World Cup

Analyzing the US World Cup 30-Man Roster

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First of all--end of the line this time around for Charlie Davies, which is a shame, not just because it would have been a hell of a compelling comeback story, but the US is distressingly shallow at the striker/forward position.

You can see the entire 30 man roster here.  That initial roster needs to be cut down to 23 by June 1st, and that will be the team that goes to South Africa.  It is safe to assume that it will break down along the lines of 3 Goalkeepers, 7 or 8 defenders, 7 or 8 midfielders, and 5 strikers.

Let's put together a list, with guaranteed starters in bold, followed by likely starters, and then likely bench players.

I'm going to start with the strikers first, because I think that's the most difficult position to sort out an obvious starting group, much less the ones that make the team as bench players.  I'm also going to kind of cheat a bit right off the bat, because while Clint Dempsey is listed as a midfielder, he may be one of our best striking options, and has shown himself throughout the qualifying to be a potential liability in the midfield.

Strikers (5, starting 2):  Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey   Bench:  Brian Ching.

I think the last two spots, if that's how it shakes out, are wide open.  The players coming are a mix of once young, exciting players who have cooled (Edson Buddle and Eddie Johnson) a journeyman getting his first real chance (Herculez Gomez) and a young dude with something to prove (Robbie Findlay).

It is tempting to remember the player Eddie Johnson had been in the not-so-distant past, but recent history is troubling.   He hasn't scored for the US since 2008, during an 8-0 drubbing of Barbados.  One goal in 2010 Qualifying versus 7 goals in 2006 Qualifying--it's a difficult thing to overlook. He hasn't fared well professionally either, particularly since leaving the MLS.   Really the only thing that recommends Johnson over the others is a question of experience--he has 33 more caps than Buddle, Gomez and Findlay combined, and has outscored them 12-0.  But the USA has an experienced striker in Ching.  They may look for something else with these spots.  My money is on Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez, neither of whom are notably young, but have shown the best form of their careers this past season, and both are still in their late 20's.

Midfielders (7, starting 4)  Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber  Bench:  Maurice Edu, Robbie Rogers

The midfield is more easily sorted as a whole, but more troubled in terms of starters, and defined roles.  In fact, it contains within it some of the most troubling questions the US has going forward.  Which is surprising, considering how well I like the guys I've put in bold up top--Donovan is without question the finest overall player America has ever produced.  Bradley has a toughness, and a reputation for finishing that hasn't been shown much in international play, but should come along.  Stuart Holden was one of the most exciting revelations of the qualifying season, and one of the reasons that the US should push Dempsey up top.

The question lies with where to put these guys, and how to balance them.  The most common set-up we've seen is Donovan on the left, Holden on the right, with Bradley and Clark patrolling the middle.  This is a disaster waiting to happen, as Clark hasn't shown enough discipline on the field to keep himself from getting ejected, or giving up fouls in very dangerous spots.  Nor has he shown much in way of poise on the ball.

I'd like to Feilhaber in the middle, but I know he hasn't been getting much playing time, so he'll need to show in camp.  Barring that, I'd rather have Donovan in the middle with Robbie Rogers and Holden on the wings.  Rogers has been more of a second half substitute, so again, that'll have to get sorted in camp.  That leaves DeMarcus Beasley, Sacha Kljestan, Aljandro Bedoya, and Jose Torres on the outside.

Defenders (8, starting 4)  Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Jonathan Spector, Jonathan Bornstein, Steve Cherundolo/Heath Pearce, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall

The most solid corp of starters that we have anywhere on the field.  A couple of years ago, I'd be worried about Bocanegra out on the wing, but he's been playing out there for Rennes, and he's done well enough, and gives the US a tough, big back line, with some weapons to come forward on free kicks.  If Gooch can return and form, and Spector can continue his smart attacking runs, overlapping with Holden (who he worked with extremely well late in qualifying) than the defense, which desperately needs to be a strength will be. Bornstein may be called to play left back if match-ups demand it, but generally the bench players should stay there, barring late game blowouts or injuries.

Goalkeepers:  Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann.

As solid as a trio as one could hope for--but let's face it--this is going to be Howard's Cup--this team will get as far as his exceptional ability allows them to.
[[This article originally appeared on I Dislike Your Favorite Team]]