Category Archives: USMNT

Stay in School, Juan

Rumors are coming out that big European clubs, like Athletico Madrid, are continuing to scout Juan Agudelo. This is nothing new; the American phenom that European clubs come over to scout. But this script plays it in a couple of different ways. As much as I dread United facing him, I think that Juan Agudelo needs to stay in MLS for at least this season and the next, for the sake of his development. Everyone knows that MLS is not yet on the same level as the top leagues in Europe; but MLS is good enough to develop quality players, both for those leagues and for the national team.

Clint Dempsey, for example, amassed 74 appearances in MLS, playing in almost every game over the course of 3 full seasons, before transferring to Fulham in 2007. Stuart Holden made 105 appearances in MLS, playing almost every match for 3.5 seasons before transferring to Bolton. The case against moving early could be Jozy Altidore. Altidore made 37 total appearances in MLS, starting for one full season, before transferring to Villareal in the middle of the 2008 season. Jozy has never had consistent starting minutes in any of his European adventures so far, save his season with Hull City.

Gale Agbossoumonde, a U-20 centerback, is an example of another risk faced by young players. He signed a 3.5 year contract with Traffic Sports and has found difficulty finding a club and consistent playing time. He rejected what he thought was a lowball offer from MLS’s Generation Adidas and thought that this would be a better move. Traffic seems like a pretty shady company that is not working in the best interest of its players; there is a great Soccernet article about them and Boss which explores their shadiness.

But just counting caps is not an indication of whether someone is ready or not. Freddy Adu played in 98 MLS matches before transferring to Benefica and we all know how that has worked out so far. Michael Bradley transferred to Heenrenveen after one season with the MetroStars, but has played well both there and at ‘Gladbach and has become a stalwart for the national team. And you cannot blame players for wanting to transfer; most American soccer players grow up idolizing teams like Manchester United, Real Madrid, and AC Milan, and if an opportunity presents itself to move closer to one of those teams, many people would take it. There is also the fact that players sometimes want to transfer for reasons that make sense off the field. Money can play a large role in these deals, making some players jump into a situation for which he is not ready.

I, obviously, do not know Juan Agudelo, or any MLS player for that matter. Juan Agudelo could be ready to go overseas and light it up, because he is a different player than Freddy Adu, or Jozy Altidore, or Clint Dempsey. But what I do know is that MLS gives young, talented players a unique opportunity to develop their game on the field; players like Juan Agudelo and Andy Najar can learn and develop while getting starting minutes. If players start to recognize this fact, not only will they do themselves a favor, but they can also help raise the quality and reputation of the league as a whole.

Oh hey, there’s another game on tomorrow night…

Not only is there a DC United game on tomorrow afternoon, there is a US Men’s National Team match as well. It is the first time we are going to see the first team players and, since the Egypt friendly was canceled, it is yet to be seen how much Bob Bradley is going to experiment and how much he is going to get his team ready for the Gold Cup.

The defense for the game is a little up in the air. Everyone knows that Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra will be starting; it remains to be seen what Bradley will do with the other two positions. He could go chalk and start Jay DeMerit, who had a very good World Cup and is settling into his position as the captain of the Vancouver Whitecaps. Or he could see what he has in Tim Ream, considered by many to be the top young central defender in the pipeline currently. Everyone seems to think/hope that Bradley will go with Ream in this match, to see how he handles the firepower of Argentina, and I hope so too. Jay DeMerit is still an international-starting quality player, but we need to know soon after the Gold Cup who his replacement will eventually be (although that could be said about every position on the back line except Gooch’s).

The other choice to make is who takes Steve Cherudolo’s place at right back. The choices here are Eric Lichaj, Timothy Chandler, and Jonathan Spector. Lichaj currently plies his trade with Leeds United, on loan from Gerrard Houllier’s doghouse; Timothy Chandler plays for FC Nuremburg in the 2. Bundesliga; and Spector currently plays central midfield for West Ham United. I think that Lichaj will get the starting nod, since he is currently playing at that position in the Championship, but I would not be surprised to see Spector get the start either. Timothy Chandler will not make the field in this game.

