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Archive for the ‘Sean Johnson’ Category

Some links for Thursday
   October 30, 2014 (12:22 AM) by Matt Benson

First off, you haven’t read it already, you need to check out Will’s interview with Patrick McLain.  Some interesting stories of his time at Chivas USA, including this one:

Unfortunately, the next coaching staff to come in midway through the 2013 season was very different. The coaching staff was unable to communicate in English and were not good about translating for those of us who didn’t speak Spanish. I was punished by this coaching staff towards the end of the season for not understanding something that was said to me in Spanish, because it was not translated for me, therefore I did not respond to it. I was called into the coach’s office and helplessly tried to plead my ignorance of my apparent disrespect. There was no interpreter present and my message was not received. As punishment, I was demoted from second on the depth chart to third.

Yay Chivas USA?

We have had a few goals over the last couple days.  Terrence Boyd scored his first goal since May in RB Leipzig’s 3-1 win over Erzgebirge Aue in the DFB Pokal on Wednesday (highlights).  And of course he broke out the cyclops.  Sacha Kljestan made his first start of the season and scored his first goal of the season in Anderlecht’s 3-2 win over Kortrijk (highlights).  Bryan Gerzicich scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday in Maccabi Petah Tikva’s 1-0 win over Hapoel Haifa (highlights).

Aron Johannsson returned to AZ Alkmaar’s first team yesterday, playing in the 5-0 win over GVVV in the KNVB Beker.

John Brooks also got his first start since September in Hertha Berlin’s loss (on PKs) to Arminia Bielefeld in the DFB Pokal.

Danny Williams returned to the field this week in Reading U-21s’ 2-0 win over Brighton on Monday.

Michael Orozco and Puebla are headed to the Copa MX final after beating Lobos BUAP on Tuesday.

Alejandro Bedoya could be leaving Nantes come January according to his agent.

Bobby Wood has been demoted to 1860 Munich’s U-23 team.

This is what Michael Bradley looks like post-surgery (with the rare smile!).  And in the latest in Jurgen Klinsmann vs. the (US Soccer) world, Bradley and Klinsi don’t see eye to eye on where he should be playing.

It is that time of year when MLS players head to Europe for training stints and first up is Sean Johnson to Hull City.

Here is a lengthy read on DeAndre Yedlin.

Phil Saunders has re-signed with BI / Bolungarvik in Iceland.

According to Reading’s website, Andrija Novakovich has been called up by the US U-20 team, who will play Russia, Ireland and Canada in Spain this month.

Greg Seltzer gives us some European-based names for the US U-23 team for the 2016 Olympics.

And finally, here is your 2018 World Cup logo.  It is actually not that bad.

Categories: Alejandro Bedoya, Andrija Novakovich, Aron Johannsson, Bobby Wood, Bryan Gerzicich, Danny Williams, DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Michael Bradley, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Patrick McLain, Phil Saunders, Sacha Kljestan, Sean Johnson, Terrence Boyd, US U-20 National Team, US U-23 National Team

Here is your US-Ecuador pre-game primer
   October 10, 2014 (12:43 AM) by Matt Benson

Here is a quick rundown of things you might want to look at before today’s game.

» The game is at 7 PM Eastern on ESPN, WatchESPN and UniMas.

» Ecuador is ranked #21 by FIFA and #17 by Elo, while the US is #17 by FIFA and #15 by Elo.

» Here are the official game notes by US Soccer.  As for some random stats/facts:

The US is 2-5-4 all-time against Ecuador, failing to score a goal in eight of the 11 games.

The US is 7-3-1 all-time in the state of Connecticut, including a 3-1-0 mark at Rentschler Field.  All three wins at Rentschler Field have come by the score of 1-0.

Landon Donovan enters Friday’s game as the USMNT’s all-time leader in goals (57), assists (58), games started (141) and minutes played (12,813), while his 156 caps are second to Cobi Jones (164).

Brad Guzan is one shutout shy of becoming the sixth goalkeeper in USMNT history with 10+ shutouts.

Landon Donovan will look to become the first USMNT player with 15+ career goals to score in his final game with the US.

» While this game is all about Landon Donovan for the most part, The Yanks Are Coming have you covered with a game preview.

