As usual, Ives Galarcep is right on the money when it comes to analyzing the USA squad. His projected starting lineup:
Kasey Keller, Eddie Lewis, Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Pope, Steve Cherundolo, Bobby Convey, Claudio Reyna, Pablo Mastroeni, DaMarcus Beasley, Brian McBride and Landon Donovan.
That's exactly the same as my guess. It looks like John O'Brien will be the odd man out, due to not being fully fit. But even if he is, Mastroeni played great against Latvia and looks to be a sure starter. Reyna will always start if healthy. Some people have suggested that O'Brien, Reyna, and Mastroeni could all start in a 4-3-3 which is intriguing, but I think that the attacking trio of Convey/Donovan/Beasley supporting McBride is too good to mess with. I'd like to see a 4-2-3-1 myself, although who knows exactly how they'll line up.
It's disappointing that Eddie Johnson hasn't stepped up and secured a starting spot, but he just doesn't look ready for that yet. Like so many USA players, he's just not good enough technically (just imagine him in JOB's shoes, training with Ajax). What's nice though is that he gives us an explosive burst of speed off the bench. Our reserves as a whole are better than in 2002. We're a deeper team.
Bruce used almost every player last time, and he'll probably use most of them again in 2006. I thought I would take a look at the role I expect each reserve to play in the World Cup.
GK-Marcus Hahnemann, Tim Howard
Howard played against Venezuela, while Hahnemann sat the bench. So he'll be the backup, which really isn't very surprising looking at their playing time for the USA over the past few years.
D-Chris Albright, Gregg Berhalter, Carlos Bocanegra, Jimmy Conrad
I'm not sure if I see Albright getting any minutes. He's the backup for Dolo, but if Lewis goes down, could he really play LB at the World Cup? I would guess Bocanegra is the backup there. Like Carlos Llamosa in 2002, expect him to come on as a defensive sub if we're winning late. It could be for Lewis, or for an attacker like Convey or Johnson. But probably Lewis because there's a number of left sided players in there already.
Boca certainly doesn't look to be next in line in the center of defense. Conrad looks to have that locked up, considering the amount of playing time he's got lately. He's also played a number of games with Pope and Onyewu. So if either one is supsended or goes down with injury, he'll step in.
Cory Gibbs could've been the first option at LB or CB, but now we have Berhalter instead. He played a few big games with Onyewu, but he's a longshot to see any playing time in Germany. I know Boca's been shaky and doesn't have World Cup experience, so possibly he could be 4th on the CB depth chart ahead of him. I would rather see Boca ahead of him though, especially because he just chose to switch clubs to another division 2 team (1860 Munich), rather than go up with Cottbus. I don't want guys with a lack of ambition to be on the field for us.
M-Clint Dempsey, John O'Brien, Ben Olsen
Last time, we lacked a spark plug on offense. You could tell from the Germany game four years ago. Mathis, Jones, and Stewart all came off the bench in that came, and they didn't do much. I'm much more optimistic with a guy like Dempsey on the team. He's flashy and not afraid to take guys on, which makes him a perfect late game sub when we're tied or behind. Depending on their effectiveness, could come on for Beasley or Convey to provide a true right sided midfielder.
O'Brien is amazingly talented and will probably start at some point, if he doesn't at the start. Is probably the first guy off the bench in every game, like Cobi last time. I would expect him to come on for Convey/Beasley as a defensive sub, and for Mastroeni as an offensive move. Or maybe a defender if we're desperate.
Olsen is a guy who probably won't see a lot of time. I see him as a late game sub for one of our attacking players, to try and secure a result. Given the injury problems of O'Brien/Reyna, he might be needed more than expected.
F-Brian Ching, Eddie Johnson, Josh Wolff
Ching/McBride and Johnson/Wolff, those are the pairings of who will be subbed for whom. If neither Johnson or Wolff start, then Johnson is probably first in line to see time. Like Dempsey, he's a guy you want in there if you need a goal. Actually, he'll probably be in there every game anyway.
Ching is unlikely to see time unless McBride needs a breather, while Wolff has been tried as an attacking midfielder. He could be a replacement for Donovan. I also get the feeling that Wolff is a guy Arena would bring on if we're winning as well. He seems like a better option to protect a lead than Ching/Johnson.
Predicted sub patterns