As usual, I will prepare for today’s MNT game by second-guessing Bob Bradley’s decisions. As usual though, since I don’t have Bradley’s roster card, I will be using Ives Galarcep’s predictions, which are usually quite accurate. Here’s who Ives thinks Bradley will employ vs. the #4 team in the world:
I have got to say, that looks a bit better than who we put out against England. But, there are still changes that could be made that could optimize our abilities. Here’s what I would go with:
Howard in goal is obvious, once again. However, I do expect Guzan to see some action in the second half. In the back, I also agree with Bradley/Ives. I like Califf, DeMerit and Hejduk, but I don’t think any of them are more able than our current backline. Shame Spector is injured though as I would have liked to see him, rather than Bocanegra.
My attacking wingers would be the same. Beasley has proved his fitness, so I say play him outside for sure. I also agree with the placement of Dempsey on the right side where he is most dangerous. (I do think Ives is wrong though and Dempsey will start the game up top with Johnson, with Beasley on the right and Eddie Lewis playing left mid).
I agree Bradley needs to start, but I would rather see him slightly under the forwards, rather than back with the defense. The kid has a knack for scoring goals, and if he’s left to assist the defense too much, I worry the U.S. won’t be able to get the ball up top to the forwards.
I differ with the defensive midfield selection though. Pablo is a great defender. There can be no doubt of that. But in 57 appearances for the Nats, he has never, ever put one in the net. That’s pretty bad. We will need goals against Spain, and Pablo, though crafty on defense, provides no offensive firepower.
Maurice Edu does though. Edu has never scored an international goal, sure, but he’s also had less than 1/10th Mastroeni’s playing time. Edu is basically a younger, faster and more attacking version of Pablo, and it’s time for Bradley to employ him. Mastroeni will be 33 during the next World Cup, Edu will be 24. Methinks its time to start working towards that tournament, instead of ensuring MNT mainstays’ feelings don’t get hurt when they get benched for the youngsters.
Up top you have got to go with EJ. Spain’s defense is notoriously stingy, but speed is perhaps their one weakness and EJ has the quickest feet on the team. Due to the injury to Donovan, the poor play of Wolff and the questionable talent of Jaqua, the U.S. really doesn’t have a choice but to play EJ anyways.
I would rather see Adu up top than in the middle, though he is probably more likely to play a central role. I like Adu up top. He doesn’t have blazing speed or great holding skills, but he has that strange, undefinable quality that separates all great strikers from the rest: a nose for the net. He is often in the right place at the right time, and I would love to see Bradley throw him to the wolves against Spain. If he plays well, awesome! If he takes a whipping, at least he got the experience.
So, that’s my take. Let’s hope whoever is out there looks better than last week. Another debacle like Wembley, and US Soccer may seek to reattach the “interim” tag onto Bradley’s title.