» As for the last bit of news to come out of the camp yesterday, 33,000 tickets have been sold so far.  Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t think Jozy Altidore’s situation at Sunderland is great right now.  Klinsi also thinks John Brooks will return to Hertha Berlin’s first team after the international break.  Brad Guzan will start Friday’s game, while Nick Rimando will start Tuesday against Honduras.  Bill Hamid will return to DC after Friday’s game and will be replaced by Sean Johnson.  Julian Green was sent back to Hamburg due to his rib injury.  While he is not with the camp (and has been MIA for a while). Juan Agudelo is headed to England to trial with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

» But this game is all about Landon. has a fun little interactive with all 57 of his US goals.  And here is some more Lando fun.

Categories: Brad Guzan, John Brooks, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Julian Green, Landon Donovan, Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson, US Men's National Team
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Guzan v. Panama 10.15.13
   October 17, 2013 (9:00 AM) by Will Reno

For those that missed the intro on the last one, Will likes goalkeepers and does a pretty good of doing in-depth reviews of goalie performances on his site  Will is also going to review USMNT goalkeeper performances for us as well.  You can also follow Will on Twitter at @letskillrobots.


Howard departed after the US’s 2-0 win over Jamaica. Guzan last played in the 4-2 loss to Belgium, coming on in the second half and conceding three goals, but did well against Mexico, holding them to a 0-0 tie at Azteca. So maybe this game would shed some light on how good this Brad Guzan guy really is.

Starter: Brad Guzan
Bench: Nick Rimando
Not in 18: Sean Johnson

Johnson, who looks like a strong candidate for 2018 bench at this point, fills the void. Guzan comes out in the worst USMNT goalkeeper kit I have ever seen. All mustard yellow (including gloves and sock) and neon yellow cleats.

Four minutes in and Guzan collects a skyscrapper of a header then punts the ball down to a man cleverly disguised as a target striker but for whatever reason never wins a 50-50 ball.

Seventh minute and we get a really good example of the difference between Guzan and Howard.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 9.49.26 PM

Kljestan takes care of the header as Guzan stays home. Howard goes for that ball every time. Who is right? Well in this occasion it’s Howard. However, a goalkeeper who typically protects the line versus one that imitates a wrecking ball can be equally as effective, you just have to know how to play them appropriately. There’s a lot of to consider (relationship with the defense, aerial strength of the opponents, type of service, etc.) before you just pick stay or go. (I went into length about this last time on Howard v. Jamaica.)

I don’t know who has the longer throw but Guzan dishes out a nice javelin at 0:25.

(There are a lot of looped balls sent in and various no-shot skirmishes in front of the goal because that’s what Panama is good at.)

Thirteen minute, Guzan gets a stressful encounter. A ball slices through the eighteen towards the corner flag. Guzan moves to it, then backs away (either because of the striker or slick bounce). The Panamian tracks it down, breakdances,

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.01.14 PM

They’re break dance fighting!

…and sends a hard ball in front of the goalmouth. Guzan goes down to collect it (as he should) but the giraffe is too thin to box out his man. I don’t know if Guzan does this on purpose or not but he kicks his right leg up in the air as if to block the goal when he realizes he’s lost the angle on the play.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.03.10 PM

If it’s on purpose, smart play to try to avoid the chip; if not, well he still looks awful in yellow.

Guzan pops back up and Goodson proves to not be completely two-deminsional and stomachs the ball from getting on frame.

Alright who watched the first goal and thought “Wha-Guzan? What happened?” then proceeded to watch eight awful camera angles that didn’t clarify anything? (Comment below about your experience.) Well I think I figured out some factors that contributed to Guzan’s wiff. First, there is a nice mud patch that Guzan is trying to avoid.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 9.45.56 PM

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.14.40 PM

He ends up being a little out of position because of this. Secondly, his feet are a bit out of sorts. His pre-shot jump is too high and he does a weird circle motion with his right foot (again, maybe because of the mud pit) that slows him down and kills his reach. The shot is in the side netting but this is something Guzan can get if he gets his mechanics sorted out. (I slowed it down at 1:48 to get a good look.)

