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2. USA-GUATEMALA: Last chance for Eddie Johnson?
March 28th, 2007 2:07AM

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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 Denmark.

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.


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