We just made a midday gym run (something that happens with unicorn-like rarity these days) and nearly fell off the treadmill when the ESPN cameras covering the selection of the U.S. World Cup team panned their live shot down from the goalkeepers (the expected three) to the defenders (that Jonny Bornstein is endearingly self-conscious) through the midfielders (no Alejandro Bedoya, huh? No Robbie Rogers, either? hmm) and up to the forwards….
In that group we saw Jozy Altidore (sure), Edson Buddle (good for him), Herculez Gomez (what a story!), and Robbie Findley (wha?), along with a total absence of Brian Ching.
Given the facts that Ching showed very well last night against the Czech Republic while Findley has shown little to nothing in his whopping three appearances for the Nats, and didn’t even play last night, this qualifies as a shocker.
Bradley definitely has a clear idea of how he wants his team to play, so he must have seen elements of Findley’s game that fit into that idea. We just can’t figure out what those elements are. Findley is blessed with breakaway speed; there’s no doubt about that. But he has rarely (never?) put himself in positions to exploit that speed at the international level. He’s not a one-on-one threat, he’s not a target forward, and he’s had one good goal scoring season in MLS—last year, when he hit 12.
His selection over Ching means that the U.S. will go to South Africa without a true target forward. Altidore will have to do in that role. At Hull this past season, Altidore definitely improved his ability to post up and hold the ball with his back to goal, but you wouldn’t call him a true target forward at this point. In a hectic World Cup game, a guy who can possess the ball up top, relieve pressure, and bring others into the play really comes in handy.
This group of forwards also begs the question of where Clint Dempsey will line up. If he’s in midfield, that probably bumps out Stuart Holden, who seems ready for a breakout tournament. If Dempsey will play up top, why choose so many other forwards?
We may have to wait until after the tournament to find out the answers to these questions. Until then, we’ll just have to trust in Bradley’s master plan. Remember, this is the coach who picked the unpopular Conor Casey to start a crucial qualifier at Honduras last October—and got two goals from him en route a qualification-clinching win.
Here’s the group of 23 headed to South Africa:
Goalkeepers (3): Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann
Defenders (7): Jonathan Bornstein, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson
Midfielders (9): Landon Donovan, Stuart Holden, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jose Francisco Torres, Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, DaMarcus Beasley, Benny Feilhaber
Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez, Robbie Findley
Chad Marshall, Heath Pearce, Robbie Rogers, Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan, Brian Ching, Eddie Johnson