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.18.44 PM

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.19.02 PM

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.19.05 PM

Notice his right foot kicks in about eight inches from the last picture.

A minute later he gets a similar shot on goal that Perez can’t get off the ground.

Later, Guzan does his best flying squirrel impression two minutes before the half.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.24.40 PM

Second half, Guzan comes out in a new kit. I bet Frank Borghi didn’t have that luxury.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.25.59 PM

No Mud McGee

Guzan and Castillo team up in the fifty-fourth minute to awkwardly bat a ball back into the center of the park. I think Guzan would have gotten this one on his second attempt. He misses with his foot but his swinging arm should arrive in time.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.28.02 PM

Guzan makes his best save of the match at around the 66th minute. Just a deft southpaw but a needed one. The play goes somewhat unnoticed because it happens so fast but it’s a six yard 1v1 blast and Guzan gets back up after the save just as fast as he made it. The slowed replay from behind the goal still makes the shot look fast.

I added a shot that goes wide from the seventy-ninth minute because I loved Guzan’s footwork. Constantly on his toes. Great stuff.

83rd minute and Guzan gets thrown in a similar situation that Howard faced with the in-swinging cross from Jamaica. There’s the original shot that’s not going in the goal but if Guzan leaves it he runs the risk of a easy shot on goal from the backside. He stretches out but can only fingertip it back to the guy that both Beckerman and Goodson have combined to stop marking. (The old adage “If you get your fingertips on it you need to catch it” does not apply here or for goalies at all btw.) There’s another crashing striker in the play that makes things even more difficult for Guzan.

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 11.41.27 PM

What could he have done differently? Officially, I’m going to say nothing because any critique is going to be so minute it’s not actually helpful. But in the margin I’m making a note that you want to parry the ball out on a line and not pop it up, which Guzan kiiinda does (5:03).

Two bounces into the bread baskets later, Guzan gets a hockey assist to make it 3-2.

The biggest thing I got out of the game is not knowing who the better goalkeeper is between Howard or Guzan, it’s deciphering the little things between the two. From first glance, they’re both bald. They’re both athletic. Both are good communicators. Both can kick and throw well and they are playing in the EPL. But they two have distinct playing styles. Howard is definitely more aggressive on crosses and 1v1s. Guzan likes to stay back. Howard’s stance is a lot wider while Guzan’s footwork is constant changing. Overall, I think the biggest difference in the game is that Guzan takes a calmer approach to the game and Howard is like that giant circular dog on a chain from Mario.


Look, I’m Woody. Howdy, howdy, howdy.

The good thing about this is that there’s no obvious better goalkeeper at the moment so everyone still has something to discuss on BigSoccer.

two goals: -2

5′ catch: +.02
7′ no catch: -.01
7′ catch: +.02
10′ catch: +.01
13′ positioning: +.10
17′ catch: +.01
18′ goal: +.82
19′ catch: +.05
40′ catch: +.01
66′ save: +.17
83′ save: +.06
83′ goal: +1

Total: +.27

Categories: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson, Tim Howard, US Men's National Team
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Friday morning links
   December 6, 2012 (11:42 PM) by Matt Benson

I’m going to be out of town this weekend so there might be a delay on highlights going up.  That said, here are some links.

Bolton manager Dougie Freedman confirmed that Stuart Holden has returned to first-team training, although they are still taking things slow.

Carlos Bocanegra is close to returning to the field after his hamstring injury.

Brad Friedel started for Tottenham in yesterday’s Europa League game and AVB wants to keep Friedel despite some recent Friedel-to-Blackburn rumors.

Chicago Fire and USMNT goalkeeper Sean Johnson is headed to England to train with Stoke City and Everton this offseason.  USMNT goalkeeper coach Chris Woods is also the goalkeeper coach at Everton, but Jurgen Klinsmann must have some decent connections at Stoke City between this and Geoff Cameron/Maurice Edu’s transfers.

Bruce Arena told the press this week that the Galaxy will not be letting Omar Gonzalez go on any offseason loans or training stints.  Gonzalez tore his ACL in his first day at training with Nurnberg last year.

According to Brian Sciaretta, Bobby Wood is on a second team contract with 1860 Munich, but talks of a first team contract have begun.

