Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Scattershot View of the USA

If you've been following the news recently there's been a number of items of interest to USA fans. Unfortunately, some of that news portends badly for the US's World Cup hopes.

Starting with the latest injury news, midfield/striker Clint Dempsey suffered a possible PCL injury this weekend for Fulham. A serious knee ligament injury at this point of the year could throw his World Cup in doubt, and even if he returns, you couldn't expect Dempsey to be back to match fitness and sharpness.

This just piles on top of the injuries to Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu. Furthermore, potential USA man Jermaine Jones continues to suffer through setback after setback with his shin injury, as well as a possible rift with his coach at Schalke.

Further injuries have hit DaMarcus Beasley (shocking development that is).

Additionally, Jozy Altidore isn't playing much for Hull City, and he's certainly not scoring. It's unlikely Hull will pick up his loan as a permanent deal at the end of the season, while his continued lack of playing time and form will be problematic for US hopes of scoring goals.

Other players have found it difficult to find spots on the field. Carlos Bocanegra should be switching from Rennes to St. Etienne because he's been displaced at left back. Freddy Adu has moved again, not that his whereabouts should even matter at this point.

Lastly, Stuart Holden has been searching for a deal in Europe, which should be a no brainer for someone. A young, quick, versatile attacking midfielder with a UK passport. No problems right? Wrong. Aberdeen is no longer an option apparently, he had a trial with Bolton, only to pick up a slight knock and Bolton has failed to produce a contract offer. Seriously?? Bolton is only the second worst team in the EPL, and Owen Coyle thinks he has better options? Maybe this is a good thing for Holden, as unconfirmed reports have Sporting Braga in Portugal showing interest in the Scottish-born Holden. Still, another key US player stuck in limbo.

So, where is the good news you ask?

Well, before getting injured, Beasley was finally getting playing time. Despite reaching Bobby Convey-like levels purgatory with his form over the summer, Beasley is never far from the national team discussion. Even with a small semblence of form, he'll likely be on the plane to South Africa. And let's face it, he's pretty much still the best option as a true left winger (meaning anyone not named Landon Donovan). Robbie Rogers is nice, a very good CONCACAF player who could provide speed at the end of games against tired legs, but I'd rather have a healthy Beasley.

The other real positive development is Beasley's Rangers teammate Maurice Edu recovering from injury and playing again. He never fully entrenched himself on the full national team before getting injured because he was just making a name for himself at Rangers after his move from MLS, but his health and form could be a HUGE boon for the US at South Africa. Assuming Jones never dons the stars and stripes (and that's all I'm willing to assume at this point), Edu is the best option for the US in the center of the midfield. He's probably better than Michael Bradley, and I'd much rather have them paired together than Rico Clark with Bradley. Edu is a less reckless tackler, great athleticism/strength and much more skill than Clark.

Finally, Donovan has embarked on another European adventure, and this one already seems like it could end better than other trips. He's started and played twice for Everton, getting an assist in his first game, generally showing a lot of pace and posing a real threat to opposing defenses, while getting great reviews from across the Atlantic. Let's just hope they can figure out the technology to wrap Donovan in bubble wrap and still allow him the mobility to run at pace and succeed. With all the injuries going down recently, his health is the number 1a factor for success for the US, next to Tim Howard's 1b.

There has been other movement of US players and the possible early return to health of Oguchi, who I fully expect to be fine by the World Cup, if not at peak form. Despite the reports of Davies' accelerated rehab, I'm not expecting to see him at the World Cup, but if he does make it back in time, it will be a small miracle and wonderful bonus.

There's probably more to cover, and things will certainly change, not just in the months to come but even the days and hours ahead (Dempsey's knee scan still pending...). Unfortunately this will make the upcoming friendlies against Honduras (they owe us), El Salvador, and the Netherlands something less than a true peak at what the US will look like in Rustenburg in June. Maybe it makes those games all the more important. Maybe the next Beasley, Donovan, or Mastroeni will make a name for himself and make the World Cup roster after not being a big part of qualifying. Lord knows Bob Bradley needs the bodies.

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