We're now officially two months from the day that the Yanks kick off. I just bought the airline ticket. I filed my visa application. I’m now planning out what shots to get, accommodations and diversions, and the best pair of utility boots for my trip. Much like my last trip abroad for a World Cup (stay tuned!), I could easily find myself arriving late to Arena Amazônia and pondering how the USMNT was going to overcome a 2-nil deficit and have a chance to advance. Who else needs to worry about shots?
I want to get it out in the open that 16 of the training camp possibilities I suggested, were either injured or did not play due to Coach’s decision. The good news? A lot of the guys actually played and played well this week. Here are the three positive notes I’m focused on:
1. The bittersweet return of Deuce. Honestly, I think we could have waited a few weeks for this. Almost single-handedly, Clint Dempsey insured that FC Dallas would not complete the first MLS undefeated season. Alright, that’s almost assuredly never going to happen in the salary cap era, but Dempsey can stake a claim to winning this one by virture of his top form. Maestro free kick, own goal by virtue of dominant possession, sublime give and go- Clint had it all going Saturday night. He’s been ramping up consistently since First Kick, and now that we’re done with Sounders until the after the World Cup (oh wait, *&^%$$%!), I guess I’m ok with Dempsey absolutely torching us, but I definitely would prefer him peaking closer to the trip south.
2. Michael Bradley ruling the roost. I am still looking for suggestions for a better half by an American field player in history than what Bradley rolled out against Mexico. Wow! He’s earning every penny early on north of the border as Toronto FC looks every bit the favorites in the East when he’s on the field. Am I the only one glad that Ryan Nelsen's considering keeping he and Defoe home this weekend? I might feel differently if I weren’t out of town Saturday and able to catch the game at Toyota Stadium, but I’m glad the Kiwi’s not so far removed from his playing days to risk their health in a World Cup year.
3. Center Mids not named Bradley for $1000. Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman both scored last week. Jermaine Jones set up the winner for Besitkas. Danny Williams didn’t score last week, but he did the week before. By all accounts, the challengers for the spot or spots along Bradley are being fiercely contested with 2 months to go before Ghana. With Jose Francisco Torres and the versatile Joe Corona also enjoying good form, and Tim Howard leading Everton to the cusp of qualifying for the Champions’ League, the spine looks pretty strong if we can get our Center Backs going.
I am a glass-full kind of guy (belied by my dry wit). Sure, we’re lacking a top form Jozy Altidore at the moment. Yes, Omar Gonzalez does not inspire complete confidence. Indeed, we could use a dynamic wing player emerging in the next month. With that said, I defy any of you to find a time in the last any, ever few World Cup cycles where we had the depth to tackle the biggest tournament in the World without significant drop off if we have injuries or suspensions. At a tournament that will rival the 94’ edition as far as sweltering conditions, this depth will be vital, and it may even give us an advantage over two first round heavyweights from Europe.