Sticking with Sciaretta, he spoke to Zach Pfeffer about his loan to Hoffenheim.

Chivas USA youth academy product Ben Spencer is going on some trials in Europe at the moment.

And finally, Greg Seltzer takes a look at some potential MLS targets of the Americans playing in Europe.

Categories: Ben Spencer, Bobby Wood, Brad Friedel, Carlos Bocanegra, Omar Gonzalez, Sean Johnson, Stuart Holden, Zach Pfeffer
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US Soccer announces Russia roster
   November 12, 2012 (7:58 AM) by Howie Michaels

Jürgen Klinsman called in twenty players for the Russia friendly, including two potential debutantes and some long-absent faces:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (6): Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Joshua Gatt (Molde), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna)

 The biggest name is Timmy Chandler, making his first appearance in a year. In a Q-and-A with, the on-again, off-again rightback discusses his commitment issues: The first question on many people’s minds will be: Why now?
Timmy Chandler: “I spent a lot of time thinking this over. I have had many conversations with Jurgen, my family, my girlfriend and the people close to me, and I finally feel ready to make the commitment.” What were some of the issues you felt were holding you back from being fully committed?
TC: “I was a young player trying to get settled into my club team and wasn’t sure about the long travel and everything that goes into being a part of this National Team. My coaches didn’t like the idea, so I think even I felt some pressure. I’ve had a chance to get settled in with the club and also have grown up a lot. I know what I want to do.” Given what has transpired in the last two years, there may be some people who are skeptical of your commitment to the U.S. team at this point?

TC: “I understand that a lot of people in the USA may be unsure because they think I have said [I’m committed] in the past. All I can say is that I am clear in my head about the commitment moving forward. This was about me being ready to accept the responsibility of being a part of the National Team and everything that goes with it, and now I am ready. I hope I will get chances in the future. I am in 1,000 percent.”

Actual wingers [Josh Gatt (Molde) and Joe Gyau (St. Pauli)] are nice to see. Despite a down year in MLS, Juan Agudelo is back, and despite a recent spat with the head man, Jozy Altidore is back.

Sacha, Gatt, Mix, Herc….it’s like the fan favorite XI.

Categories: Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, Danny Williams, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Herculez Gomez, Jermaine Jones, Joe Gyau, Josh Gatt, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Sacha Kljestan, Sean Johnson, Terrence Boyd, Tim Howard, Timothy Chandler, US Men's National Team

Friday Night Links (Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose)
   January 6, 2012 (8:16 PM) by Matt Benson

Sorry for the beyond cheesy post title, but today made me lose my mind.  But here are some links for those of you still mourning Omar Gonzalez’s ACL.

Speaking of MLS centerbacks, the interwebs seem to indicate that Tim Ream is close to making a move to Bolton, while George John is in talks with West Ham United.

French side Sochaux keep going after Maurice Edu, but Rangers rejected their latest offer.

It looks like Frank Simek’s latest ankle injury is nothing serious as he is expected to be back this weekend when Carlisle United hosts Leyton Orient.

Brian Sciaretta is at it again and introduces us to Brian “Cobi” Span.

Former Columbus Crew midfielder Kevin Burns is headed to Europe to trial with Danish club FC Hjorring.

Anthony Brooks played the second half of a friendly with Hertha Berlin’s first team in a 3-2 win over Osnabruck yesterday.

Danny Williams, Fabian Johnson and Joe Gyau all played for Hoffenheim in some 5v5 indoor-type tournament recently, with Johnson and Gyau both scoring throughout the tournament.  Read a fun Google translate article about it here, which includes some photos.

This was an interesting read from yesterday, but’s Leander Schaerlaeckens talks to former USMNT player and current AZ Alkmaar technical director Earnie Stewart about his “Moneyball” approach that has produced results in the Dutch Eredivisie.

As for some various things from US Soccer.  Sean Johnson gives us a journal entry into Camp Cupcake.  The USMNT will be having an open practice to the public.  All the information about attending can be found here.  The U-20 team had an intrasquad scrimmage at their camp, which ended in a 3-3 draw.  And as I posted earlier today, Caleb Porter selected his guys for January’s U-23 camp.

