The Best USA Soccer Team Start

There's no question it's wildly premature to name a starting lineup for the US Men's National Team for the 2010 World Cup. Possibly insanely premature.
However, with that disclaimer out of the way, I'm going to unveil my starting 11, my ideal current lineup, my list of subs who should see ample playing time, and hopefully a compelling rationale for my picks.
Players were selected to this elite cadre based on current and past experience for the most part. Nonetheless, players who have shown incredible promise are not excluded. Ahem, cough, cough, hack, ALTIDORE, cough.
My impression of Mr. Bob "Slim" Bradley has been that he embraces offense to a slightly greater degree than Good Old Bruce "4-5-1" Arena, who was a veritable kryptonite to goal-scoring during his tenure with the National Team.
Bradley's peptalks to his strikers prior to games are probably less depressing than Arena's. I'm pretty sure Arena's talk to McBride before the US-Ghana game in 2006 went something like this:

4-5-1: "Ok, Brian, I'm going to send you up top COMPLETELY ALONE in a game we absolutely need to win. I'm going to isolate you completely and I fully expect that you will be covered by at least 2-3 Ghanian defenders at all times. We probably need two goals from you today. We're going to get this done by providing you with horrendous service into the box and pulling back our midfield to defend, even though a tie does ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD.
McBride: What?
Kryptonite: Also, we know you're a brilliant finisher and an excellent passer and are phenomenal in the air. Therefore, we're going ignore those skills and rely on great pace and dribbling skills for you to score any goals - you're just going to have to acquire those skills immediately to score the goals we absolutely need.
McBride: Can I just retire now?

Now for the lineup. In my estimation, there are approximately 75 players in the National Team players pool from which to choose. Winnowing it down to 40 players was depressingly easy. From 40 to 23 was harder. 23 to 11, very difficult.
Let's assume the formation is going to be a 4-4-2.
IN GOAL: Howard.
But, it doesn't matter. Seriously. The US has no fewer than 5 goalkeepers I'd be comfortable with - Howard, Hahnemann, Guzan, Reis, Cannon. Howard gets the edge based on experience and distribution. I think Guzan is a close second.
DEFENDERS: Bocanegra, Conrad, Gooch, Parkhurst.
I'm not crazy about this back four, but it may be the best option and I think it could be honed to excellence. I'm assuming that Gooch will, at some point, get it completely together and be there to snuff out every through ball and every attack before it starts. Or at least he might shrink down a little bit so that he won't get carded when players run into him. Parkhurst is interchangeable with several of my subs, but I give him the edge as he's an incredible talent and I haven't seen enough of Simek or Demerit to put them here. Bocanegra provides aggressive marking, generally good positioning, and can score off of set pieces. If he can avoid any mistakes and any stupid fouls, he will be very solid. Jimmy Conrad should be used to neutralize the opponent's best player by close marking.
MIDFIELDERS: Adu, Beasley, Donovan, Mapp.
Oh, I know I'm going to catch some flak for this one, even from my fellow cohort.
Sure, Mapp tends to vanish and can be lazy on defense, Adu is small, and Donovan is streaky, but these are problems that can be FIXED! I believe they can be corrected by 2010.
What I'm envisioning with these four is a speedy, creative midfield. Granted these four are certainly more suited towards offense than defense, but my dream is that the US wins games 4-2, as opposed to losing 1-0.
Donovan and Adu as dual attacking center middies could be a monster. Beasley should be a lock for the left midfield position, and Mapp on the right side has dribbling skill that's rare outside of Dempsey on the US's team.
I foresee Beasley streaking down the left side, crossing in to Donovan who attacks the defense and dishes it off to Mapp on the right side... who jukes out two defenders, gets into the box and drops it to the top of the 18 where Adu is waiting to blast it into the upper right corner.
FORWARDS: Altidore, Dempsey
"Altidore", you say? "But he's only played in two international games! Yeah? So? You want Josh Wolff on the field instead?
Altidore's good qualities are far too numerous to not field him, starting as soon as possible. He's got good pace, good skills on the ball, good finishing, he's good in the air, and he holds the ball up nicely. What else do you want? Put him on the field. Keep him on the field.
Dempsey has been fantastic as of late and his time in Fulham (providing they don't get relegated) will only increase his already considerable skills.
The US has been lacking majorly in the striker department as of late. I think Twellman and Eddie Johnson have blown too many chances at this point.
Twellman just doesn't seem to be able to get it done. Eddie Johnson can score against Panama, but he can't do anything against a good team. I hope he gets rejuvenated at Fulham, but I'm not holding my breath.
I don't think Ching should be given the boot, although he hasn't been as impressive as I'd hoped. I think Ching could work well with Landon and Dempsey feeding him passes.
SUBS: To be used liberally.
GK: Guzan.
Does anyone ever need two goalkeeper subs? Doesn't that seem... wasteful?
Defenders: Simek, Pearce, Spector, Wynne
I expect Pearce, Wynne, and Simek to see the most action of this bunch. Simek has great potential and could provide the US with good runs out of the back.
Midfielders: Feilhaber, Ricardo Clark, Mastroeni (just in case we ever need an ill-timed red card), Szetela, Bradley (because you just know he's making the team, merited or not), Edu
I like this supporting cast a good bit. Clark and Feilhaber are more or less interchangeable - although Clark is better at kicking Carlos Ruiz. Mastroeni can either play really well or really poorly - I'm hoping for really well. Szetela has a bright future and Edu's future is even brighter.
Forwards: Ching, and... the shocker of the bunch - Nate Jaqua.
Frankly, I'm hoping other options will emerge by then, but as of today, I like either of these guys as a target man.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is this like a year-old post? I'm pretty sure everybody at this point wants Adu and Altidore to start playing now and be ready for 2010, you didn't need to argue for it so vigorously. I also can't even remember the last time Taylor Twellman was in the mix, and Eddie Johnson's not at Fulham at the moment, so that's why this feels like a 2007 era post to me.

I know you've been away for awhile so it'd be understandable, it's just not clarified in the post itself. Like the conversation between Arena and McBride, though. I was wondering wtf was going on in the strategy of that game, too.