The battle to be part of the United States’ World Cup final roster heading to South Africa began in earnest this week as the preliminary 30 man squad gathered in Princeton, New Jersey.
Seven players having to be cut when the final 23 names are handed in to FIFA by the June 1 deadline, and certain starting spots are still very much up for grabs.
Other than Tim Howard playing in goal, Michael Bradley taking his place in central midfield, and Jozy Altidore up front, it’s still unclear how exactly the U.S will line up for its opening encounter against England on June 12.
Of course, Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey can be added to the definite starters list, although where they will play is anyone’s guess.
So as we speak, there is plenty for coach Bob Bradley and his staff to ponder over, and still time for players to make a final impression.
Gaining a lot of media attention is the battle for forward positions.
Charlie Davies unfortunately lost his race against time to be part of the set-up, following his multiple injuries suffered in a car accident last October. Bradley may opt to partner Altidore with Dempsey, but others are throwing their hats into the ring just at the right time.
On fire for their respective clubs are Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy) and Herculez Gomez (Mexican side Puebla). Buddle’s recent prowess at Galaxy, where he is teaming up well with Donovan, works in his favor.
Others forward at the camp include Brian Ching, Eddie Johnson and Robbie Findlay.
Ching would probably be considered likely to earn a spot, but hamstring and calf injuries have cast a cloud over his participation, while hamstring trouble could also scupper the chances of Johnson, who may miss some of the camp.
Real Salt Lake’s Robbie Findley is considered a longshot, but impressive displays at camp, helped by his speed, could see him as a surprise selection.
Only two to three of these five will make the final roster, and if Bradley is inclined to use Dempsey in attack with Altidore, then it could be just two, leaving an extra spot available in midfield.
Speaking of the middle, Michael Bradley should be joined by Maurice Edu, who’s played well at Glasgow Rangers this season, or Houston Dynamo’s Ricardo Clark. With Donovan expected to play on the left wing barring a reshuffle, the door could open for Stuart Holden on the right if Dempsey is deployed in attack.
In defense, Bocanegra could partner Jay DeMerit in the center, or he could be moved to the problem left-back position to allow Onyewu partner DeMerit. Others that could play on the left are Heath Pearce, Jonathan Bornstein and West Ham’s Jonathan Spector, while Spector could also play at right back, a position Steve Cherundolo will also have his eye on.
More will be known after USA plays its two friendlies against Czech Republic in Connecticut next Tuesday (May 25) and Turkey in Philadelphia on May 29. The selected squad will then play a warm up against Australia in South Africa on June 5.
Preliminary Squad: Goalkeepers — Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolves). Defenders — Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham). Midfielders — DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Monchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Jose Torres (Pachuca). Forwards — Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla), Eddie Johnson (Aris Thessaloniki).