The Cup Running Over

May 27, 2010 5:43 PM

The US Roster Isn't A Surprise For A Third-Tier Soccer Power

There are actually few surprises on the US squad despite the headlines indicating otherwise. Some may be taken aback at some of the omissions  but they really shouldn't be: Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo) was left off, but he has never really gelled with the team (he came in 2006 and didn't play a single minute of football). Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA) was also left off after featuring often in the Cup's run-up but his wild tackling that caused him to see red at the 2009 Confederations Cup can't have helped his chances. Eddie Johnson hasn't appeared for Fulham for years, and his loan spell this season at Aris Thessaloniki was less than impressive.

What the decision to pick two relative unknowns for forward to replace the injured Charlie Davies (Sochaux) shows is how weak the squad really is. In an ideal world, one of the current midfielders might move up, but Americans, like their rivals, the Brits, are not tactically savvy and can't play well out of their club position. So, despite all the press highlighting how the selection of Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez shows how hard work can lead to success (a typical Frank Merriwell-like American theme), the truth is that in soccer, as in most other sports, great players just don't emerge in their late 20's. If these guys were any good, they would have made the team four and even eight years ago.

Buddle2.JPGEdson Buddle was apparently named after Pele but the resemblance ends there.

Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake) is known basically only for his pace (which Jozy Altidore (Hull City) probably already has); Buddle (who is apparently named after Pele which is where the resemblance begins and ends) was unheard of until he went on a brief scoring spree for LA Galaxy, and is likely only on the squad because he apparently complements teammate Landon Donovan well up front --evidence again that too much of the US game revolves around Donovan.  Gomez did tie for the Mexican league lead in scoring, but one would think that out of the four strikers Bradley brought, more than one would have extensive qualification experience. Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids) would probably have been a safer, if mediocre, option.

And there are no surprises for the defense, which is the real weakness on this squad. Bottom line: This is not a strong team and coach Bob Bradley - who had six months to come up with a plan to replace Davies - didn't do the job or, better yet, with the players available couldn't.

Steven and Harrison Stark are the co-authors of World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics, recently published by Blue River Press. They are analyzing the World Cup for Real Clear Sports.

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