Alright, first let’s take a deep breath, chew some nicotine gum, munch some Valium, or whatever it is you, dear reader, do to take the edge off, and note that of the 17 U.S. players who trod the slippery pitch tonight a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic, a maximum of three of them will start against England on June 12 in the team’s World Cup opener.
Done? Everybody cool? Awesome. Now…panic. Because one of those players, Oguchi Onyewu, is quite clearly not fit. The stalwart in central defense, the man I considered Man of the Match in last summer’s upset of Spain, looked like a guy who hasn’t played since October. Which he is. He was badly beaten in the air for the first Czech goal and generally appeared to not trust his knee, tip-toeing around slowly and awkwardly, a marked contrast to his usual, powerful game. I think it’s apparent Coach Bob Bradley knows this as well, since he deployed Maurice Edu–normally a midfielder, but with some experience in central defense–in Onyewu’s spot after 65 minutes.
In addition to Edu, Clarence Goodson had a solid effort alongside Onyewu, showing good instincts and contributing to the U.S.’s second goal. And the U.S. back-line has a lot of versatility, a strength I’d hoped would relegate Jonathan Bornstein–another dismal showing; his finest skill seems to be grabbing at opposing players as they skip past him–to the sidelines.
Otherwise, Herculez Gomez and Brian Ching appeared to grab pole position for the available striker positions. Gomez scored the second and Ching was far more effective holding the ball and linking with teammates than the first-half pairing of Edson Buddle and Eddie Johnson. Johnson was horrid and Buddle worked hard, but lacked service. Since Ching has long been considered a lock, the fact Bradley sent Gomez out alongside him might be a clue to his thinking.
In the midfield, Stuart Holden and Jose Torres both had disappointing nights, though not poor enough to wedge them off the roster. Edu was composed in his time in the middle and DaMarcus Beasley cemented his spot with a lively performance.
Coach Bradley will announce his 23-man roster tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Here are the seven I expect to see left off the plane to South Africa:
Eddie Johnson — Because he can’t, you know, trap the ball
Heath Pearce — Blame for two of the Czech goals fall directly on his shoulders. Also, he’s fucking terrible.
Robbie Rogers — Played well this evening, but probably didn’t do enough to pass Alejandro Bedoya–a promising youngster who will be taken to his first World Cup for the experience factor–on the depth chart
Sacha Kljestan — Still too green on the international level
Chad Marshall — Injury didn’t help
Robbie Findley — Didn’t see the field tonight, which speaks volumes
Edson Buddle — Had the misfortune of being paired with EJ instead of the steadier Ching