There are few things like soccer for getting groups of people looking at the same thing and drawing vastly different conclusions. U.S. coach Bob Bradley will name his 23-man World Cup roster two hours from now, and, judging by the wildly divergent emails flooding in to Backpost HQ on the morning after last night’s tuneup in East Hartford, he’s got some very tough calls to make.
One observer said “having both Brian Ching and Herculez Gomez on the field at the same time is like having a peanut butter and peanut butter sandwich,” while another claimed, “Herculez completed his 11th labor last night (after 10 goals in the Mexican League), scoring a goal under immense pressure to perform. His 12th will be at the World Cup.” ESPN commentator Alexi Lalas said it would be “a crime” if Gomez isn’t on the plane to South Africa.
Some said Oguchi Onyewu “is done” and “we can’t risk starting him,” while one claimed “he was sharp when the ball was on the ground, but his timing on headers was just off. He’ll get it back.” A third countered: “Onyewu should play himself into shape by the 2012 Gold Cup.”
There were also split opinions on Steve Cherundolo at right back, Clarence Goodson in the middle and Edson Buddle up top.
Finally, one fan asked, “Is John O’Brien healthy yet?”
Yeah, the World Cup is getting close, and the natives are getting restless.
Here’s our take on the Rorschach test that is a World Cup tuneup—player by player, with predictions on whether they’re in or out for South Africa 2010:
Brad Guzan: Not the best outing for the apparent No. 2 keeper. Didn’t make a single save. In or Out: In, obviously, but that creeping shadow in his rearview is Marcus Hahnemann.
Steve Cherundolo: Beaten a few times defensively, but he kept possession and swing in some decent crosses. In or Out: In.
Oguchi Onyewu: Right before he was beaten in the air for the first Czech goal, he was outjumped in the exact same fashion on the right flank. After the goal, TV cameras captured him mouthing the words, “He came over my back.” No, Gooch, he timed his jump better. He beat you to the ball. You have till June 12 to sort that s*** out. In or Out: In, but starting job in doubt.
Clarence Goodson: Very solid performance—until the end when he was partly to blame for the third and fourth goals. In or Out: In, but we wouldn’t be confident with him starting vs England.
Jonathan Bornstein: He’s got blazing speed in attack, but this was a poor outing for JB. Looked lost. In or Out: In, but the U.S. has problems if he’s the starting left back.
Stuart Holden: Confident, quality performance from Stu. Great ball on the first goal. In or Out: In. And probably starting.
Jose Francisco Torres: Best we’ve seen from him. Always kept possession, even showed some bite this time around. In or Out: In.
Maurice Edu: Excellent in midfield, shaky when moved to central defense (though that may well have been because his absence in midfield created extra pressure on the backline). In or Out: In, and starting with Michael Bradley in central midfield.
DaMarcus Beasley: There was a shocking consensus from BP emailers on Run DMB: all agreed he played well, and we do too. In or Out: In, and should be a useful player off the bench.
Edson Buddle: Did some of the little things well, but never looked super threatening. In or Out: Out, just barely.
Eddie Johnson: Many thought EJ stunk it up, but we disagree: He held possession very well—a problem area for him in the past—and he combined with Buddle and midfielders. In or Out: Out, just barely.
Heath Pearce: His errors contributed to the Czech Republic’s second and third goals—and he doesn’t have Bornstein’s speed to bring to the table. In or Out: Out.
Sacha Kljestan: His turnover led to the Czech Republic’s fourth goal, and probably bumped him off the plane to South Africa. In or Out: Out.
Robbie Rogers: Surprisingly effective outing from Rogers. Tested Peter Cech with a rocket from distance and launched knifing runs and crosses in the final third. In or Out: Out. Did well last night, but had too far to go.
Alejandro Bedoya: He only saw 24 minutes of action—we thought he might get the starting nod—but that may be because Bradley didn’t need to see more. In or Out: In. Probably more savvy than Rogers and just as good a dribbler.
Brian Ching: We’re always a bit surprised at the number of Ching-haters out there. He works hard, keeps possession, passes well, and scores the odd goal. He did all of the above last night exccept the scoring part. In or Out: In.
Herculez Gomez: Came in, looked lively, scored a big goal. What more can he do? (Okay, he could have finished his first chance, but he looked dangerous just getting it.) In or Out: In.