Categories: Brian Span, Danny Williams, Fabian Johnson, Frank Simek, George John, Joe Gyau, John Brooks, Kevin Burns, Maurice Edu, Sean Johnson, Tim Ream, US Men's National Team, US U-20 National Team, US U-23 National Team

Thursday linkage
   December 1, 2011 (3:51 PM) by Matt Benson

All the rumors can now end regarding the USMNT Camp Cupcake friendlies for January as US Soccer officially announced both games.  The US will take on Venezuela on January 21 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona before heading down to Panama City to play Panama on January 25.

It seems like I am making changes to our MLS players training in Europe list each day and we have two new changes for today.  It was first being reported that goalkeeper Sean Johnson would be heading to Manchester United to train, but things did not work out so now he is headed to Everton.

And fresh off his training stint at Stuttgart, Juan Agudelo is now headed to England to train with Liverpool.  As always, if you spot a link about someone else headed over to Europe, please let us know.

Charlie Davies’ loan deal with DC United has officially ended and they will not be pursuing a permanent transfer.  Should be interesting to see whether he returns to FC Sochaux or if he ends up elsewhere.  They could still re-negotiate a new deal, so the door is not completely shut with DC.

And finally, goalkeeper Joseph Bendik is looking to return to the US with his contract expiring after this season with Norwegian side Sogndal.

Categories: Charlie Davies, Joseph Bendik, Juan Agudelo, Sean Johnson, US Men's National Team

MLS players training in Europe list
   November 16, 2011 (9:44 PM) by Matt Benson

Someone on twitter suggested keeping track of all these MLS players who are training in Europe this offseason, so I decided to keep this list, which I will update whenever a new name pops up.  So if you know of anyone I am missing, please leave the player and some kind of link to a news story on them training in Europe in the comments.

Here is who I can think of off the top of my head:

Juan Agudelo – VfB Stuttgart & Liverpool
Kyle Beckerman – Kaiserslautern
Bill Hamid – West Bromwich Albion
Sean Johnson – Everton
Perry Kitchen – SC Freiburg
Jeff Larentowicz – Bolton Wanderers
Zac MacMath – Everton
Amobi Okugo – SC Freiburg
Zach Pfeffer – TSG Hoffenheim
Tim Ream – West Bromwich Albion & Bolton Wanderers
Robbie Rogers – Kaiserslautern
Omar Salgado – Fulham
Brek Shea – Arsenal

Categories: Amobi Okugo, Bill Hamid, Brek Shea, Jeff Larentowicz, Juan Agudelo, Kyle Beckerman, Omar Salgado, Perry Kitchen, Robbie Rogers, Sean Johnson, Tim Ream, Zac MacMath, Zach Pfeffer

Some assorted reads for Monday
   October 31, 2011 (10:30 PM) by Howie Michaels

It was noted last week that Bill Hamid, one of two goalkeepers likely to be on the Olympic squad, was going to spend some of his winter training with West Bromwich Albion. Now, it appears that Sean Johnson, his rival to start for Caleb Porter’s U-23 team, may also be training in England with Manchester United. The value of these training stints is certainly debatable (Teal Bunbury trained with Stoke City last offseason and wound up on Sporting Kansas City’s bench for half the season), but I don’t think it hurts.

KCKRS reports on a historic moment: someone in the United Kingdom realizes that Carlos Bocanegra, not Landon Donovan, has been Captain America for the last four years.

It’s been discussed here before, but Rise and Shine: The Jay Demerit Story will have an official theater release on Thursday. You can find a screening here.

Many Americans are excited to see Josh Gatt, Sean Cunningham, and Molde FK win their first-ever Eliteserien title in its one hundred years of play. Elsewhere in Norway, Olympic prospect Mikkel Diskerud and Stabæk are hoping to make a late run out of the middle of the table. In other words, there’s some young America talent in Norway. That’s why you should find this piece on the struggles of Norwegian club football from In Bed With Maradona interesting. The issue? A love affair with England. (Does that sound familiar?)

