Surprise, Surprise. Mr. Bland, Bob Bradley, had a few tricks up his sleeve when he announced the U.S men’s national roster for next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. From an erstwhile child prodigy to some MLS fringe players, here’s a look at Bradley’s Surprises and Snubs.
Freddy Adu - All it took was a solid half season in the Turkish second division for Adu to work his way back into the national team. We certainly didn’t write the 21-year-old off as a has-been, but it seems like Bradley was a bit quick on the trigger to bring him back into the team so soon. Adu brings a unique skill set, but surely the bar for national recognition should be higher than a few good games in Bank Asya 1. Lig. Bradley did rate Adu high enough to include him in the 2009 Confederations Cup roster, so perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise that as soon as Adu started playing regularly again, Bradley brought him back.
Robbie Rogers - Left-footed wingers are hard to find, so its easy to understand the appeal of the Columbus Crew midfielder. If Bradley needs a left-sided wing option, TDK would prefer San Jose’s Bobby Convey — international experience, sweet left foot, and he can even play left back if needed.
Then again, we likely won’t see Convey in a USA shirt during BB’s tenure.
Convey told The Shin Guardian last fall, “I knew after the last World Cup that I wouldn’t be called in anymore … I just knew. Soccer’s a small world in this country. I talked to people. People I trusted and I knew right away I wasn’t going to go in anymore and it was extremely disappointing.”
Bradley clearly has his favorites and for some mysterious reason Convey is not one of them.
Chris Wondolowski – Wondo, Wondo, Wondo. No player has earned a spot more than Wondo. His form in MLS has been top class, but he showed little in his one national team appearance in January to prove he can perform on the international stage. He’ll get another chance to prove himself this summer. Still, late in a game, who would you rather bring off the bench to try and make something happen? Wondo? Or, Edson Buddle, Teal Bunbury, or Herculez Gomez?
Bob Bradley chose 14 national-team regulars from his 2010 World Cup roster.
Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Steve Cherundolo, Marcus Hahnemann, Carlos Bocanegra, Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Spector, Oguchi Onyewu, Benny Feilhaber, Clarence Goodson, Maurice Edu, Jonathan Bornstein
No big surprises here, although, despite his experience, there’s a big question mark over Oguchi Onyewu’s head for TDK. Gooch looked painfully un-fleet of foot against Argentina and has been fighting off niggling injuries with his Dutch club side FC Twente. Goodson and Ream could push Gooch out of the starting line-up, if he doesn’t show well in the early games.
Bradley only selected three forwards, so expect to see Dempsey pairing up top with Altidore to start things off against Canada on June 7th. Dempsey has done well for Fulham in a withdrawn striker role, but pushing him up front could leave the US thin on the outside midfield. The Nats still have a glut of central midfielders, but without Stuart Holden as a wide option, the cupboard is sparse after Landon Donovan. Will we see Rogers or Jermaine Jones starting out wide? Or could Bradley have another trick up his sweats and pair Altidore with Juan Agudelo?
Jonathan Bornstein has played sparingly with his Mexican club Tigres, but it’s hardly surprising that Bradley went with his favorite left-footed Mexi-Jew. Expect to see Jonny B more than you’d like this summer.
These guys haven’t played a major role for the USMNT in a major tournament but they could shake things up and force themselves into a significant role in key games during the Gold Cup.
Sacha Kljestan – Another Bradley favorite. Moving Dempsey to forward could mean more playing time for Kljestan. He should get a chance to prove he belongs at this level again after being left out of last summer’s World Cup squad.
Jermaine Jones - We finally get to see “Germany” in a major competition with the U.S. His precision passing has been impressive in his four appearances. Bradley unsuccessfully tried to play Jones with M. Bradley and M. Edu in central midfield against Argentina in March, but we could see that line-up again. It’s really too difficult to accurately evaluate a lineup against Messi & Co.
Tim Ream - Will this be another break-out summer for the 23-year-old lefty? Bradley might be reluctant to use the rookie +1 in a big spot, but we could see him crack the starting team against Panama and Guadeloupe. Gooch, Goodson, and Bocanegra better watch out though, if they slip up, Ream will be following closely in their rearview.
Eric Lichaj – Another young back that will be waiting in the wings to fill in, if needed. Without Timothy Chandler in camp, Lichaj will be the second-choice right back.
Juan Agudelo – The expectations are now sky high for America’s next top striker. With only two true strikers (plus Dempsey and Wondo) in the mix, Agudelo appears poised for a major role off the bench, at the very least. If he finds the net again off the bench, the calls for him to start will grow louder. If he doesn’t get on the scoresheet this summer, the hype machine will lose some momentum. Some would argue that might be a good thing for his long-term development. Good perhaps, but not much fun.
Teal Bunbury – His poor form with Sporting KC led to Bunbury’s exclusion, according to Bradley. The 21-year-old provided a major spark off the bench against South Africa and Chile in recently friendlies, so it’s surprising to see him left out. Would Bradley really rather have Adu coming off the bench late to help boost his team late in a match? And, honestly, who doesn’t want to have more “Boon Boo Ree?” Disappointing.
Alejandro Bedoya – His solid form with Swedish side Örebro made him seem like a shoo-in, but perhaps his poor performance in the January friendly against Chile did him in. Let’s hope one of his teammates will do “the Bernie” as a goal celebration as a tribute.
Timothy Chandler – The snub seems to be on Chandler’s side rather than solely Bradley’s call. His club FC Nuremberg was reluctant to release the German-born 21-year-old after a long club season — a major dissppointment after his strong performances against Argentina and Paraguay. Hopefully his German club will be more accommodating during World Cup qualifying.
Mix Diskerud – Another youngster on the outside looking in. The 20-year-old has reportedly been playing well in Norway. A full camp with the A-squad would have been a valuable experience for his development.