The Core: Who was at their best at the 2009 Confederation Cup and seems assured of a starting role come 2010?
Well, Landon Donovan earned his #10 jersey by validating his skill against some of the world’s most feared defenders. Tim Howard’s box scores didn’t look appealing, but those who saw the games knew for every one he allowed, he stopped four rockets off the feet/heads of some of the globe’s greatest playmakers.
The indefatiguable Michael Bradley played very well, always coming with ferocity (hence the unfortunate red). Clint Dempsey? Sure. MC Deuce did win the Bronze Ball, after all. But, I think it was Jozy who really has the bronze balls. Talking trash to Puyol, scoring against Spain (where he is underutilized by his club), and now immediately demanding a trade?
Now that sounds like American sports.
The Bubble: Which guys are just hanging on to starting jobs, and who is challenging for a place on the pitch? In the back, it’s just about everybody. To clarify, I think you could include Bocanegra (if fit and healthy, of course) into the Core category since he is our stoic Captain, but I believe he too could be vulnerable. He, Onyewu, and Dolo (pre-injury) looked assured of 2010 spots, and they will probably all still get them, but rising stars like Bornstein and Spector (and what ever happened to Simek?) could steal their spot in the starting XI permanently.
In the middle, Beasley, Clark and Kljestan didn’t impress, but Benny Feilhaber’s hopes for a World Cup call up rose from the dead. He wasn’t decent. He was freaking great. I haven’t seem him play like that for a long time, but then again he has played so little in the last few years I haven’t seem him play, period. I think he and F Charlie Davies’ stocks may have rose more than anyone’s. BF paired nicely with Bradley (better than Special K or Clark), as did Davies with Donovan and Altidore. Both were also vigilant on defense and displayed dangerous attacking skills.
Outer Space: Who’s outside looking in? Well, way too many people for me to list here. But, some still have a shot (albeit a long one) to challenge for a spot in the starting XI in 2010 if they perform well in the Gold Cup and the remaining qualifiers? Who are these gents who need to go all-in and prove themselves to Bradley ASAP. Well, without further ado… Freddy Adu, of course. I love his creative dribbling and nose for the net, but Skeletor hates his defensive skills (or lack therof). He’ll have a chance to prove himself, as will a slew of MLS forwards, especially Brian Ching.
In the middle, I think Pablo’s call ups are evaporating and Mo Edu’s injury has allowed others to shine on big stages. Guzan looked great against Egypt, but I doubt he can depose Howard, who along with LD are our greatest assets. In the back, it’s a free for all with DeMerit, Spector, even some MLS guys like Marshall, Wynne, and fan-favorite Jimmy Conrad.
Defense isn’t the only area of the pitch where auditions are open for starting spots though, as any player could still seize relevancy and Bradley’s favor with some consistently amazing play. So when these 2010 hopefuls are auditioning and they have Bob Bradley on the couch watching their every move, they need to impress him with their desire.
That last sentence just doesn’t sound right for some reason.