Wednesday, May 03, 2006

World Cup Roster 2006

There were only two surprises, Conrad/Ching for Berhalter/Twellman. Bruce Arena is a pretty predictable guy. Last time, the only surprise was Mastroeni instead of Cherundolo (who ended up going anyway thanks to Armas getting hurt). Neither of those guys will likely end up playing a big role, so it's not really a big story.

Looking back to when we qualified, 21 of 23 guys that I had on the roster back then ended up going (Berhalter and Ralston the exceptions). Going back a couple of months to right after the Gold Cup (late June 2005), I had 20 of the 23 correct (Berhalter/Spector/Noonan). I'm not pointing that out to show off my predicting skills; it just shows that Bruce doesn't rock the boat much.

As a whole, we look like a better team than in 2002. The most striking difference to me is no bench warmers. Last time, you had Berhalter/Hejduk/Lewis/Moore who all barely played in 2001/2. This time, a couple of guys haven't played much due to injury (like Gibbs), but the YA's are all decent contributors to their clubs. Howard sits the bench, but he's not going to play anyway.

We're not dramatically better, though. But I also don't see that many guys that couldn't at least play decently against a top level team. So no Jeff Agooses. The guys who did seem to fail against better teams didn't make it (Berhalter, Klein). Now, a lot of the guys are untested. Have Ching/Johnson/Wolff ever scored against a decent team? Have they even scored a decent goal on the international level? Like Planet World Cup mentions, the forwards are our weakest link (they have nice pages for every team, btw).

I'm pretty confident though. I still maintain that the Czech Republic is overrated, and we should get a point at the very least against them. In qualifying, they only scored 3 goals in 6 games vs Netherlands/Norway/Romania. We should be able to hold them to 0 or 1.

And finally, for fun I made this Google Earth image of the USA roster's hometowns. As you can see, a lot of guys in California and the Northeast. I believe 7 in California; the names of Cherundolo/Lewis/O'Brien don't show up because it's so crowded. Likewise for Howard in NJ. Of course, Ching is in Hawaii off the map. I'll have to do versions for the previous rosters.

Comments on "World Cup Roster 2006"


Blogger mirarchi said ... (9:02 AM, May 03, 2006) : 

Good point about there being fewer bench-warmers on this roster than there were on the 2002 roster. I really hope that JOB stays healthy enough to start each of our three pre-WC friendlies, as he's a player who could really help us if match fit. I hope that Bruce does not play him, though, if he's not sharp -- I just don't think the WC, particular the group we're in, is a stage where you can get away with having a weak link on the field.

Also, I hope you're right about the Czech Republic being overrated. I didn't know that they managed only three goals in the six WCQ's that you mentioned -- that's encouraging.

Also, thanks for posting the link to that Planet World Cup page on the US team. I thought that was a really good writeup of the team. I assume it's a foreign site, which makes its assessment of the U.S. team all the more impressive.


Anonymous Tim said ... (1:37 PM, May 03, 2006) : 

I agree that there were no meaningful surprises. I was probably among a very small minority hoping for a big surprise.

Coach Arena put(s) a lot of stock in how his selections will match up with the (known) opposition. Fine, but in at least one sense I feel he completely missed the boat.

First, let’s set the premises: (1) If we advance to the knockout phase - success (even if we are immediately knocked out); (2) If we don’t make it out of our group - failure (even if we play well and are ‘unlucky’ not to advance; (3) The team selected and our strategy, etc. should all be designed to maximize our chances of advancing, i.e. succeeding.

Now, let’s look at our group opposition and map out some likely scenarios. How about two goal-less draws, with CZ and IT - great results for us - but we go down an early goal to Ghana (in a game we must win)? Or we enter that third game needing to win by two goals or more? Or, we lose narrowly to CZ and go down an early goal to IT, when a win or at the very least a tie is mandatory? Or, … well write your own scenario.

Drawing another example from your comments re CZ, if we do beat CZ - and they are not, repeat not, a weak team (even if slightly overrated) - a loss to IT will still leave us needing to beat Ghana.

I don’t feel this is negative thinking, it’s being realistic. If we get to Ghana needing just a tie to advance, I’ll be astounded (and apologetic for underestimating our team). I’ll also still be worried about our ability to get that tie if Ghana scores first.

There is general agreement that we have an excellent goalkeeper, a solid back line, and a hustling, competitive midfield, but we are relatively weak up front. And our most dangerous, threatening player, the one an opposing coach would fear most, especially coming off the bench late in a game in a must-score-or-go-home situation, did not even make the team, not even as an alternate.

If you don’t know who I mean, there’s no point in telling you. But no, it’s not Taylor Twellman, whom I like (and would have included, in case McBride gets hurt, over Ching). The player I’m thinking of does not even play forward, normally, but could and should play there on our WC side.

Note that I’m not saying my choice should start, just that he is the one US player I would like to have on my bench, needing a goal (or two!) late in a game. And when we collectively look down our bench next month, the player we need won’t be there.

That's a shame, because there are players on our roster - whom I will not name - that have (next to) zero chance of actually playing (meaningful minutes). The player I have in mind might not have played, either, except under certain conditions. Now we know he won't be playing at all.

Predictable choices, 'safe' choices - yes; successful choices - we can only wait and hope.


Blogger Kinney said ... (4:16 PM, May 03, 2006) : 

I love maps. Thanks.


Blogger scaryice said ... (4:03 AM, May 04, 2006) : 

Czechs rely on a number of aging players with varying question marks: Poborsky (plays in 2nd division), Nedved (just came back from int. retirement), Koller (injury), etc.

Reminds me a lot of Portugal last time.

Please don't tell me you're talking about Adu?


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