[USA] Just 16 days before players are supposed to begin reporting to camp for final preparations for the World Cup, U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley is still not sure just how many of the spots on the 23-player roster are secure ("somewhere between 16 and 18, some days a little higher") and just how many players will be invited to the camp ("we’re probably thinking more along the lines of 26 to 28 guys in").
According to FIFA's rules for the 2010 World Cup, Bradley must submit a 30-player short list by May 11 and a 23-player final roster by June 1.
Bradley was speaking at a U.S. Soccer event at New York's Niketown, where the new U.S. home uniform was unveiled.
His uncertainty relates in part to the number of key players who have been injured or have not been playing regularly for their clubs and the number of players who have not been a part of the national team during World Cup qualifying but have enjoyed excellent springs.
While he acknowledged he and his staff will need to make some difficult decisions in the next couple of weeks, he was confident the right decisions will be made.
"There's an old expression that the team picks the team," he said. "That's pretty true because usually things establish themselves pretty well. Players know who are the ones that should be there, and that kind of thing."
The most publicized case involves Charlie Davies, who has made a remarkable comeback after the car accident six months ago in which he almost died and sustained numerous injuries.
Bradley praised Davies' recovery effort and noted how important returning for the World Cup has been as motivation but said the national team staff must assess how far along he is.
"There’s going to be a decision on our end that is simply about the World Cup," said Bradley.
Bradley on other players:
-- Central defender Oguchi Onyewu, who hasn't played since tearing the patellar tendon in his left knee the day after Davies' car accident and hasn't played for AC Milan since:
"Our expectation is that it may be hard for him at the end of the year to get back into the team there, play games, but certainly good news just in terms of regular training."
-- Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones, who has been sidelined with a shin injury this season, preventing him from playing for the USA since FIFA cleared his request to change affiliations from Germany:
"If it's not going to happen for the summer, he may need to have another surgical procedure that would then get him back in time for the start of the season next year. We're at that sort of cross in the road. We'll know in the next week whether there's any hope."
-- Houston Dynamo striker Brian Ching, who injured his left hamstring four weeks ago and hasn't resumed full training:
"Again, a guy that in the next two weeks we have to assess."
-- Glasgow Rangers midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, who hasn't played in the Scottish Premier League in the last six months:
"DaMarcus has been tricky in this last year. He had some very good games in December, got back into the team and I think did well. And since then it's been up and down, more down certainly of late."
Bradley also talked about the Los Angeles Galaxy's Edson Buddle and Puebla's Herculez Gomez, who have enjoyed hot streaks. He said the success of both players, who have limited experience with the national team, was consistent with the form they enjoyed earlier in their careers.
Regarding Buddle, who has scored all seven Galaxy goals this season, "The easy thing to see so far this year is that he scored some incredible goals. That actually fits if you look back over Edson's career. As a young striker in the league, his talent came through based upon his ability at times to score some great goals — a variety of goals, goals from outside the box, goals where he dribbled, goals with his head. I think that part is not new, but that's been there of late. And quickly I think there has been a lot of maturing that has taken place, so in less obvious ways he seems to be doing a lot of little things on the field that make a difference for his team."
As for Gomez, who tied for first in the Mexican First Division with 10 goals, "He came into the scene in LA and what you would say is everything he touched went into the net — his pure ability to strike a ball was pretty obvious. And I think that that's kind of come back again a little bit at Puebla."
Bradley also spoke about Jozy Altidore following his red card last weekend that prematurely ended his English Premier League season.
"His experience this year at Hull, I think, has helped him," said Bradley. "There’s been some good days. I remember for sure the game against Chelsea, where you could tell he was motivated that day. It was an extra edge in everything he did. I think that seeing that makes you feel good, tells you that some of the things that we've talked to Jozy about, things that he needs to do to keep growing, are happening. There are moments when it goes the other way."