Finally, domestically, the MLS playoffs are at the mid-point of the quarterfinal round. Much attention has gone to the post-match fracas between New York and Los Angeles (which saw Mexico captain Rafa Marquez throw a ball at Landon Donovan). Other notables from the opening legs: Juan Agudelo was an unused substitute for the second consecutive playoff match, Bunbury had a brace, Jason Kreis showed why he’s a future Nats coach, and Brad Davis solidified his MVP candidacy despite a Nigel de Jong impression from Gabriel Farfan.

Categories: Bill Hamid, Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit, Josh Gatt, Sean Cunningham, Sean Johnson, US Men's National Team, US U-23 National Team
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What I’m watching for on Saturday
   January 20, 2011 (9:49 PM) by Howie Michaels

The U.S. trots out what amounts to the junior varsity squad for Saturday’s friendly against Chile (10 P.M. EST, and TelaFutra). Bob Bradley has called up his usual MLS/Scandinavian roster for the January camp, and this roster is particularly young: Alejandro Bedoya, who has six caps (all in 2010), is the most-capped player. The only player to have an international goal is 18 year-old Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo. In all, the team has a collective 23 caps among them. For comparison, Landon Donovan has 128 caps. Sacha Kljestan, a fairly young player that is hardly a national team regular, has 25 caps alone.

However, when I use the term “junior varsity” I do not mean it in a degrading way. Rather, it’s a young team that may include future national team stars. Against Colombia in October, Brek Shea became the first player born in the 1990s to earn a cap. This team has four players born in the ’90s, all of whom are seeking their second cap. Fourteen players in camp are 23 years old or younger.

With the Gold Cup beginning in just over four months and World Cup qualifying beginning as early as this fall, this may represent a last chance for players to play themselves into the picture for the upcoming critical matches before some of the World Cup key players begin to fade from the picture.

With that introduction, here are the five things I’m most interested in watching on Saturday night:

1) How will the forwards look?
It’s no secret that forward isn’t the strongest position for the U.S. American strikers have famously gone two consecutive World Cups without scoring a goal (although I do think that Jozy Altidore had a good World Cup despite his lack of goals). Two World Cup veterans— Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley– recently left their clubs in the domestic league for teams in Europe; both were forced to join second-division clubs. The best U.S. forward, Alitdore, struggles to get off the bench for Villarreal; the remaining forward from that team, Herculez Gomez, had scored once in fifteen appearances for Pachuca this season.

It is due to that current situation that so many U.S. fans were excited by the play of young Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury in November. Agudelo, the former academy star for the Red Bulls, emerged as a starter for New York in the playoffs as injuries slowed Thierry Henry. He parlayed his breakout performances over the two legs (which included a great assist for a brief, late equalizing goal in the second leg) into a cap, where he scored the winner against South Africa at just 17 years old (and became the rare forward to score a senior international goal before a senior club goal). Bunbury, meanwhile, had a 5-goal rookie campaign for Sporting Kansas City and may have more minutes available in Sporting’s 4-3-3 next season with the departure of former national teamer Josh Wolff. He will also have the chance to learn from Mexican World Cup veteran Omar Bravo next year. Bunbury appeared as a second-half sub against South Africa and looked promising.

The remaining forward options are more interesting and unconventional in background. Chris Wondolowski, 28 years old next week, came out of nowhere (11 goals in all competitions his first six years as a professional) to win the MLS Golden Boot with a stunning 18 goals in 26 regular season matches before adding a series-winner in the playoffs. He becomes the latest in a line of hot/in-form US forwards to get a previously-unexpected national team shot (see also: Jeff Cunningham in late 2009, Gomez, Buddle, and Conor Casey in 2009). Is Wondolowski just a fluke wonder— 12 of his goals came in the last 13 games of the season, including two hat tricks— or is he a late bloomer? While not physically impressive in the manner of Agudelo or Bunbury, Wondolowski demonstrated a great knack for finishing— something that US strikers could stand to use.

The other interesting forward option is the late addition to the camp, the Ukrainian-born Yevgeni (“Eugene”) Starikov. Starikov emerged on the scene literally from the middle of nowhere (I would classify Siberia as “nowhere”) emerging as a key player for FC Tom Tomsk while on loan from powerhouse Zenit St. Petersburg. No one is quite sure what to make of him as a prospect, but at just 21/22 he was making starts in one of the best non-Big Four leagues in Europe so he would seem to have some talent.

