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Rating the Tampa 20's chances
by Paul Kennedy, February 22nd, 2010 10:21PM
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TAGS:  americans abroad, men's national team, mls, world cup

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[USA-SALVADOR] Wednesday's match against El Salvador in Tampa (TV: ESPN Classic, Galavision, 7 pm ET) will likely be the last time many of the U.S. players will take to the field in a U.S. national team uniform before Coach Bob Bradley names his 23-player squad for the World Cup. As few as two or three MLS players could go to the World Cup -- a record low since its launch in 1996. Soccer America rates the chances of the 20 U.S. players in Tampa to go to the World Cup.

GOALKEEPERS:Troy Perkins (D.C. United), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).

Outlook: Perkins and Rimando would appear to be fighting for the No. 4 spot on the depth chart.

Their chance of going to South Africa depends on one of the goalies ahead of them -- Tim Howard, Brad Guzan or Marcus Hahnemann -- getting injured.

Percentage chances:Perkins (10%), Rimando (5%).

DEFENDERS:Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC).

Outlook: Two, maybe three defenders have a shot. Bornstein, who started in the deciding qualifier at Honduras and was one of the few players to have a good game against the Catrachos in January, is a probable for South Africa and a possible starter at left back.

Pearce led the USA in minutes played in 2008 but started only seven games -- five at the Gold Cup -- in 2009 as he fell out of favor at Energie Cottbus. Playing time should no longer be an issue now that he is with MLS's FC Dallas, but there is Bornstein and Carlos Bocanegraand Jonathan Spector (who both play left back for their European clubs) now ahead of him on the depth chart at left back.

Goodson or Marshall should go to South Africa as the No. 4 center back behind Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit and Bocanegra. Goodson's stock rose after coming on to score against Honduras in January. Marshall, on the other, did not look good against the Catrachos.

Percentage chances:Bornstein (95%), Goodson (50%), Marshall (35%), Pearce (15%), Wynne (1%).

MIDFIELDERS:Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew).

When he was named to the MLS Best XI at the age of 18, you'd have penciled in Gaven to make the 2010 World Cup team. Six years later, still only 23, he's a long shot.

Kljestan started the first two matches in the 2009 Hexagonal, including the 2-0 win over Mexico, but his stock has fallen since then.

Of the central midfielders, Beckerman has the best shot at sticking. Of the wide players, Rogers -- because of his ability to play on either the right or left -- would have the best shot, though he needs a better game than he had against Honduras last month against El Salvador on Wednesday.

At the moment, an MLS wide player probably has a better chance of going to South Africa than a central midfielder.

Percentage chances:Rogers (60%), Beckerman (30%), Kljestan (10%), Davis (5%), McCarty (5%), Cameron (1%), Gaven (1%), Pontius (1%).

FORWARDS:Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake).

The big question mark in the U.S. lineup is who will replace Charlie Davies, assuming he doesn't make a miracle recovery.

The likely choice would be Clint Dempsey, but he too is injured at the moment.

One or two of the four forwards in Tampa could go to South Africa. It will depend on how Eddie Johnson does at Greek club Aris. (Freddy Adu is still a long shot to go to South Africa, but he is at least back on the radar screen following back-to-back games in which he scored for Aris.)

Of the four forwards in Tampa, Ching has seniority. He's the only player in Tampa who went to the 2006 World Cup and he started four Hexagonal matches, including both games against Mexico, and made 11 appearances in 2009 -- the most of his career.

Casey had two goals in the deciding qualifier at Honduras, though they are the only two goals of his national team career.

Cunningham led MLS in scoring last season but did not play well in the January game against Honduras. Findley is the youngest forward and most similar in style to Davies, but he needs a breakout game against El Salvador to have any chance.

Percentage chances:Ching (55%), Casey (45%), Cunningham (5%), Findley (5%).

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Who are your favorites from the Tampa 20 to go to the World Cup?



0 comments
  1. Brian Herbert
    commented on: February 23, 2010 at 2:43 a.m.
    Makes me wonder what changes are necessary to the MLS if the goal is to be on par with the top-tier European clubs (and create a pool of players that can compete on a national level)? Split it into two-tiers, and add relegation and promotion? Change the season to align with leagues abroad? Make a determined effort to import International players who are in their prime, and not past prime players just milking it for PR and endorsements? Introduce more competitions similar to EPL teams doing Carling Cup, FA Cup, and Champion's League, and market these events more aggressively? Just a few ideas, some, if not all, may be wacky, but we need to revamp this league, our kids all watch EPL and La Liga, and their heroes play "over there", even if they are from here, as with Howard and Donovan.
  1. Chris Kiker
    commented on: February 23, 2010 at 9:41 a.m.
    It mainly comes down to $$$ and fan support. With NFL, NHL, NBA, and baseball (yawn) a lot of the fan base is already committed to a sport other than soccer and that won't change quickly. We lose our best players overseas not only because of the play level/experience gained, but also simply because of money. MLS can't compete with the pay in these European leagues. Even lower level leagues and smaller leagues (i.e. Netherlands) have a much better pay scale because soccer is the dominant sport. MLS won't change for MANY years in my opinion.

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