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Longer South Africa stay complicates player moves
by Ridge Mahoney, June 22nd, 2009 6:15PM

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Well, this is another fine mess that Bob Bradley's players have gotten him into.

By stunning Egypt, 3-0, and advancing to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, the Americans have lengthened their stay in South Africa for another week, complicating the selection problems of several MLS coaches and perhaps making them less inclined to let players go for the Gold Cup, which commences next week for the USA with a training camp in Seattle.

The coaches have no choice, of course. Teams are obligated to release their players for the Gold Cup, as it is a FIFA-designated official confederation championship. This doesn't apply to countries competing outside their own regions, as was the case in 2007 when the U.S. and Mexico played in the Copa America. Since that was a CONMEBOL event, teams were required to release their South American players, but not so those from the USA or Mexico. That situation required some delicate negotiations for U.S. Soccer and the Mexican soccer federation (FMF) to get their players.

Losing players who don't even see action doesn't endear Bradley to his MLS brethren, which is one reason he named uncapped goalkeeper Luis Robles of Kaiserslautern as his No. 3 Confederations Cup goalie. If it reaches the Gold Cup final, the USA will play six games in three weeks, and Bradley could use all of his available field players at some point during the tournament. If he wants to strip Columbus of Eddie Gaven, Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers at the same time, Crew coach Robert Warzycha will expect them to play. A lot.

Maybe this is why a surprising, to me, number of foreign-based players have been named to the Gold Cup preliminary U.S. roster. Eighteen of the 30 are based outside of MLS, with many - such as Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, Jay DeMerit, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres and Heath Pearce - retained from the Confederations Cup. An additional week of competition might prompt their clubs to petition Bradley for their release from the Gold Cup, since they will need rest at some point before reporting to their clubs for preseason training.

Changes beyond cutting down the 30 to the Gold Cup limit of 23 are possible, if injuries and other issues come into play.

MLS has cut back on its schedule, somewhat, for the international fixture dates, and the league burden for several teams is a bit light in July as well, not because of the Gold Cup per se, but to accommodate international friendlies. The four teams - Chivas USA, New England, Kansas City and Chicago - that are competing in SuperLiga this week will be playing catch-up the next few months, and the league has helped streamline that process by scheduling a few games matching up those teams in July.

In addition to the U.S. players who will leave their MLS teams to play in the Gold Cup, there are more than a dozen members of other Concacaf teams on league rosters, some of them absolutely essential. Injuries have laid waste to the Revs' roster; what will Coach Steve Nicol do without Shalrie Joseph (Grenada)? How will the Galaxy look in goal without Donovan Ricketts (Jamaica)?

Toronto FC coach Chris Cummins is in for a miserable few weeks without many of his Canadian starters. Maybe that's one reason TFC released keeper Greg Sutton last week; he's one of four goalies named by Coach Stephen Hart. At least Houston coach Dominic Kinnear can rest easy; two years ago, an injury to Sutton prompted an emergency callup for Pat Onstad. That's not likely this time around.

Not naming Landon Donovan is a great move, and not just because he needs a break from the international workload. The USA needs, regardless of circumstances, to play as many games as it can without him, in case he suffers an injury. Missing other attacking elements - Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, Brian Ching - gives others a chance to show what they can do against lesser competition in an official setting.

Of the 15 MLS teams only one - San Jose - isn't represented on the preliminary squads submitted to Concacaf. Players called up by other countries are listed first, followed by those named by U.S. Soccer.

Judge for yourself who might be hurting the most next month.

Chicago - Gonzalo Segares (Costa Rica), John Thorrington.
Chivas USA - Ante Jazic (Canada), Shavar Thomas (Jamaica), Jonathan Bornstein.
Colorado - Omar Cummings (Jamaica), Steward Ceus (Haiti), Conor Casey, Pablo Mastroeni.
Columbus - Chad Marshall, Eddie Gaven, Robbie Rogers.
D.C. United - Dejan Jakovic (Canada).
FC Dallas - Kenny Cooper.
Houston - Andre Hainault (Canada), Ricardo Clark, Stuart Holden.
Kansas City - Roger Espinoza (Honduras), Davy Arnaud.
Los Angeles - Donovan Ricketts (Jamaica).
New England - Shalrie Joseph (Grenada).
New York - Dane Richards (Jamaica), Alfredo Pacheco (El Salvador).
Real Salt Lake - Will Johnson (Canada), Jean Alexandre (Haiti).
Seattle - Tyrone Marshall (Jamaica).
Toronto FC - Nyan Attakora-Gyan, Dwayne DeRosario, Kevin Harmse, Adrian Serioux, (all Canada), Marvell Wynne.

 



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