After delaying the release of the U.S. national team roster, head coach Bob Bradley finally came out with his list of the 23 men who will wear the red, white, and blue in the U.S. team’s June 4 friendly against Spain and in the CONCACAF Gold Cup June 5 through 25. As has become expected, the roster is a mix of youth and experience, and it is not without its areas for concern.
Chief among these problem areas on the roster is the forward position. Only three forwards even made the cut, and of the three, only Jozy Altidore has considerable national-team experience. Unfortunately, despite Bradley’s notion that Altidore was “unlucky” at the World Cup, his form for the national team and his club as of late has been sub-par. It appears the U.S. will look to its midfield for goal production, as it did during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Chris Wondolowski and Juan Agudelo are the other forwards. Agudelo has shown promise, scoring two goals in his meager four caps for the team, and Wondolowski has been on a tear for the last season in Major League Soccer, but both are unproven on the larger stage of international competition. That being said, this could be their big chance for a breakout.
There is also a serious lack of wide midfielders, which likely accounts for Robbie Rogers’ selection. Somebody is going to have to play outside. Landon Donovan has played there and can do the job, but it would not be surprising to also see Maurice Edu played wider, with his speed and touch. Benny Feilhaber could also possibly play out there. It will be interesting to see how Bradley solves this little problem, which is still a problem, but not as big as the problem of who will score the goals.
In most areas of the field, the usual suspects will patrol for the U.S. Donovan has become a staple of the midfield and always seems to do well in international competitions these days – a stark and welcome contrast to his early days of missed opportunities and poor performances. Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Edu all had solid World Cup appearances and appear to be geared up to make another run at it.
Freddy Adu has somehow clawed his way back into the picture despite spending all season at Turkish second-division Rizespor. Jermaine Jones of Blackburn is another interesting selection who has been waiting for his chance to get after it on this stage for a while, held back mostly by injuries and his inexperience.
Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake has been rewarded for his steady play in domestic and CONCACAF competitions with a call-up. However, Bob Bradley has already said he will stay with the club and only be called into camp if needed. This oversight is unfortunate because he is in better form than Marcus Hahnemann, but it is encouraging to see him included in the trio of netminders in any case. He has been long-deserving of an opportunity.
In the back, it should also be business as usual for the U.S. Carlos Bocanegra will be back, as will Oguchi Onyewu. Jay DeMerit has been left out, but Tim Ream could prove to be a capable replacement. His MLS form has been good and he is still young, which goes nicely with Bocanegra and Cherundolo’s veteran statuses. Eric Lichaj could also see considerable time in the tournament.
Two glaring omissions from the roster are DeMerit and Charlie Davies. Neither are too surprising, though. Davies is still making a comeback from his barrage of injuries that need not be repeated, and both he and DeMerit have had niggling injuries that have kept them out of MLS play this season. However, it would have been nice to see Davies get his chance in the Gold Cup, especially with his experience in international competition and his fair form so far this season. He will get his chance at some point, but it is a shame it could not be in an international tournament on home soil, especially considering the U.S. situation at forward right now.
Overall, the roster is decently strong. This is an important tournament for the U.S., with a berth to the Confederations Cup on the line. The U.S. used the Confederations Cup as a springboard to their World Cup success, turning heads in the process. Its importance is reflected in Bradley’s selections.
Projected starting lineup for the U.S. in the Gold Cup (4-4-2): Howard; Lichaj, Ream, Bocanegra, Cherundolo; Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Edu; Altidore, Agudelo.
Liviu Bird is a journalism student at and plays goalkeeper for Seattle Pacific University. You can follow him on Twitter here.