Some clarity emerges in the fight for World Cup roster spots

Posted on 25 February 2010 by Breton Bonnette

Typical play from the USMNT, whether it’s the ‘B’ roster and World Cup hopefuls or the European-based ‘A’ team. Bradley’s MLS-based crew dominated play against El Salvador yesterday in Tampa, only to trail by a goal after 60 minutes. Brian Ching equalized some time later off a pinpoint Heath Pearce cross and the Yanks continued their onslaught. Nothing came of it until Sacha Kljestan took advantage of a defensive misstep to one-two with Brian Ching and slot the winning goal home. It’s almost a formula these days. Play down to opponent, opponent scores, team gets angry and motivated, team takes better chances, team finally scores and last goal comes in semi-dramatic fashion. We’re not looking at why that is, however. Instead, we want to focus on who made a name for themselves and who hurt their chances to head to South Africa.

Sometime today or tomorrow, Bob Bradley should release the roster for the March 3 trip to the Netherlands. Several guys last night made a case – regardless of our feeling about the gameplay overall – to be included in that trip and more importantly, in a trip to South Africa in early June. Feel free to share comments about last night’s match vs. El Salvador in the comments section below. 

Staying Home

Sacha Kljestan
Despite his inability these days to finish when given the proper chance to, Kljestan did so when it counted. Only 2% of our readers see Kljestan as a possibility for making the roster and, despite his decent play vs. El Salvador, I agree with you. Kljestan offers something we already have heading to South Africa. He still doesn’t look like he did in 2008 which will make him one of the last guys not taken to South Africa. He might get a shot vs. Netherlands and this game was certainly an improvement over recent form but I think you’ll find Kljestan ends up the odd man out.

Conor Casey
He was borderline ineffective when it came to the offensive side of things but that didn’t force Casey to the sideline or kept him distanced from the game itself. The big man made himself known on the defensive side of things, hassling defenders, winning balls in the air, and that was the clincher for me. I can imagine a Conor Casey coming off the bench in last 10 minutes of the game and bagging a goal with sheer determination and strength (after a bunch of offside calls of course). You can’t say that about many of the guys on the “bubble”. Casey’s performance puts him above Kenny Cooper on the depth chart. I’m going to agree with Bob Bradley on this one, “I don’t think that in the early part of this year that we’ve seen the best of Conor, yet”. Do you?

Brian Ching
Let’s be honest, our forward pool is not much to look at in regards to depth and with Davies on the mend it’s almost a virtual lock that Ching will go. His play last night merits it but it’s tough seeing him as a real presence in South Africa. One thing you will always get from Ching is his best effort and that was enough last night. He’ll try and hold up the ball like a Brian McBride, he’ll try to act as a target man, he’ll try to get into position for the best go at goal. He doesn’t always succeed but he’ll certainly try his damnedest. We can’t forget that the guy had a hand in both goals, a perfect low-driven header to tie the game and great, intelligent one-two with Sacha Kljestan to take the lead late in the game.

Heath Pearce
Man of the match for me and a ticket to South Africa. His forays into the offensive half were generally effective and his defense was actually pretty damn good. The cross on Ching’s equalizer was a good one. His real enemy (see Robbie Rogers) is consistency. At least with a Jonathan Bornstein we get a little dose of mediocrity mixed in with a really nice game every once in a while. With Pearce, you get his world class caliber play vs. Argentina a while back one night and a shockingly embarrassing runout the next. He was arguably the best guy on the pitch last night and he, at the least, earned himself a shoutout in the discussion for World Cup-bound left-back candidates.

Making it tough on Bob

Clarence Goodson
The former FC Dallas defender has worked his way into the depth chart and his performance yesterday only solidified his ‘B’ team status. He could find his way into the World Cup squad if Bradley values depth over the ability for a sub to have a game-changing quality about him. He was crisp in tackling (save for one bad tackle), well-positioned most of the time but nothing awe-inspiring. Regardless, a fourth centreback in probably necessary in South Africa and Goodson has certainly made a case for himself to go.  

