We’ve said it before, but after this past Saturday’s friendly against Chile, it bears repeating: no two observers of a U.S. national team game will come away with the same impression.
One observer called central midfielder Dax McCarty “Xavi light” (a huge reach), while another said he was industrious but inconsistent (closer to reality). There were also notably mixed reviews for Zach Loyd, Brek Shea, Mikkel Diskerud and Sean Franklin.
The only players who drew a consensus in the postgame breakdowns were Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, and Tim Ream—and on the negative side, Marvell Wynne.
Just to add to the Tower of Babel of analysis, we happen to disagree on those last two.
Ream had a good game, and he started the play that led to the U.S. equalizer, but, as often happens when he plays with New York (we watched every game last season), he seemingly made one dangerous giveaway for every two pinpoint passes out of the back.
He made two howlers on Saturday, and on the second one, he was bailed out by … everyone’s whipping boy, Marvell Wynne.
Wynne was unanimously dismissed following his debut at center-back (he’d previously played out wide for the U.S.), but we would still leave the door open for this player if we were in charge. He wasn’t as lost versus Chile as critics claimed, and his athleticism is completely off the charts. If he improves his positioning and reading of the game, he can contribute for the U.S.
In any event, only a few of the players from the Chile match (if any) will be a part of the U.S. squad when it faces reigning African champions Egypt on Feb 9 in Cairo.
That’s a FIFA international fixture date, so coach Bob Bradley will have access to all of his foreign-based first-team players. (Sidenote: how will in-form midfielder Stuart Holden fit into that one? Not to mention recent Blackburn Man-of-the-Match Jermaine Jones.)
Which youngsters will he choose to integrate into his first-choice squad? If he takes any at all, this is how we see it breaking down:
Juan Agudelo, Tim Ream
The U.S. coach is known for bringing along youngsters slowly, but considering the U.S.’s thinness at forward, he might include the 18-year-old Agudelo and see how he mixes with the first-choice veterans.
Ream is older (23) and clearly has the potential to succeed the likes of Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit in the center of defense. It’s doubtful that any of those three will be with the U.S. come Brazil 2014.
Along with Agudelo (and a handful of designated players), Bunbury will be one of the most interesting players to watch in MLS this season. He came on very strong at the end of last year, and carried the momentum into an offseason of a lifetime (goalfest in Spain with the Generation adidas team, national-team debut, first national-team goal, and Pablo Ramirez–aided YouTube fame).
He wasn’t great against Chile, but may have been ill-suited to his first-half role. When Agudelo and Bunbury came in to give the U.S. two strikers, Mix livened up and looked more effective. The U.S. needs players with his Feilhaber-esque skill and creativity.
He doesn’t even start for FC Dallas (though that could change this year), so it may be a reach to tab him for a full international against the African champions. But Loyd is competing for the left-back position, where the U.S. hasn’t had a completely reliable option for years. He was overexcited at times versus Chile, but he’s highly athletic and made some impressive plays on Saturday. Don’t count him out.