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Balanced squad picked for Mexico showdown
by Ridge Mahoney, February 9th, 2009 7AM

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[USA-MEXICO COUNTDOWN] There wasn't all that much suspense regarding which of the European-based players would be selected by Coach Bob Bradley for the Hexagonal opener against Mexico Wednesday in Columbus. So the inclusion of Jozy Altidore, who just went on loan to CD Xerez, and the exclusion of Freddy Adu, stuck on the bench while on loan to Monaco from Benfica, is notable for Adu's notoriety, but not at all surprising.

Altidore started, and scored, against Mexico in the last meeting of the Concacaf rivals, a 2-2 friendly tie in Houston one year ago. Adu came on as a sub in that match but his scant playing time in the past 12 months counted heavily against him.

Regulars Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard head the squad, and Bradley also selected DaMarcus Beasley, who hasn't played much this season but scored a nice goal for Glasgow Rangers against Milan in a friendly last week. Maurice Edu, Beasley's teammate at Rangers, wasn't picked, as Bradley has nearly all of his preferred selections available in central midfield and central defense except for the suspended Pablo Mastroeni.

Bradley must choose between Frankie Hejduk and Marvell Wynne to replace the injured Steve Cherundolo at right back, and whether Ricardo Clark will get the chance to lend his pace and range to the USA cause may depend on where, and if, Sacha Kljestan gets a start.

Kljestan hit a hat trick playing centrally against Sweden in a 3-2 win last month but Bradley might prefer a Bradley-Clark pairing to better contain Mexico. Kljestan could still start on the right but that is one of the roles Dempsey fills.

Bradley and Clark started centrally against Mexico in Houston. The quickness of Jose Francisco Torres is another option but with only two caps he's extremely inexperienced, though his presence in this squad is a clear signal of future intentions.

There is cover at each position in the squad of 20: two goalkeepers, two left backs, three central defenders, two right backs, two left mids, three center mids, several options at right mid, and either three or four forwards, depending on where Donovan and Dempsey line up.

Bradley's choice of eight players from the January training camp that included MLS players and four based in Scandinavia mirrors his confidence in excluding Adu and Edu and a few others based in Europe. As it has turned out, those guys weren't at Home Depot Center just to make up the numbers.

Jonathan Bornstein is the second choice to Heath Pearce at left back; a year and a half ago, Bornstein played the entire Gold Cup final, a 2-1 win over Mexico in Chicago. Defender Danny Califf backs up Onyewu and Bocanegra in the middle; Charlie Davies adds speed and Brian Ching bulk to the forward possibilities.

Robbie Rogers is the natural alternative to Beasley at left mid, and both have the speed to give the pacy Mexicans something of their own medicine. Mobility will be essential defensively, as Nery Castillo is just one of Mexico's blur merchants who can run at opponents or blow past them at any moment.

 



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