The U.S. Men’s National Team convened it’s winter training camp today in Carson, CA in preparation for a friendly on Jan. 24 at Home Depot Center.
The annual camp traditionally features a number of fresh faces, as the majority of European-based starters remain with their club teams. Of the 23 called into Coach Bob Bradley’s set-up, nine are looking for their first cap.
The team does include some familiar names, like midfielder Robbie Rogers and center back Chad Mashall, both of whom saw time last summer in the Gold Cup and will hope to make a bigger impression . Others played roles in qualifying, including Benny Feilhaber, Conor Casey and Jonathan Bornstein, and will provide leadership and have a chance to enhance their South Africa credentials.
But the focus here is on the new guys, players can make a big impression and vault themselves into the contention for a spot with the Senior Team, and especially enticing prospect with the World Cup in South Africa just more than six months away.
While this is not a simple task, one must only look back to last year, when the U.S. notched a 3-0 victory over Sweden (their ‘B’ team, to be fair) at the end of the winter camp. In that game, Sacha Kljestan scored a hat trick to send his stock rising, albiet temporarily, and a young striker by the name of Charlie Davies put in a solid first half. Both were involved in qualifying after that, with Davies stamping himself as a star.
Ironically, it’s Davies’s accident/injury that might open the door for a couple of the newbies.
Alejandro Bedoya, like Davies, is a Boston College product who went straight from campus to the Swedish League. The 22-year-old midfielder currently plies his trade with Orebro and made 13 appearances for the club in 2009, scoring twice. Though the U.S. midfield is considered deep, the loss of Davies might necessitate moving winger Clint Dempsey up front to partner Jozy Altidore, an option favored by many pundits, including this one. The likes of Stuart Holden and Jose Francisco Torres are sure to get first shot at any midfield openings, but the attack-minded Bedoya will view the camp as a chance to include himself in the conversation.
Another former collegiate star making waves in Scandanavia is Marcus Tracy, a striker for Aalborg in Denmark. The 23-year-old M.A.C. Hermann Trophy winner from Wake Forest has two goals this season in 21 appearances. Not a great haul, but, for many young players, just breaking into a professional Starting XI is quite an accomplishment (eh, Freddy Adu?). Tracy has a ton of pace, which the U.S. loses up front with Davies out. He lacks experience, but speed is something you can’t teach.
The full training camp roster:
Goalkeepers: Kevin Hartman (Kansas City), Troy Perkins (Valerenga, Norway), Nick Rimando (Salt Lake), Zach Thornton (Chivas USA)
Defenders: Kevin Alston (New England), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Chad Marshall (Columbus), Brandon McDonald (San Jose), Heath Pearce (Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro, Sweden), Geoff Cameron (Houston), Brad Davis (Houston), Brad Evans (Seattle), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus, Denmark), Eddie Gaven (Columbus), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas), Jeff Larentowicz (New England), Dax McCarty (Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C.), Robbie Rogers (Columbus)
Forwards: Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Conor Casey (Colorado), Jeff Cunningham (Dallas), Robbie Findley (Salt Lake), Marcus Tracy (Aalborg, Denmark)