Premature Selection

U.S. Coach Bob Bradley is set to announce his provisional 30-man roster for South Africa tomorrow at 2 p.m. (Eastern), which gives me perfect opportunity to speculate which Americans might be on the list.

That’s what blogs are for, yes? Let’s get right to the action.

roster1

Shoe-ins

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann

And done. Doubt a 4th GK will get called into camp.

Defenders: Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein

Midfielders: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Maurice Edu, Stuart Holden, Jose Francisco Torres, Benny Feilhaber

Forwards: Jozy Altidore

That’s 18. Lotta work still to do.

Hopefuls

Defenders

Heath Pearce, Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Edgar Castillo, Frankie Hejduk

Goodson has shown well in recent call-ups, so he has a leg up. Pearce is playing midfield in MLS, but is a Bradley favorite and and Marshall is just returning from injury. Everybody likes having Frankie around, but he’s showing his age recently and without pace his is nothing. Castillo is a long-shot due to his (lack of) size.

Joe Speaker’s picks: Goodson, Marshall, Castillo
Bob Bradley’s picks: Goodson, Marshall, Pearce

Midfield

DaMarcus Beasley, Sacha Kljestan, Freddy Adu, Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Robbie Rogers

A few months ago, as my friend Jorginho and I tried to pick a 23-man roster, I surprised him by including Beckerman. My thinking is this: both Bradley and Clark have shown themselves to be card prone, so if one of them gets a suspension, we’re left without cover in the middle of the park, so Beckerman needs to be included as a “destroyer,” since Coach Bradley is loathe to have a more offensive-minded player in the middle (ie Feilhaber). Beasley would be a useful option off the bench and Kljestan’s ties to Bradley Sr. make him a likely candidate and make me liable to puke in my mouth a little. Adu and Rogers are longshots thanks to poor form and middling results with the national team, but the inclusion of youngster Bedoya might surprise.

Joe Speaker’s picks: Beasley, Beckerman, Bedoya
Bob Bradley’s picks: Beasley, Kljestan, Bedoya

Forwards

Brian Ching, Conor Casey, Kenny Cooper, Robbie Findley, Eddie Johnson, Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez, Charlie Davies

Sigh. Not exactly awe-inspiring, is it? I expect a complete handful of these guys to get the call, considering the state of flux at the position. The final roster might include only three true forwards, but it’s a cattle call for now. Naturally, a healthy Charlie Davies is what we all hope for, but I personally believe the odds are pretty stacked against him. I’ll leave out Casey, Findley and Cooper on general principle (that principle being that they aren’t any good) and include the rest of the gang due to their recent goal-scoring form, although the only one about whom I can even generate the slightest excitement is EJ, who has been scoring recently in Greece and has previously shown to be dangerous when in form.

Joe Speaker’s picks: Ching, EJ, Gomez, Buddle, Davies
Bob Bradley’s picks: Ching, Casey, EJ, Buddle, Davies

That’s only 29. I’m sticking there, because there is no way I’m putting Robbie Findley on this roster.

Your team in comments.

(Bonus note: SI’s team of soccer writers, including the above-mentioned Jorginho, select their final 23 for South Africa–not the 30-man like I’m doing above–and it includes some interesting names Brian McBride?)

Countdown Begins

Five weeks until World Cup 2010 kicks off with Mexico against host South Africa in Johannesburg and the 32 nations are in the process of naming provisional rosters for their respective pre-tournament training camps.

The U.S. is set to announce its initial 30-man roster on Tuesday, with camp opening in Princeton, N.J. on Monday May 17th. There remains some intrigue regarding which players will be named. The primary question is the health of striker Charlie Davies, who is participating in full training for his French club Sochaux, but will not have seen game action since his horrific car accident in October. Davies’ availability, or lack thereof, stands to alter Coach Bob Bradley’s selections considerably.

Most expect either Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey to fill a striker slot if Davies is unable to go, which would open up another place for a midfielder, an area where the U.S. is considered deep. Stuart Holden, recovered from a broken tibia sustained in a friendly with Netherlands, is a favorite to replace those two in starting midfield, while others, such as Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres and DaMarcus Beasley provide cover.

The back line seems set, though centreback Oguchi Onyewu is also just recently recovered from injury, so the other main question will be who joins shoe-in Jozy Altidore on the front line. Brian Ching, also in a fitness race (wow, this is getting redundant), is a Bradley favorite and the team’s best hold-up striker, so he’s likely in. After that, the pool is in such disarray that calls might go out for the likes of Edson Buddle (currently scoring at will for the LA Galaxy) and Herculez Gomez, who lit up the Mexican League with 10 goals for Puebla in the recently-completed Clausura. Neither figured in qualifying nor have they been involved in a National Team set-up in eons (three years for Gomez; seven! for Buddle).

The Nats’ first opponent, England, doesn’t have nearly as many injury worries, though Coach Fabio Capello’s preferred defensive midfielder, Gareth Barry, injured ankle ligaments this week and is now doubtful. And there’s still time for a Three Lions player to break a metatarsal bone, as is their custom every four years (Beckham in ’02; Rooney in ’06).

The world’s greatest sporting spectacle is just around the corner. Better start stretching.