World Cup

What Do Bradley's Picks Mean for U.S. Soccer?

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So ... the U.S. roster was released for this ultra-important, must-see friendlies in October with Colombia and Poland late Thursday afternoon.

Initial reaction?

Not much to see here, exit through the gift shop.

Last week I wrote a bigger thought-piece about the roster future/flexibility of the U.S. If you haven't already, that's worth reading since there's not a ton to dissect here. To put it frankly, in light of Grant Wahl's must-read explanation of how CONCACAF is killing the U.S./Mexico rivalry (*) the 20 players Bob Bradley selected aren't exactly going to usher in a new phase of unbridled enthusiasm for where the USMNT stands as the calendar creeps toward 2011.

(*) Chuck Blazer ... really? REALLY? This is the man pulling the strings as CONCACAF general secretary? Is it rule to work in an administrative role for FIFA you have to look and or act like a rejected Peter Sellers character from "Dr. Strangelove"?

Anyone with a U.S.-themed blog is probably going to devote the majority of their roster post to three names: Jermaine Jones (yay! arm tats!); Eric Lichaj and Brek Shea. To a lesser extent guys like Heath Pearce (have eft foot, will travel) and Michael Parkhurst being recalled will likely get some attention, too.

We've all waited so long on Jones, it's probably not even worth speculating any more since we might actually see him on the field. Granted, it might be a shock to the system on par with seeing Sasquatch, but all signs point to Jones putting on the U.S. shirt for the first time allowing us to get some actual information instead of seemingly 12+ months of speculation.

Then there's Eddie Johnson.

...

No doubt Johnson's recall was aided by the fact Charlie Davies still hasn't seem the team for the senior team at Sochaux, nearing the one-year anniversary of his horrific near-fatal car crash. At least he's got plenty of time to play "Call of Duty" so it's not a total washout. The fact MLS is still in season, keeping players like Edson Buddle and Justin Braun also played a role.

Guess that's how desperate the U.S. is to find anyone who might be able to put the ball into the back of the net. What is this now, Johnson's fifth-try to emerge as that hypothetical would-be world-class dominant American forward? Or is he realistically just filling out a roster spot since he is in fact getting minutes at Fulham if only due to the Cottagers injury crisis.

However you want to slice it, here we are, again stuck in that gray, limbo-like area for the USMNT.

Games that don't count and a roster that's stuck between stations.

It's not a total wash. The U.S. can show it can play without needing to run the offense through Landon Donovan, allowing either Michael Bradley or Stuart Holden to drive the offensive engine and to a much lesser extent Jones.

There's some reason for optimism, too, since the young-ish, athletic and somewhat skilled midfield do present plenty of options, so long as Bradley the Elder isn't locked into playing two hard-and-fast defensive midfielders. All seven players Bradley recalled: Bedoya, the Younger, Edu, Jones, Holden, Feilhaber and Shea all present possibilities, with the chance to create some interesting on-field combinations. (Would anyone have been excited for Sacha Kljestan again?)

If you want to stay positive keep remind yourself of those players, plus Clint Dempsey since the rest of the field is a definite work in progress. The U.S., with its defense beginning a major transition which still lacks consistent wide players plus the gaping holes up top, sets up like a reverse donut team. There's talent in the middle and not much around it.

Let's hope in his second act as U.S. coach Bradley the Elder cuts loose and feels free to tinker a little bit, yet why do I think Bradley letting loose is like Fred Willard's Air Force lieutenant in "This is Spinal Tap." Sticking out a standard U.S.-styled 4-4-2 with matches that don't matter? Not much to get excited about.

Hey, on the plus side these friendlies might usher in the return of the esoteric comedy duo of Ian Darke and John Harkes.

Silver linings.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Étienne), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Jermaine Jones (FC Schalke), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

FORWARDS (3): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Eddie Johnson (Fulham)