The U.S. takes on El Salvador tomorrow night in Tampa (ESPN Classic, Galavision, 7:00 p.m. EST), suiting up a roster of 19 MLSers and one foreign-based player.
The bulk of these players will not be called in for the friendly against the Netherlands on March 3, and by the time the Nats face the Czech Republic (May 25) and Turkey (May 29), the World Cup squad will be picked, so this will be their last opportunity to impress U.S. coach Bob Bradley at the international level.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:
The U.S. is 14-1-5 all-time against El Salvador, including 11-0-2 at home. They’ve outscored Los Cuscatlecos 45-13 in their 20 matches.
The U.S. won 2-1 in the last meeting between these two, in a World Cup qualifier at Rio Tinto Stadium on September 5, 2009.
El Salvador will suit up four U.S.-based players, three of whom play in Major League Soccer and one, the San Jose Earthquakes’ Arturo Alvarez, who has played for the U.S. at the youth level.
The other Stateside Cuscatlecos are midfielders Osael Romero of Chivas USA, Ramon Sanchez of San Jose, and Edgar Alvarez, Arturo’s brother, an uncapped midfielder who played for San Jacinto Community College in Houston.
U.S. Contenders for South Africa 2010:
There’s probably only one player in this group who’s a very good bet for South Africa at this stage, and that’s left back Jonathan Bornstein.
Strikers Brian Ching and Conor Casey, midfielders Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, and Kyle Beckerman, and defenders Chad Marshall and Clarence Goodson are all on the bubble. A good performance here will certainly boost their stock, but a bad one—against a lightly regarded opponent that has never won on U.S. soil—could send it plunging through the floor.
Yank Long Shots:
Injuries to striker Charlie Davies and midfielder/striker Clint Dempsey have created opportunities for strikers Robbie Findley and Jeff Cunningham, but both have only outside shots at this point—especially Cunningham, who had a weak outing against Honduras last month.
Winger Brad Davis is not out of contention, but with the recent surges in form of left-sided midfielders DaMarcus Beasley and Freddy Adu—and Rogers’ ability to play either wing—he’s got his work cut out for him.
Defender Marvell Wynne remains in line behind Steve Cherundolo and Jonathan Spector for the right back position, and will have to rapidly improve his touch and crossing ability to change that.
Consider left back Heath Pearce on standby for the plane to South Africa, with Bornstein, Spector, and Carlos Bocanegra all holding tickets in front of him. He’ll need a stellar spring with FC Dallas, and a canceled reservation or two, to make the trip.
Players We’d Like to See (Even If they’re Not Going to South Africa):
Twenty-four-year-old Houston Dynamo stalwart Geoff Cameron is big (6-3), skilled, and can play in central defense or midfield. This is second camp with the U.S., but he has yet to receive a cap.
D.C. United’s Chris Pontius—not to be confused with the MTV daredevil of the same name—was one of the best rookies in the league last season. He made the jump from UC Santa Barbara to MLS without missing a beat, notching four goals and three assists in 23 starts.
While it’s hard to imagine either one—especially the 22-year-old Pontius—making the 2010 World Cup team, it would be interesting to see what they can do at the international level, and this is probably the last chance to find out during this cycle.
GK: Troy Perkins
Defenders: Marvell Wynne / Clarence Goodson / Chad Marshall/ Jonathan Bornstein
Midfielders: Robbie Rogers / Kyle Beckerman / Sacha Kljestan / Brad Davis
Strikers: Brian Ching / Robbie Findley
Prediction: U.S. 2, El Salvador 0
Goals: Ching, Rogers.