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Which of the newbies, if any, should go to Cairo?
by Ridge Mahoney, January 25th, 2011 7:10PM
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TAGS:  men's national team


[U.S. SOCCER] In the wake of the first U.S. match of 2011, a 1-1 tie with Chile at Home Depot Center on Saturday, there's rampant speculation about how many of the participants -- several of whom earned their first cap -- will be recalled for game two Feb. 9 in Cairo against Egypt. There might be a few but there also could be none. Coach Bob Bradley will have all of his European-based players available on the first FIFA international date of the New Year, and some of them have landed in new club situations via loan arrangements or transfers.

Oguchi Onyewuhas moved from AC Milan to Dutch club Twente Enschede, andJermaine Jones made a promising debut for Blackburn last weekend in his first post-Schalke appearance. The much-maligned Robbie Findley is playing English League Championship ball with Nottingham Forest, and Edson Buddlescored on his debut for German second division club FC Ingolstadt after leaving the Galaxy as a free agent.

Fans disappointed in their World Cup performances may have given up on Findley and Buddle, but Bradley likely has not. In the last two games, he's seen the youth and enthusiasm that Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo have brought to the U.S. attack yet he’ll have plenty of other choices.

There’s also the vexing problem of what to do about Landon Donovan, who skipped the U.S. camp to rest and just joined the Galaxy for preseason training. A fitness fanatic, Donovan is never really out of shape, and so integral is he to the U.S. team is hard to imagine him skipping two straight games.

The sharp attacking form of Clint Dempsey and Stuart Holden and the resilience and distribution of Michael Bradley, are what the Americans will count on in Cairo.

Those are just a few of the intriguing circumstances to be evaluated by Bradley, who indeed must start building a squad for the 2014 World Cup – for which several 2010 veterans will be too old – but has the more immediate concern of the Concacaf Gold Cup.

As was the case the last time around, he is targeting that tournament as crucial. The shrewdest way to handle it is to bring his strongest team with the hope of qualifying for the 2013 Confederations Cup, by which time the current youthful group of Agudelo, Bunbury, Tim Ream, et al, will be older and more experienced, and probably carrying a few Concacaf qualifiers on their belts. That will be the time to phase out Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit and other veterans who can no longer play at the international level.

Those same players will be vital cogs this summer at the Gold Cup and unless they completely lose their form, there’s no rational reason to exclude them between now and July just to experiment with a fleet of younger players. There’s plenty of time for that.

What makes Agudelo especially appealing is he possesses some of the same attributes as Charlie Davies in younger, rawer form. There’s pace and strength, audacity and confidence to swoop and dart and swerve into the penalty area, as well as a sharp game sense for someone who just turned 18. He’s yet to be given regular playing time to show he can threaten and finish consistently, but playing for a Red Bulls team that will surround him with experienced players is an optimum proving ground.

He’s very young, and recent examples of U.S. attackers who were rushed along too quickly or veered off-track – Freddy Adu, Eddie Johnson, Benny Feilhaber, Jozy Altidore – confirm that U.S. Soccer and Bradley must be careful, but not overly cautious, with this latest young phenom.

Bunbury has a year of MLS play with Kansas City and a grand total of two caps, yet so dire is the U.S. situation up top that an impressive 30 minutes last Saturday has convinced a significant segment of fans that these two young men are the now as well as the future.

Three weeks of training camp whipped the U.S. players into shape sufficiently to play a low-key friendly at home against a Chilean ‘B’ team. But it’s unrealistic to expect those same players to flourish in front of a raucous Egyptian crowd that remembers, as do their players, of a 3-0 pasting inflicted by the USA at the last Confederations Cup a year and a half ago. The European-based players, except those in Scandinavia, will be midseason sharp, while the MLS players have gone back for the start of preseason training devoid, for the most part, of games.

U.S. fans may regard the Egypt game as a training exercise, but Bradley won’t. It figures to be a tough game in harsh conditions against a team very prideful of its self-proclaimed status as the best in North Africa, a much stiffer test than was South Africa back in November. It also falls at an awkward time for players in Scandinavia and those in MLS, though Mixx Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya labored against Chile and will want to get back on the field for the USA as soon as possible.

There’s a few Americans in Mexico, which has already started its season, and they might be preferred over the MLS options, though the staggering travel distance and time change from North America to Egypt is yet another reason to select mostly Europeans.

In late March, the next FIFA international window, the Americans will play Argentina in the New Meadowlands Stadium March 26 and Paraguay in Nashville three days later. Most MLS teams are playing on the first date, a Saturday, so it’s logical to assume Bradley will summon the Europeans for that match, and then release many of them to tackle Paraguay with those from North America.

In Cairo, a few of the newer faces would be nice to see, but it’s more likely the veteran guard will be called.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: January 25, 2011 at 11:02 p.m.
    Ridge -- you have become a cliche of all US soccer reporting. Regarding Agudelo-- "There’s pace and strength, audacity and confidence to swoop and dart and swerve into the penalty area, as well as a sharp game sense..." With all that swooping and darting and pace and strength, can he actually control the ball, can he dribble?? Yes!! I know he can but it doesn't seem like skill is anywhere in your vocabulary. Don't worry, you are indeed QUITE representative of the soccer reporting and coaching establishment.
  1. Lloyd Elling
    commented on: January 26, 2011 at 9:19 a.m.
    The chance of this match being played is dimishing daily. The protest against the Egyptian government may spread and become violent. Bunbury and Agudelo bring great pace, skill, creativity and youthful enthusiasm. I would love to see them play with Donovan, Dempsey, Holden, Bradley, Jones, Torres, Spector, Lichaj, Goodsen, Bocanegra and Howard.
  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: January 26, 2011 at 10:45 a.m.
    Lloyd, you have a point. But if the game does come off, I agree. Bring Agudelo and Bunbury along. There is nothing to lose right now.Young players shouldn't be rushed, I agree, but they do need to be challeneged. Finding that balance is where the trainer comes in. Playing in matches where not everything is a stake seems to me to be the right way to expose them.
  1. Philippe Fontanelli
    commented on: January 26, 2011 at 10:51 a.m.
    Per Ridge again;The sharp attacking form of Clint Dempsey and Stuart Holden and the resilience and distribution of Michael Bradley, are what the Americans will count on in Cairo. Dempsey and Holden yes but Bradley again? Bradley has been playing even in his own club team only 6 minutes at a time as a sub. I believe in the last 3-4 games of a the last team. Ridge you never stop do you? You ignoramous.
  1. David Huff
    commented on: January 26, 2011 at 1:25 p.m.
    Ridge, you truly reveal yourself once again as an idiot. It starts with your comment "Fans disappointed in their World Cup performances may have given up on Findley and Buddle" which although may be certainly true about Findley (who couldn't score in a quality international match even if he had an open net in front of him) is extremely unfair to Buddle who was not given much opportunity to play in WC South Africa under "Team Bradley", similar treatment was also dished out to the leading scorer in the Mexican League, Hercules Gomez, who sat on the bench most of the time next to Buddle. You offer little justification as to why the newly transferred overseas players should be disrupted from their new clubs (where they are trying to get established and some of which have already shed blood for the USMNT such as Onyewu) as opposed to bringing in the younger set of players to see what they can do in what is, afterall, a meaningless friendly far removed in time from the Gold Cup action to place this summer. Perhaps "Team Bradley" is feeeling the pressure to build on its W-L stats? This is just so annoying and tired now, the best to be expected from the MLS/SUM/USSF organization that controls American football/soccer.
  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: January 26, 2011 at 2:09 p.m.
    I am not sure I understand this pervasive feeling of reservation when it comes to Agudelo and Bunbury. According to Arsene Wenger, " to make it as a top flight player these guys must break through at a young age or they never will. Look at any world class side and all the players have played top flight football by 18". Agudelo and Bunbury are here. We can't hide them, put them in the closet, or ask the press not to talk about them. If they are the real deal, they will rise to the occasion. If they aren't, it won't be because we put too much pressure on them. Freddy Adu was not derailed by lofty expectations. He didn't work hard enough. Freddy used to refuse to play with the other kids at Bradenton because he thought they were inferior. Instead he demanded individual training sessions and one on one coaching. US soccer did him no favors by allowing the entitled attitude to grow through their provision of one on one coaching sessions, but it wasn't the millions of people interested in him that prevented his rise to fame. Do you think Rooney didn't have pressure on him at 20 to perform for Man U after they paid so much money for him? Or messi at Barca after his buy out clause was raised to GDP levels at the age of 18? The world of international football is nasty and competitive. Our overwhelming desire to shield prospects from harm won't alter their destiny, it will only hinder it.
  1. Kenneth Barron
    commented on: January 27, 2011 at 10:18 p.m.
    Well put Gak. As for the other comments lambasting Ridge--stop reading his publication if you hate it so much instead of hurling personal insults. Go read whatever better analysis you think is out there instead!
  1. David Huff
    commented on: January 28, 2011 at 10:21 a.m.
    @ Kenneth, we'll express our own opinions that we like (sorry some of us don't just go along as sheep here), when I last checked the publication was known as "Soccer America" as opposed to "his" publication, so really "what is the frequency Kenneth?"

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