Let’s do a blind test. Which player would you think was most likely to be named tomorrow (2 p.m. ET, ESPNews) to the 30-man preliminary U.S. roster for the World Cup?
– Player A: Excelled for U-17s, U-20s and Olympic team. Had productive MLS career, twice named to All-Star team. Sold to European team but struggled for a couple of years to find place with club team. Has rare attacking skill and vision on the field. Has come on strong in recent games by most reports. 15 U.S. caps.
– Player B: Didn’t make U.S. youth teams, though he was considered. After good college career, opted to try his luck in Scandinavia. Currently leads his club team with four yellow cards. 2 U.S. caps, both in friendlies.
You’ve probably guessed it. Player A is Freddy Adu. Player B is Alejandro Bedoya. Those in the know think Bedoya will be on the roster and Adu won’t. If you bet on that four years ago, call someone for help setting up a charitable foundation you can surely afford to start now.
So has Bedoya benefited from being under the radar?
He shouldn’t, of course. It’s one thing to become the hip pick among the cognoscenti, even though no one has a chance to see him play outside of a couple of late appearances in friendlies. It’s another to impress Bob Bradley and the U.S. staff. U.S. Soccer is past the days in which a rumor of a left-footed player with an American citizenship claim somewhere in the Oberliga would start a stampede.
But what helps Bedoya is that no one has been paying attention long enough to see him fail. That sets him apart from Adu, Bobby Convey, Eddie Gaven, Edson Buddle, etc. Bedoya brings no baggage and no reason for a hue and cry among the fans and media. As far as the coaching staff is concerned, he’s an intriguing prospect. They may feel at this point that they know what Adu brings to the table. Bedoya is likely worth a closer look.
Still, there’s a downside to bringing in someone at this stage who didn’t go through the Central America grind. Late additions to the team usually help a bit more when they have some elite-level experience. DaMarcus Beasley and Tony Sanneh emerged late in the 2002 World Cup cycle, but Sanneh was a Bundesliga veteran and Beasley had been a U-17 / U-20 star.
And Bradley’s team-building philosophy is to build a wall around the squad. There’s an “inside” and “outside.” (See Filip Bondy’s new book, Chasing the Game.) It’s not so much a mean-spirited exclusionary tactic as it is a means of keeping distractions to a minimum.
Bedoya’s not a complete stranger, having been in the national team camp a couple of times already. So if he is indeed picked for this camp, Bradley must not view him as a risk.
Who else gets the call? Here are the locks and the bubble picks …
Incidentally, here’s what U.S. Soccer called its player pool.
LOCKS for final 23
Tim Howard, GK
Brad Guzan, GK
Marcus Hahnemann, GK
Carlos Bocanegra, D
Michael Bradley, M
Maurice Edu, M
Landon Donovan, M/F
Clint Dempsey, M/F
Jozy Altidore, F
NEAR-LOCKS for final 23 (fitness questions)
Oguchi Onyewu, D
Jay DeMerit, D
Stuart Holden, M
Charlie Davies, F
NEAR-LOCKS for final 23 (form questions)
Jonathan Spector, D
Steve Cherundolo, D
Jonathan Bornstein, D – Chang omits
Ricardo Clark, M
Benny Feilhaber, M
Jose Francisco Torres, M
That’s 19 who are likely bound for South Africa unless their fitness or form fails them in camp. They should all be in camp at least.
Then the competition for the other 11 spots in camp is interesting, to say nothing of the competition for the final four going to the Cup.
THE BUBBLE – listed with writers backing them for final 23 (in parentheses, writers backing them for prelim 30)
Frankie Hejduk, D – Wahl
Clarence Goodson, D – Wahl, Davis (Goff)
Edgar Castillo, D – Mravic,
Chad Marshall, D – Mravic (Goff)
Heath Pearce, D/M – (Goff)
Alejandro Bedoya, M – on 4 of 5 SI picks for final 23
Sacha Kljestan, M – Davis (Goff)
DaMarcus Beasley, M – Dohrmann (Goff)
Robbie Rogers, M – Dohrmann
Bobby Convey, M
Brian Ching, F – Wahl, Mravic, Chang (Goff)
Herculez Gomez, F – Wahl, Chang (Goff)
Edson Buddle, F – Davis, Mravic (Goff)
Eddie Johnson, F – Davis (Goff)
Brian McBride, F – Davis, despite his retirement from international play
Robbie Findley, F – (Goff)
Nick Rimando, GK – Davis points out Bradley likely wouldn’t take a fourth goalkeeper to camp — the MLS team would need the player, and Bradley could make a call-up in case of injury. But putting a fourth keeper on the 30-man roster provides some insurance in case Guzan or Hahnemann looks less than 100% in camp. Rimando and Troy Perkins have each played a full friendly this year. Perkins has lost his starting job in D.C. By process of elimination, Rimando should be the pick.
LISTED IN PLAYER POOL BUT DOUBTFUL
Kevin Alston, D
Justin Braun, F
Geoff Cameron, M (injured)
Conor Casey, F
Kenny Cooper, F
Jeff Cunningham, F
Brad Davis, M
Brad Evans, M
Eddie Gaven, M
Omar Gonzalez, D
Kevin Hartman, GK
Jermaine Jones, M (injured)
Jeff Larentowicz, M
Dax McCarty, M
Brandon McDonald, D
Michael Orozco, D
Troy Perkins, GK
Chris Pontius, M
Frank Simek, D
Zach Thornton, GK
Marcus Tracy, F
Marvell Wynne, D
SHOULD BE THERE BUT WON’T
- Jimmy Conrad, D – seems nonsensical to have him be a captain when he’s called in and then not bring him in as a backup with a solid World Cup performance on his resume. Granted, getting a red card in his one 2010 appearance didn’t help.
- Freddy Adu, M/F – he’s playing well for Aris, he has done everything asked of him, and he still has rare game-breaking skills.