Originally the task of writing up the U.S.A. profile was going to go to Bigus, because we thought it would be funny to see what
As I now sit here writing, my first thought is: What can I tell you about the USMNT that you don’t already know? Well, I’ll try my best after the jump.
Let’s start with the basic facts. The last time the U.S. qualified for the Confederations Cup was in 2003, when they went 0-2-1. After loses to Turkey and Brazil, the U.S.'s one draw was nil-nil against Cameroon in the final group game, when Cameroon had already qualified for the knockout round (i.e., nothing to play for and we still couldn’t beat them).
This year, the U.S. appears at a definite crossroads, with many signs pointing south. The loss last week in Costa Rica still stings and seemed to expose many if not all of the USMNT’s flaws, including the total disappearance of Landycakes and Dempsey as on-the-field leaders. But with the win at home against Honduras, things took a slight turn north, with the emergence of the Jonathans (Bornstein and Spector) at wingbacks and Ricardo Clark as a legitimate hardworking holding midfielder.
Clark in particular was a revelation and I hope and pray it wasn’t a one-game blip. Defensive midfielder is the most underrated position in football, especially in international matches – how will Spain fair without Marcos Senna doing all of the dirty work in the middle of the pitch? (Of course I’m not claiming that Clark is anywhere near Senna’s league, just saying.) Speaking of dirty work, losing Brian Ching still hurts, a lot. Jozy isn’t quite ready for primetime and Conor Casey hasn’t played on the national stage in eons. As always the task of creating goals will fall upon Donovan and Dempsey, not to mention set pieces. When you consider the U.S.'s lack of proven goal scorers and their proclivity for defensive lapses (thank the Lord for Tim Howard), well, things could get quite ugly.
The most troubling thing about the USMNT is the fact that, since recovering well after the debacle at the 2006 World Cup, they’ve plateaued at best, and at worst they have regressed. (Remember Project 2010? Oy!) This is why a decent showing at the Confederations Cup is so crucial. And by “decent showing” we do not even mean getting out of the group stage, because Italy, Brazil and Egypt will be tough, tough matchups. We mean looking competitive and having merely a chance at winning. In other words, looking like a team that deserves its place with the big boys. Is that too much to ask for?
To summarize, the bar is set really, really, really, really, really low for the USMNT. I doubt you’ll find anyone not named Sunil who is legitimately optimistic about their chances. But who knows? This is sometimes a fluky tournament, with players starting to think more about holiday than the action on the pitch. A lucky bounce here or there and the U.S. could pull off an upset or two and make it into the knockouts. Bob Bradley will be hailed as a genius, and all of the U.S.’s flaws will be swept under the rug until the 2010 World Cup. Or, more likely, all of those flaws will again be plan and visible in vivid ESPN HD.
GK: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/England), Tim Howard (Everton/England), Luis Robles (Kaiserslautern)
Def: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Danny Califf (Midtjylland), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
Mid: Freddy Adu (Monaco), DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Houston), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca)
For: Jozy Altidore (Villareal), Conor Casey (Colorado), Charlie Davies (Hammarby), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles)