[U.S. MEN] The recall of Freddy Adu and fresh starts for Robbie Rogers and Sacha Kljestan provided the major surprises of Coach Bob Bradley's 23-man Gold Cup roster. When it came to explaining some of his more curious choices to face Spain and Concacaf opposition in the Gold Cup, Bradley admitted he wanted to go with guys he knew.
“That certainly was a factor,” said Bradley in a conference call Monday shortly after the roster was finalized and released. “Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan and Freddy Adu are players that we know well.
“They are players that have shown that when they come in for these types of tournaments, they understand the way we work and the way we do things. People certainly respect what they bring when we go into a month-long tournament so those were definitely factors.”
Those three players help cast this 23-man squad in a more varied and different light than the roster picked by Bradley for the 2010 World Cup. There are some younger players, such as Juan Agudelo, who can gain valuable experience – there’s that word again – but with a place in the 2013 Confederations Cup on the line for the winner, this is a competition to be won, not tinkered with.
“We certainly thought first and foremost about putting a team together that has the best chance to win this Gold Cup,” said Bradley. “With that we believe that there are players here that we see for sure being key parts in 2014, so I hope those things go together well.”
Adu’s recall earned the most notoriety, since the one-time, can’t-miss superstar wasn’t even in contention for the 2010 World Cup team, yet since moving to the Turkish second division to play for Caykur Rizespor on loan from Benfica has impressed Bradley and his staff, at least on-screen. All Bradley has seen are clips and computer feeds of live games.
“We have followed Freddy since he transferred to Rizespor,” said Bradley of Adu’s move at the end of January. “We’ve watched him a number of different times on the computer. We’ve not managed to get there. We watched one of his playoff games this morning, but we still feel that there are good signs from him as a player that have shown us soccer qualities that we think help our team.”
When pressed for details of those qualities, Bradley said, “I think it’s important to say that it’s not that we’ve seen anything specific playing for his new club that shows how he’s made progress or how he’s improved. It’s a package of things.
“He’s a player that certainly we all know at different times has shown some soccer abilities that are special. He hasn’t always been able to make them count in different situations at different levels but we respect the fact that he made this move to go to a smaller club because he had to show people he was willing to do whatever to keep going.”
This is Adu’s fourth loan since he signed with Benfica in 2007 and not always has he displayed that he’s “willing to do whatever to keep going.” Yet as Bradley also said, this call-up is just a step to assess Adu’s current value at the senior level, and not based on what he’s done for other U.S. teams in the past.
“There are still challenges for Freddy to show that the things that he’s been able to do at times, let’s say at some of the youth levels, that they can really make a difference whether it’s for the senior national team or a top club,” said Bradley. “Those are things that we all need to assess and it yet it works well sometimes and it’s a gut feeling sometimes that this is a good time to size this guy up again and that’s probably where it comes into play.”
The selection of Rogers may be predicated on a shortage of left-sided midfielders as much as his play in MLS recently, which has been average for the most part. Bradley referred to his ability to get in behind opposing defenses, which the U.S. team occasionally struggles to do unless the ball is played to Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey. And on his day he’s an aggressive, fluid dribbler who can also play combinations through the channels.
Kljestan, formerly coached by Bradley at Chivas USA, fell out of favor in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup. In MLS and for the national team his remarkable skills and vision were tainted by inconsistency and defensive frailty; like Adu, he will be examined closely to assess how those elements of his play have changed since he left for Europe.
Several players in Mexico have been passed over, including Herculez Gomez, whose scoring burst over the past month didn’t sway Bradley sufficiently. “It was certainly not a situation where we were looking at Jozy [Altidore] vs. Herculez [Gomez],” said Bradley. “His club form hasn’t been what he would want or what any of us would want but Jozy has certainly shown that he is an important player for our national team.”
Some fans will lament the absence of Jose Francisco Torres, but since the World Cup, his fortunes have plummeted. When Pachuca lost some of its impact players, he failed to step in as a reliable starter. Injuries also affected his form and with several European-based midfielders – Maurice Edu, Kljestan, even Adu – playing regularly his chances dimmed.
“It’s a roster that certainly has experience from previous Gold Cups and World Cups and yet includes some new players that we think in the moment have earned the opportunity and that we’re excited to bring into this tournament,” said Bradley.
Bradley called up 14 players from the 2010 World Cup team.
GOALKEEPERS: Tim Howard (Everton, England), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolves, England).
DEFENDERS: Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente, Netherlands), Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne, France), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96, Germany), Eric Lichaj (Leeds, England), Clarence Goodson (Broendby, Denmark), Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres, Mexico), Jonathan Spector (West Ham, England), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls).
MIDFIELDERS: Michael Bradley (Aston Villa, England), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Maurice Edu (Rangers, Scotland), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Freddy Adu (Rizespor, Turkey), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn, England), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht, Belgium).
FORWARDS: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor, Turkey), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).