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U.S. Soccer Report: Notes from the Nats’ first week of practice



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So the Yanks reported on Monday, practiced for the first time together Wednesday, and Landon decided to go all Oprah on us. Interesting week. Let’s take a peek inside.

– So what did we learn? Not a ton, unless you’re super interested in Landon’s desire to kick all those free-loading skeletons from his closet. Perhaps the most interesting yarn was Gooch’s health. His twisting ACL tear against Costa Rica at RFK’s horrible field still fresh in his mind – the Saprissa sucks, but RFK? Pretty close – some eye-witness reports seem to indicate he’s tentative still but mostly healthy. I’ve said this before, but his lack of action over the last seven months worries me.

His form dipped on the back end of the qualifying cycle, and I can’t imagine he’s going to be the same old bruising Goochi upon his return. Jay DeMerit and Boca are both attempting to heal abominal strains, and I’ve got a bad feeling that a dinged up Gooch-DeMerit tendem up the middle needs more time. Hopefully the passage of the next month or so proves me wrong.

– A lot has been made of Bob Bradley’s veiled feints toward his starting XI with Charlie Davies not making the trip to Princeton this week. It’s nearly impossible to pick through whatever small pieces of information he’s dolled out, because he gives so few real nuggets unless absolutely necessary. But it sounds like Clint Dempsey will hang back in his usual role at outside mid, occasionally pinching in supporting the attack. Of course, he’s been an option to replace Davies up top, but I don’t think anybody’s too keen on taking Dempsey out of a role where he’s featured for both club and country this season.

There seems to be a spot up for grabs in the central midfield. But without a doubt, the most interesting shock will be the starter next to Jozy up top.

Brian Ching? He’s older, experienced and wily. But he’s unimaginative and a decent 14-year-old can disposses him.

Edson Buddle? He’s an MLS goal machine, and his physical skills present perhaps the most intriguing and unknown scenario at the position. But God help him if he comes face-to-face with Rio Ferdinand and John Terry on June 11 with so little international experience. Does anybody honestly think he’s ready?

And let’s skip over the notion of Robbie Findlay. No. Thanks.

This brings us to our most interesting option … Landon Donavan. Landon’s skill on the flank is much-needed, and his creative abilities are stunted with a move up top. But – and this is a long shot, I understand – dropping Donovan into a trequartisa role in the 4-4-2 behind Jozy is an interesting option. If you essentially place Donovan in a displaced CF role, he can still supply in a link-up role between MF and F, and you fix the problem of finding a reliable goal-scoring threat to take some pressure off Jozy. It’s a long shot, I get that, because then you’ve got a hole behind him, but I’m more than a little interested to see Donovan closer to goal. If DaMarcus Beasley decides to crawl out of his hole, this would be a prime option. Only Bobbo knows if DaWHO is ready, though.

– In a “who’s who on the pine” watch, it should be interesting to see who fills out the subs list. With the need in midfield, Benny Feilhaber is a lock. He’s arguably the sharpest passer on the team, and he’s got a creative streak a mile long. He was a hair short of brilliant in the Confederations Cup last year, and he’s an essential back-up (starter?) in the middle with Michael Bradley’s penchant for cards sure to rear its head at some point in SA. I’d love to see Jose Torres join him, his appearance in Costa Rica dancing pleasantly in my head.

DaMarcus Beasley is another interesting case. He rightly sat in the Confed Cup after indirectly causing Brazil’s first goal with a tremendously terrible (lack of) possession off a corner some 100 yards from the ensuing goal. It was indicative of his form of late, which has indeed been beyond bad. But recent reports indicate Beasley may be rediscovering his form. If that’s the case, the man who created the Yanks’ only (not own) goal in the ’06 World Cup may be able to fill a vital role on the outside. As long as he’s not at fullback. Dear God, please not fullback. Never again. Speaking of…

– With all this uncertainty at the back – will the real Marvell Wynne ever stand up? – here’s a kick to the junk. Somewhere our failed U.S. youth academy czars are shaking heads. Vigorously. Me? I’ll go cry in a beer somewhere.