's not that I think, or think that Bradley thinks, he'll light it up against the Tricolores. It's more a matter of, with the chosen roster, what other alternative is left? And don't answer Donovan....


The Iconic Midwesterner said...

How about Albright up front? He can not score just as easily as Johnson.

Plus he IS better in the air.

Brian said...

My spirited post is more of a shock reaction on a very slow day at work, where after 50 straight games of Spider Solitaire, I see that Bradley has called in not only a very uneven group, but has left off some players that I felt would have helped him in the job department.

I understand why Gooch didn't make the trip, hell, the guy probably is still house hunting in Newcastle.

The one main thing that bugs me the most about this match is this; yes it is a friendly, but it's against Mexico. When possible, the USMNT should always trot out our A Team against our neighbors to the south.

Another thing that surprised me was that Bob is trying to play things a little too safe, and if he does, that in itself might cost him a shot at the full time gig.

Take it easy, I look forward to reading your next stuff. We should compare notes Thursday morning after Mexico wins.