By Ridge Mahoney
Will this be the final, last, drop-dead chance that Eddie Johnson gets to
get back on the beam for the national team?
He has a good track record against Guatemala, against which he scored last year
in a 4-0 rout as well as in a World Cup qualifier in 2005. The match is being
played at Pizza Hut Park in Dallas, where he played a few productive, if
unsettled, seasons before being shipped off to Kansas City.
(TV: USA-Guatemala, Wednesday, 9 pm ET, live
on ESPN2 and Galavision.)
Yet Johnson, who played inconsistently but not horribly in his 45 minutes
against Ecuador, may be left on the bench in favor of Kenny Cooper, who
banged in 11 goals for FC Dallas last year and scored on his U.S. debut against
There will be a large Cooper contingent at the match, headed by his father,
former Dallas Tornado goalkeeper Ken Cooper Sr.
With Brian Ching having rejoined Houston displaying a slightly dented
nose, Coach Bob Bradley faces the same dilemma he does every game, the
same conundrum: Does he need Donovan more in midfield or as a forward? The
pairing of Benny Feilhaber and Michael Bradley clicked nicely in
the second half against the tiring Ecuadorians, and pairing Donovan with Cooper
would give Bradley a long look at that combination.
Or Donovan could start in midfield, as he did against Ecuador, to give Taylor
Twellman a start at forward. A reshuffled back line - Oguchi Oneywu
and Carlos Bocanegra were released to their English teams - opens up
opportunities for Jonathan Spector, Frank Simek and Jay DeMerit
to join Jimmy Conrad. Tim Howard is also back in England, so
veteran Kasey Keller has first call in goal since the 2006 World Cup.
Guatemala isn't expected to present stiff opposition, and the U.S. will face Guatemala again at the Gold Cup in June, so this game might turn out to be more of a high-paced scrimmage. Yet it's vitally important to the players, especially
those without caps or a very few, to show well for Bradley.
If he retains the head coaching position, Bradley has a slew of decisions to
make regarding the Gold Cup and Copa America tournaments in June and July.
Approximately 40 players could be called in, and those decisions will likely be
made long before the training camp in late May and June 2 friendly against China
that leads into a very busy four weeks.