Monday, August 31, 2009

US News and Notes

Just when you thought you were getting into the swing of things with the start of the European season, along comes an international break, with important World Cup qualifiers looming. That of course means more unanswered questions about which US National Team will show up, the one that beat Spain or the one that's lost twice in a row to Mexico.

Well the US gets a chance to show its character in Saturday's match against El Salvador in Salt Lake City, followed by a trip to Trinidad and Tobago.

One way to improve the US team is to bring in better players, and many people, myself included, have been looking forward to seeing Jermaine Jones don the Stars and Stripes (well not literally, unless you were a fan of those '94 World Cup jerseys...). Unfortunately, it looks like Jones, as well as Mexican-American born left back Edgar Castillo, will have to keep waiting due to uncertainties at FIFA. Not to mention that Jones is still recovering from a broken leg.

The interesting thing here is that it's fully possible that neither player, and Jones in particular, will be able to play in a meaningful match for the US until after they've already qualified for the World Cup (hopefully). Jones is being eased back by Schalke, so it's possible he will not be match fit by the time the next pair of qualifiers roll around on Oct. 10 and 14 against Honduras and Costa Rica. If he is to become a key player next summer, it would be nice to see him gain the confidence and camaraderie of his fellow players during qualifying rather than seeing everyone else do the hard work only to have him step in for the World Cup glory, an issue that shouldn't be underestimated. I hope Jones is available for the next round of matches, though I also hope he's not playing in a meaningful match at RFK against Costa Rica, because needing points from the last match of the hexagonal is not a good situation to be in. Like Jones, I still don't know enough about Castillo either, but anyone who could upgrade at left back should get a look and fortunately he is match fit.

Steve Davis also takes a look at why the El Salvador match at Rio Tinto Stadium is not sold out yet. Of course everyone realizes the unique demographics of the United States in large part dictates where important matches can be played, but Davis also raises the interesting thought of setting up a rewards system, whereby fans that go to qualifiers get priority for World Cup tickets, something that provides an incentive for US supporters to attend more matches than just against Mexico.

And just to refresh your memory, here is the US roster for the upcoming qualifiers:

GOALKEEPERS (2): Brad Guzan, Tim Howard

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Robbie Rogers, José Francisco Torres

FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey, Brian Ching, Charlie Davies, Landon Donovan, Robbie Findley

Remeber that Oguchi is suspended for the El Salvador game, meaning a likely pairing of DeMerit and Bocanegra, with Bornstein on the left (rather than as I keep calling for, playing Spector on the left).

A whole host of players are a yellow card away from being suspended from the Trinidad match: Dempsey, Donovan, Casey, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Bocanegra, Clark, Feilhaber, and Altidore. So basically the entire team is in danger and everyone of importance other than Howard and Davies needs to be careful. The yellow card rules right now are just plain stupid. In any case, the home match is a must win, so no one should hold back, but don't be surprised to see some of the above players substituted if the US grabs a lead. More on the El Salvador match and other important qualifiers around the world to come later this week here at FutbolNation, including the match of the weekend - Argentina v. Brazil.

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