The midfield is pretty set, especially with the unfortunate injury to Stu Holden. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will be out on the wings, and Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones will be in the middle. I keep hearing all of these complaints about Bob Bradley’s nepotism with regards to Michael Bradley; but he has been a starter at his club for, basically, his entire international career. It’s not like Bob has thrown him in there for no reason. So until he does, I give Bob the benefit of the doubt.

Strikers? Well, who knows. Jozy Altidore is basically a lock to start and I guess you play Edson Buddle off of him, with Juan Agudelo coming in for the second half. If Stu Holden weren’t injured, you could see more of a 4-2-3-1, with Altidore as the lone striker. Will Charlie Davies be ready for the Gold Cup? I doubt it, but I am sure Bradley would appreciate it if he was.

Anyways, enough bloviating. Against Argentina, I think we are going to see the patented Bob Bradley empty bucket, especially with Stu Holden out. So, that means:

Howard
Lichaj Ream Onyewu Bocanegra
Donovan Edu Jones Dempsey
Altidore Buddle

Predictions? Argentina is Argentina, but they are bringing a team that is light on caps for the most part and the United States will not be scared. I am going to go with a 2-2 draw, with Messi scoring a brace but Dempsey and Altidore leveling. I expect to see a slightly more experimental roster for the Paraguay game, but we will talk about that Sunday or Monday.

UPDATE: Apparently it will be a three man midfield of Jones, Bradley, and Edu, with Edu in the more advanced role. Ergo, I see the 4-2-3-1 of:

Howard
Lichaj Ream Oneywu Bocanegra
Bradley Jones
Donovan Edu Dempsey
Altidore

State of the Roster (Charlies Davies Edition)

Ben Olsen’s coy comments about American strikers have come true, as D.C. United has used their position on top of the allocation order to, pending an extended physical, sign Charlie Davies to a year long loan. On the surface, this is a great move for D.C. United, as it takes a player that has almost universal support in the US soccer community and puts him on a team that sorely needs that kind of goodwill. And if Charlie can get anywhere near his previous form, it should provide United with the goal scoring punch it so badly missed last season.

MLS rules require an option to purchase in any loan deal, but I would guess that Sochaux would make that so high as to make it just a token offer. I have heard that some people are surprised that its a year long loan; it makes sense for Sochaux too, allowing them to sign their own loan player for the first half of next season and get Charlie back as he (hopefully) is back to the level he was before the accident.

But what does this mean for D.C. United’s roster? Assuming Davies is healthy, I would imagine he would be a lock for a starting striker spot (if he’s not, then we’re in the same place we were last week). I think his strike partner, as of right now, could very well be Josh Wolff. Wolff’s game has evolved into more of a second striker, who puts himself in good positions to link up with the other striker and to bang home loose balls in the box, without having the pressure of being the primary goalscorer. This is the role that Chris Pontius needs to grow into if he wants a place on this team and I think Wolff can be the mentor to get him there. They are similar players and Wolff was brought in to be a stopgap and a teacher, not a long term solution. Pontius may pass Wolff for this position during training camp, during the middle of the season, or for the beginning of next season, but this his position; now he just needs to prove he can fill it.

With that said, what would the roster look like?

Hamid
Brasesco James Jakovic Zayner
Najar McCarty Boskovic Quaranta
Wolff/Pontius Davies

Amid all of this, the odd man out is still Clyde Simms. D.C. United is going to play a more attacking brand of soccer this coming season and, even though I theorized about it in my previous post, I don’t see United playing with two holding midfielders. Also, by drafting Perry Kitchen, Simms’ days on the team are already numbered. Simms has been a warrior for the club and, if he is not a part of the plan going forward, I would like to see United trade him to a place where he can play, as a thank you for his years of hard work.

Flurry of news roundup

Well, well, well.  Twitter has been busy today, with lots of moves (and non-moves) announced.

  • Andy Najar signs a multi-year deal: Obviously great news for the club, keeping Najar around for at least a couple of years.  However, I have a nagging feeling that once this contract is up, he will move overseas somewhere.
  • Pat Onstad joins DC United as goalkeeping coach: Another move that I like.  I don’t know it if was Mark Simpson’s fault, but a change was needed at the goalkeeping coach position after Troy Perkins’ miserable year.  I can’t think of anyone better to mentor Bill Hamid than one of the best goalies in MLS history.  Also, more evidence of Olsen putting his stamp on the team.
  • No loan for Donovan this winter: He deserves a break.  And after the Algeria goal, I don’t really care what he does (not that he listens to me).  He wants to go to USL-Pro, sure; he wants to become the next Global Icon by playing in China, go right ahead; he wants to make more water fountain ads, do it.