Robbie Rogers
We all know Rogers has the capability to change a game at times but his inconsistency and general stupidity every once in a while really kills his luster. Bradley definitely likes him though and if he makes the squad, I won’t be too angry. He played serviceably on both wings and, when playing with his head in straight, he’s deceptive and skillful. It’s too hard for me to picture him torching the Brazilian wing midfielders and fullbacks in 2007 U-20 World Cup along with Sal Zizzo during that 2-0 win. I want to see that again but yesterday’s match was a testament to his failure to execute at a consistent rate. He’s got the chops but the inability to do it day-in, day-out.

Jonathan Bornstein
Bornstein will make the squad most likely. His pace in the back is a bit too hard to ignore even with Heath Pearce’s game yesterday. Pearce is definitely making it a tough decision for Bradley. Pearce will have a harder time moving forward against the likes of England or a Slovenia over El Salvador and the bodes well for Bornstein. He was serviceable last night and though I’d like to see Pearce heading to South Africa, there’s a good chance it’ll just be Bornstein.  

Robbie Findley
The Robbie’s weren’t my favorite last night. So if you have Altidore, Ching, Casey, Davies and the ability to put Dempsey up front, do you take a Robbie Findley? The answer most likely is – with Davies sure to only be at 75% at most – a resounding yes. You take him for one reason…pace. His pace is only matched by Davies and to put Findley in late in a game vs. any one of our World Cup opponents it has the potential to cause problems for a even the most fit backline. His inconsistent work ethic is what irks me but I think a trip to South Africa and only key sub appearances (if any at all) could change all that. For what it’s worth, I’d take Eddie Johnson over Findley.

Overall, one thing is for sure. Most of these guys will not be seeing ‘A’ team time any time soon but their inclusion in a  big and hopefully telling match-up vs. Netherlands on March 3rd will act as their last-ditch effort to grab the eye of Bob Bradley. 

*In other news, the US U-17s beat up on their Mexican counterparts, 4-1, before last night’s USMNT/El Salvador match-up. Anytime we beat Mexico, it deserves a mention. Mississippi native Kellen Gulley led the way with a brace.

Match Facts

U.S. vs. El Salvador friendly Feb. 24, 2010
Venue: Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla.
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Attendance: 21,737
Weather: 56 degrees, rain

Scoring Summary:
SLV – Rudis Corrales 59th minute
USA – Brian Ching (Heath Pearce) 75
USA – Sacha Kljestan (Brian Ching) 90+2

USA: 1-Nick Rimando; 21-Brad Evans, 13-Jonathan Bornstein, 15-Clarence Goodson, 6-Heath Pearce; 14-Robbie Rogers (5-Geoff Cameron, 86), 16-Sacha Kljestan, 7-Kyle Beckerman (17-Dax McCarty, 79), 8-Brad Davis (3-Eddie Gaven, 46); 9-Conor Casey (11-Brian Ching, 46), 10-Robbie Findley (19-Jeff Cunningham, 68)
Subs not used: 1-Troy Perkins, 4-Chad Marshall
Head Coach: Bob Bradley

SLV: 1-Miguel Montes; 2-Alexander Escobar, 3-Marvin González, 5-Ramón Flores (20-Odir Flores, ), 12-Manuel Salazar, 13-Deris Umanzor; 7-Ramón Sánchez (capt.), 8-Osael Romero (14-Dennis Alas, 71), 17-Juan Carlos Moscoso; 9-Rudis Corrales, 16-Arturo Álvarez
Subs not used: 4-Mardo Henríquez, 11-Andrés Flores, 15-Alfredo Pacheco, 6-Shawn Martin, 18-Dagoberto Portillo, 19-Edgar Álvarez
Head Coach: José Luis Rugamas

Stats Summary:
Shots: 18 / 3
Shots on Goal: 11 / 2
Saves: 1 / 7
Corner Kicks: 9 / 1
Fouls: 14 / 10
Offside: 4 / 2

Misconduct Summary:

USA – Heath Pearce (caution) 85th minute


Referee: Silviu Petrescu (CAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Philippe Briere (CAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Daniel Belleau (CAN)
Fourth Official: Edvin Jurisevic (USA)

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