If the U.S. national team's recent friendly vs. Honduras was supposed to help put the U.S. World Cup roster into some better focus, then Bob Bradley is probably glad he has almost four months before he has to settle on his final 23-man roster.
There were few bright spots to take away from the 3-1 loss to Honduras, and there were certainly no tickets punched to South Africa. The real value for Bradley came from the training camp itself, where players had their chance to be seen by Bradley and train against fellow World Cup candidates.
There was some good news this week with the word of the impressive recovery progress being made by Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu, which has American fans believing for the first time in a while that we could see the starting lineup that beat Spain taking the field for the World Cup.
So how much has our projected U.S. World Cup roster changed from the December edition? Not by much, though Charlie Davies remarkable recovery certainly changes things at forward.
Here is the group of 23 players we see the U.S. national team taking to the 2010 World Cup as of right now:
SBI 23 for 2010 (January 2010 edition)
GOALKEEPERS– Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann
DEFENDERS– Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Bornstein, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Edgar Castillo
MIDFIELDERS– Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Stuart Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres, Robbie Rogers
FORWARDS– Charlie Davies, Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey, Robbie Findley
Left off last team-Chad Marshall, Jeff Cunningham
New additions– Charlie Davies, Edgar Castillo
Here is a closer look at the positions:
GOALKEEPERS– With Marcus Hahnemann cementing himself as a starter at Wolves, and putting up some very impressive results, the question may switch to "Who is the U.S. team's No. 2?" Troy Perkins, who has returned to D.C. United, is now running a distant fourth.
DEFENDERS– Jimmy Conrad wasn't on our 23 last month and didn't do a thing to earn a place on it this time around. He and Chad Marshall seemed like good bets a year ago, but right now both have looked shaky and posted 2009 seasons that weren't as good as their 2008 campaigns. Clarence Goodson still has his lapses, but looked strong on the U.S. team's loan goal.
Still worried about Oguchi Onyewu? Don't be. His rehab is going very well and he should be back on the field months before the World Cup.
Our big question is just who does Bob Bradley bring as an eighth defender? Can he reall get away with bringing just three natural fullbacks, with Bocanegra capable of playing left back in a pinch? We have Castillo on this roster for that reason, but we can't help but wonder if Bradley considers bringing Maurice Edu as a ninth midfielder, but someone who can play central defense if necessary.
Edgar Castillo might seem like a reach here, which is a fair assessment considering his national team carer to this point has consisted of a second-half cameo as a winger, but with the lack of quality fullback options in the pool, we are going to include Castillo until a better alternative emerges.
MIDFIELDERS– This group remained the same as our last squad, but if we had named this team earlier in the month then DaMarcus Beasley would have been on the roster. As it stands, if Beasley can get back on the field and play a significant amount before the end of the season, he has to be considered a strong candidate for this squad. The question is who would you leave off? Rogers showed some flashes in the Honduras match, but he could be the odd man out here.
Maurice Edu is another glaring absence from this group, but I'm just not sure he's a lock for the squad just yet. If Bradley decides to go with seven natural defenders, a longshot, then Edu has a much better chance of making the team. Right now he's stuck behind Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark (though he could move past Clark by playing for Rangers if Clark winds up on the bench for Eintracht Frankfurt), while Feilhaber and Torres bring a bit more of an attacking element to the squad (though Feilhaber didn't have a great game vs. Honduras). Now, Bradley could also take Edu instead of Rogers, but that would leave the roster with a limited number of wing options.
Who's a longshot here? How about Alejandro Bedoya? If Beasley can't get healthy, and Rogers doesn't find consistent form in MLS, I could see Bedoya being that surprise selection. Geoff Cameron also has to be considered. Dom Kinnear believes right wing is his most likely position on the international level, but his ability to play midfield and defense makes him an intriguing pick.
And Jermaine Jones? That ship looks to have sailed. We'll discuss him again when he actually starts playing for Schalke.
You will notice we didn't discuss Clint Dempsey. All signs point to him being able to recover from his sprained PCL in time to play in the World Cup. If he couldn't, then you would probably see an attacking wing option like Beasley or Bedoya added to the squad.
FORWARDS– After seeing Charlie Davies there's no way I can leave him off the list. He's on the fast track to recovery and if he can be on the field for Sochaux by April then you have to like his chances to not only make the team, but also be a starter.
Conor Casey's name will continue to ruffle feathers among American fans but the fact remains he is still the best target forward option in the pool. If Brian Ching gets healthy and regains his form then he can surpass Casey, but until that happens, the Rapids striker is still in this mix.
Cunningham or Findley? That is going to be a popular question in the coming months, particularly if Davies can make a comeback. Does Bradley go with the veteran in Cunningham or the young but improving talent in Findley? We give the edge to Findley, who we can see making great strides in the coming months.
And Kenny Cooper? His club situation is a bit messy, and even if it gets sorted out, I don't see him making the cut unless he just has a torrid spring and a variety of other things take place.
What do you think of this squad? Which player is missing that you would have on the team? Which player is on the squad that you wish weren't on it?
Share your thoughts below.