The Last Match of the 2010 Cycle

I’m excited for the USA-Brazil friendly tomorrow! Now, I know that this might make me a bit of an outcast, but I’ll tell you why.  I see this match as the last in the 2010 World Cup cycle.  I disagree with those who say that this match is purely a money-grab, although I’m sure US Soccer is loving the ticket sales.  This match is a send off, a thank you, an epilogue, to the whole cycle that led up to the 2010 World Cup.  How fitting that this game is against Brazil, the team that the USA faced in the Confederations Cup final last year and the game that brought the impending World Cup into the minds of the general public.

This roster only contains one player, Omar Gonzalez, who was not in the 30-man roster for this past World Cup, and only a few players, like Alejandro Bedoya and Sacha Kljestan, who were not on the 23-man roster.  But this is a final time for the fans in the United States to go to a game and say goodbye to the players who won’t feature in the next World Cup, or who perhaps won’t ever make a National Team roster ever again.  Even the controversial and maligned Robbie Findley should be in the roster, giving Real Salt Lake fans one more, perhaps final, time to see him wearing a National Team jersey.

This could/should be the last match for the National Team before Bob Bradley’s future is decided.  He’s been linked to clubs out there, such as Fulham and, as of today, Aston Villa.  He would also be welcomed by almost every fan of DC United, should he want to come back to MLS.  With the new coach in place, or Bradley’s future secured, the October friendlies should be the first matches in the 2014 cycle.  That’s the time that the team should start bringing in players like Charlies Davies, Jermaine Jones (if he’s healthy), Brek Shea, Jack McInerney, Chris Pontius, people from the U-23 and U-20 teams, and all sorts of other possibilities.  But let’s have one last hurrah for the men of the 2010 cycle, and give these guys one last thank you.

A Case for Buddle

Before I start, I just want to say that I have no association whatsoever to the LA Galaxy or Edson Buddle.  I have no money riding on Edson Buddle being on the National Team.  And really, I want Davies and Ching to get back healthy because I believe that they give us the best chance to win.  However, this is an interesting thought experiment.

With all the injuries that have hit the US Men’s National Team, the position that has had the most problems finding replacements has been striker.  After Jozy Altidore, there are no guaranteed strikers that will make the team.  Much ink has been spilled about Charlie Davies and Brian Ching is now injured.  Clint Dempsey can play striker, but his natural position is out on the wing.

With all of these injuries, three primary names have come up recently as other options for striker.  Conor Casey has been put forth as a replacement for Ching in the role as target forward.  Hercules Gomez, playing for Puebla in the Mexican Primera Division, and has scored 8 goals in 13 games there.  The final name being floated is Edson Buddle, currently playing for the LA Galaxy in MLS and who has scored all 5 goals for the Galaxy so far this season.

None of these players are regulars on the team: Casey has the most experience, with 19 caps, and the most goals, with 2 (both scored during the World Cup qualifier against Honduras in October).  Hercules Gomez has appeared in two matches for the National Team, both of them in 2007, and has scored no goals.  Edson Buddle has one cap for the National Team, which occurred in 2003.

My main reason for the inclusion of Buddle, besides his current form, is the fact that he already plays with one of the key members of the US Men’s National Team: Landon Donovan. Two of Buddle’s five goals have been assisted by Donovan.  The first goal came off of a free kick from the foot of Donovan, in the game versus the Revolution, which Buddle then headed home.  Their second hookup was in the Chivas game, where Donovan beat his man and served a ball into the middle.  Buddle put away the easy goal.  This isn’t surprising: Donovan is the main creative force on that team.  But the problem with bringing in someone so late is that they have almost no experience playing with the other members of the National Team.  This preexisting bond between Donovan and Buddle proves intriguing.

Now all of this might not end up mattering.  The May camp my provide all of the time necessary for Gomez or Casey to pass Buddle or for Davies and Ching to get healthy and prove worthy of inclusion.  However, this preexisting bond between Donovan and Buddle may give him the slight bump necessary to get him on the team should Ching or Davies not be able to play.