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Production absent from U.S. frontline
by Mike Woitalla, September 4th, 2008 6:45AM



For the USA's first game in Cuba since 1947, Coach Bob Bradley has brought in players based in Britain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Mexico -- in addition to seven MLS-based men.

The experienced squad -- half of the 20 players have more than 30 caps -- aims for a second straight win in the semifinal group phase of qualifying when it faces the Cubans on Saturday. Less suspenseful than whether the USA can beat a team ranked No. 71 in the world is whether the USA's frontline finally finds its form.

Attackers not included in the squad are Olympic team youngsters Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore. They're better off focusing on establishing themselves with their new clubs, Monaco and Villarreal, respectively. In their absence, more experienced U.S. strikers have another chance to prove they can deliver up front.

Eddie Johnson, whose spectacular scoring run for the USA now seems like ancient history, was recently demoted when his English Premier League club Fulham loaned him out to second-tier Cardiff City. If Johnson doesn't prove effective in Cuba, or on Wednesday against Trinidad & Tobago in Illinois, it's hard to imagine even the patient Bradley will believe in a resurgence from the 24-year-old Johnson.

In fact, the productivity of the frontline in general is a cause for concern. Johnson did hit the net in the 8-0 laugher against Barbados in June and Clint Dempsey scored twice in that game. But in games against more formidable foes, the U.S. forwards have been unproductive.

It took a goal from defender Carlos Bocanegra to down Guatemala in that ugly 1-0 road win to open the semifinal group phase. Before that, the Americans went scoreless in friendlies against Argentina, Spain and England.

Dempsey, whose star has fallen at Fulham, needs a good game against Cuba to prove he's the right man for the frontline. Aside from the goals against Barbados, he last struck for the USA in a 4-2 loss to Brazil a year ago.

Bradley is still banking on Houston's Brian Ching while shunning more productive MLS forwards Kenny Cooper and Edson Buddle.

Ching scored one U.S. goal in 2007 - against Trinidad & Tobago in a Gold Cup rout. His two goals in 2008 came against, you guessed it, Barbados.

If you throw out the Barbados rout, only one goal in the USA's other eight 2008 games came from a forward - when Altidore scored in the 2-2 friendly tie with Mexico in February.

As usual, the USA has the option of using Donovan up front, but the better option is to continue using his explosiveness out of the midfield. If Ching, Johnson or Dempsey can't provide a suitable spearhead for the USA against in these next two games, the Altidore project is sure to start in earnest.

U.S. ROSTER (by caps)

Landon Donovan (102/36) Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)
Eddie Lewis (81/10) Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)
Frankie Hejduk (79/6) Columbus Crew (MLS)
DaMarcus Beasley (78/15) Glasgow Rangers (Scotland)
Carlos Bocanegra (59/10) Rennes (France)
Steve Cherundolo (49/2) Hannover 96 (Germany)
Clint Dempsey (43/11) Fulham (England)
Eddie Johnson (36/12) Cardiff City (Wales)
Oguchi Onyewu (35/4) Standard Liege (Belgium)
Tim Howard (32/0) Everton (England)
Brian Ching (28/7) Houston Dynamo (MLS)
Michael Bradley (22/2) Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany)
Danny Califf (20/1) FC Midtjylland (Denmark)
Heath Pearce (17/0) Hansa Rostock (Germany)
Ricardo Clark (14/1) Houston Dynamo (MLS)
Brad Guzan (9/0) Aston Villa (England)
Maurice Edu (8/0) Glasgow Rangers (Scotland)
Sacha Kljestan (5/0) Chivas USA (MLS)
Marvell Wynne (1/0) Toronto FC (MLS)
Michael Orozco (0/0) San Luis (Mexico)


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