2) What formation does Bob Bradley use?
During the fall string of friendlies, Bradley experimented with a number of lineups besides the 4-4-2 (more of a 4-2-2-2) that he used for the most part during the previous cycle. Against Poland, he used a 4-5-1. Against Colombia, he used a 4-3-3 with three central midfielders (Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, and Jermaine Jones) in vein of the Manchester City inverted triangle. Against South Africa, we saw both the 4-4-2 and the 4-2-3-1 that was so popular at the World Cup. With the depth that the US has in central midfield, I would not be surprised if the 4-2-3-1 emerged as the preferred formation this cycle. Could we see the young Norwegian-American Mikkel “Mix” Diskerud (who had the impressive game-winning assist at South Africa) playing the center of the 3 (as many speculate may emerge over time)?

3) Will depth emerge at the wide midfield positions?
While Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, the two stars of the last cycle, both play officially wide attacking midfield positions, neither are true wingers (both tend to have the freedom to move around the field in the 4-2-2-2) and the US has a lack of proven depth in the outside midfield. With Stuart Holden playing more and more centrally at Bolton Wanderers, there is an opportunity for young outside midfielders to prove themselves. Shea and Bedoya in particular could stand to gain significantly with strong performances, and Diskerud and Eric Alexander– both of whom play more inside but may play outside on Saturday– also have a lot to gain. While Shea impressed coaches from Real and Atletico Madrid while playing at centerback during the MLS Generation adidas trip to Spain, I still think that the 20 year-old’s immediate future is at winger. For the sake of the US, who already have a number of young centerbacks in the pool, I hope he can develop into a dynamic left-footed attacker. Bedoya, meanwhile, looks to continue his rise within the American ranks. Both (along with Diskerud) are probably on the Gold Cup roster bubble right now, showing an ability to provide service and creativity from the wings would go a long way towards earning themselves a spot on the roster.

4) How will the back line shake out?
As I mentioned, the U.S. does seem to have a number of potentially strong centerback options. Three of them— Ike Opara (injury), George John (injury), and Gale Agbossoumonde (on trial in Sweden)— aren’t here, but several of them are in camp. Will Tim Ream (possibly the best US centerback of any age with the ball at his feet) and Omar Gonzalez prove to be a long-term pairing? Is one-time rightback Marvell Wynne (whom I don’t think has played since his disastrous outing in a 3-1 loss at Costa Rica) a budding athletic centerback star (where he revived his career with Colorado)? Will Anthony Wallace become a player at left back, or will the US continue its century-long search for a reliable player there (although Jonathan Bornstein played very well at the World Cup)? Where does AJ DeLaGarza— generally the backup to fellow camper Sean Franklin at RB, an often-effective pairing with former college teammate Gonzalez– fit into the picture?

5) Do Jeff Larentowicz and Dax McCarty have a future with this team?
I feel bad for Larentowicz and McCarty in a way. Both of them have flourished in MLS, with McCarty having a great season for Dallas while Larentowicz may have been the most important addition to MLS Cup champion Colorado. As mentioned, central midfield is the deepest US position. However, one can never have enough depth. Unlike the central midfielders that went to South Africa (Logan Pause and Brian Carroll), both Larentowicz and McCarty seem to have some upside. Will they play enough to at least become options as qualifying stretches on and some injury-prone players (cough, Jermaine Jones, cough) fall in and out of form, or will their careers mirror Kyle Beckerman’s— probably a key player for the US five years ago but left behind by the current crop of talent?

My predicted lineup:

Johnson (Rimando)
Miller (Wallace)
Cronin (McCarty)
Diskerud (Larentowicz)
Bunbury (Agudelo)
Alexander (Shea)
Starikov (Wondolowski)

Also, while I’m not gunning for stickers, this strikes me as a 1-1 draw.

Categories: Alejandro Bedoya, Brek Shea, Eugene Starikov, Juan Agudelo, Mix Diskerud, Omar Gonzalez, Ryan Miller, Sean Franklin, Sean Johnson, Teal Bunbury, Tim Ream, Top 5 Lists, US Men's National Team

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