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U.S. battle for spots begins
by Paul Kennedy, November 13th, 2009 7AM



[SLOVAKIA-USA] It's been cold and rainy much of the week in and around Bratislava, where the battle for places in the USA's 23-player World Cup 2010 roster has begun. That competition will begin in earnest on Saturday when Bob Bradley's Americans face Slovakia for the first time in a friendly at Tehelne Pole (TV: Fox Soccer Channel and Galavision, live, 10 am ET).

Only five players (Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Michael Bradley, Conor Casey and Jonathan Spector) who started in the 3-2 victory against Honduras on Oct. 10 in San Pedro Sula that clinched the USA's berth in South Africa are in Bratislava, so that gives plenty of other players an opportunity to show what they can do on Saturday or Wednesday at Denmark.

The Slovakia game will be the 23rd match of 2009 but only the second friendly, so it will be a rare opportunity for Bob Bradley to look at players in a no-competitive setting.

Without central defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Jay Demerit and forward Charlie Davies -- all three starters on the Confederations Cup runner-up team and all sidelined -- Bradley must fill several spots in the lineup. In addition, he must begin the process of looking at who might fill out U.S. roster.

In addition, Tim Howard is not with the U.S. team in Bratislava, so No. 2 choice Brad Guzan should get the start in goal. Marcus Hahnemann and Troy Perkins, prime candidates to fill the No. 3 goalkeeping spot, are also with the team.

Jimmy Conrad, Clarence Goodson and Chad Marshall are all candidates to play in the middle of the defense alongside captain Carlos Bocanegra.

Clint Dempsey, who missed the decisive October World Cup qualifiers with a shoulder injury, should return to the starting lineup, having scored in three straight EPL games with Fulham.

The Bratislava camp marked the return of Eddie Johnson, who has not played for the national team since the September 2008 qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago, and MLS leading scorer Jeff Cunningham, who hasn't played for the USA since a World Cup qualifier against Guatemala in 2005.

Called up for the first time is midfielder Dax McCarty, who recently re-upped with FC Dallas.

GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolves), Troy Perkins (Valerenga)
DEFENDERS: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham)
MIDFIELDERS: Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Hull City), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Eddie Johnson (Fulham)

Goalkeepers: John Mucha (Legia Warsaw), Lubos Kamenar (Nantes), Dusan Kuciak (FC Vaslui), Lubos Stonemason (Nantes)
Defenders: Marek Cech (West Bromwich Albion), Jan Durica (Lokomotiv Moscow), Peter Pekarik (Wolfsburg), Martin Petras (Cesena), Kornel Salata (Slovan Bratislava), Martin Skrtel (Liverpool), Radoslav Zabavnik (Terek Grozny)
Midfielders:  Marek Hamsik (Napoli), Miroslav Karhan (Mainz), Kamil Kopunek (Spartak Trnava), Jan Kozak (Slovan Bratislava), George Kucka (Sparta Prague), Marek Sapara (Rosenborg), Miroslav Stoch (FC Twente), Zdeno Strba (Xanthi), Dudan Svento (Red Bull Salzburg), Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City),
Forwards: Robert Vittek (Lille), Erik Jendrisek (Kaiserslautern), Stanislav Sestak (Bochum).


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