September 6 at Cuba
September 10 vs. Trinidad and Tobago in Chicago
October 11 vs. Cuba in Washington DC
October 15 at Trinidad and Tobago
GK: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)
D: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Danny Califf (FC Midjtylland), Steven Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Marvell Wynne (FC Toronto)
M: DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Michael Bradley (Heerenveen), Ricardo Clark (Houston), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Eddie Lewis (Los Angeles)
F: Brian Ching (Houston), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Eddie Johnson (Cardiff City)
Bob Bradley is mostly sticking with the squad that gritted out a victory over Guatemala two weeks ago. Jay DeMerit and Pablo Mastroeni are gone with Ricardo Clark and uncapped Olympian Michael Orozco taking their places. Clark has looked shaky at times, but mostly solid for Houston, while Orozco was exposed by Robbie Rogers’ lack of zeal for defense in Beijing, mostly up to the challenge.
Howard looked great against Guatemala, and Guzan is a quality second option. The Aston Villa ‘keeper looked good in the Olympics.
Bocanegra and Onyewu are good enough for the backline, but I’m not sold on any of the other defensive options. Wynne combines great pace with poor crossing and a tendency to gamble too much. Orozco and Pearce can be solid or spotty, Hejduk and Cherundolo are on the decline. Hejduk has not been tested as much as you would expect in Columbus with teams attacking the revolving door of players on the left side instead. When he has been tested, he has a tendency to gamble on going to the ground instead of staying on his feet and staying in front of his man. Cherundolo has been up and down in National Team duty recently and Califf has impressed at Midjtylland.
The midfield remains the team’s greatest outfield strength. Beasley sparked the victory over Guatemala, Kljestan is at times an outstanding link player in the middle, at times invisible. Lewis and Bradley are solid, with Lewis providing valuable experience and a long-range scoring threat, and Edu is one of the nation’s top rising all-around talents (when he isn’t too fatigued from traveling around the world). It does, however, seem strange that Bradley would dislodge Edu from Rangers so soon after his arrival in Glasgow.
The front line is where things get worrisome. Donovan is good enough in one forward spot, but who is going to pair with him? Ching is a poor man’s Brian McBride and probably not good enough as a target man for serious international competition. Neither Johnson nor Dempsey are in form right now, as Johnson was so far down the list at Fulham that he got loaned to Cardiff City and Dempsey has been dropped from the Cottagers’ starting lineup and hasn’t seen time as a sub. Edson Buddle and Kenny Cooper are both in good form right now, and would benefit from International experience at an early stage in the qualifying game, but neither seems to be on Bradley’s radar.