U.S. Men's National Team

USMNT Camp Notebook: Cunningham keeps evolving

Jeff Cunningham (ISIphotos.com)

Photo by ISIphotos.com


As the United States prepares to close up camp in preparation of Saturday's friendly with Honduras, players have began to reflect upon their performance throughout the month. 

One such player is 33 year old forward Jeff Cunningham.

The forward is the oldest in a young group of forwards who are eager to earn a place on Bob Bradley's roster for South Africa. Cunningham has been frequently partnered with fellow speedster Robbie Findley during the recent training sessions this week. Although the FC Dallas forward has been around longer than his counterparts, the always frank striker admits that he is constantly developing throughout camp.

"I've been Inconsistent (this camp), some stuff I do well, but a lot of other things I need to learn to do better for the team. We all have our natural tendencies as players, but this level requires a much higher amount of concentration especially defensively," said Cunningham. "I wish I was 20 again and getting all this information and applying it to my game. These young boys who are here will have a better future for it."

The forward has appeared dangerous during training at times showing the penchant for goal scoring which was on showcase during his past season with Dallas. Although he is not the youngest member of the squad, the opportunity that the United States' depleted strike force offers a forward like Cunningham is not lost on the 33 year old. 

"Over the years, I've said that I haven't really gotten the opportunity (with the national team), but I'm getting it now," said Cunningham. "I'm where every player wants to be with a shot at playing in the World Cup, I'm getting my fair chance now. I can't complain and I just have to do the business."

In addition to the strike force, the biggest story of the morning was the play of midfielder Robbie Rogers. Playing on the left side opposite Alejandro Bedoya and Geoff Cameron, the Columbus Crew winger was dangerous during 11 v. 11 scrimmages routinely sending in dangerous crosses into the attack. Rogers was a constant threat due to receiving a number of crisp passes from the midfield duo of Benny Feilhaber and Kyle Beckerman.

The news as not all positive as Kevin Alston appears doubtful for Saturday's match after missing much of the camp. The New England Revolution defender has returned to training but is unlikely to appear against the CONCACAF foe.

The United States' opponent for Saturday, Honduras has arrived in Southern California and will be begin training tomorrow during the U.S.' evening practice. The Catrachos arrive from a two-week training camp in Florida that saw them take on and defeat the Canadian U-23 squad. Honduras boasts many of their top domestic players and familiar faces such as Honduran scoring leader Carlos Pavon and Captain Amando Guevera.

  • John

    Even having Cunningham in the mix for the forward spot for WC 2010 says how thin our striker force is. Casey and Ching are not getting it done, Davies would probably be out and Altidore is simply not ready. The only forward who can mix it up with the big boys in SA is retired: Brian McBride. Having said this, I think we should give Cunningham a chance to prove his worth. I would not fixate on his age since there have been great forwards in their 30s who can still play at the highest level. Let’s just hope that our forward spot situation becomes clearer soon since WC 2010 is just around the corner


  • John

    BTW, Cunningham is the USA version of Filippo Inzaghi minus the prolific scoring rate: poacher who scored opportunistic goals. If he can only match Inzaghi’s strike rate for the national team…


  • jb

    I like Cunningham’s (apparent) maturity, speed, and he seems to have developed a bit of a nose for the goal late in his career. I like his chances as a ‘sleeper’ to have some impact for us at SA if he can continue his form and improve.

    Let’s face it, we have a definite lack of depth at striker to begin with. Then add these injuries… I just have a hard time figuring how we’re going to score unless some new options arise or we get Davies and Dempsey back in top form (doubtful). Unfortunately we realllly need someone like Cunningham to step in. It could make for a great story…


  • Matt Mathai

    Huh. Edwin, I always thought all the Central American countries wearing blue and white were the same. I thought Honduras was the country name, El Salvador was how they were known, and the team nickname was the Chapines.

    (Chill out, I’m only kidding)


  • Andy in Atlanta

    The Sun is reporting the Stu Holden is going to sign with Bolton. But they also just took Weiss from Man City on loan as well… both figure to be wingers.


  • inkedAG

    To be fair, even Tony Tchani had said he doesn’t follow MLS. This is the 2010 MLS #2 draft pick.


  • Bumble Biddle Bobble

    “said Cunningham. ‘I wish I was 20 again and getting all this information and applying it to my game.”

    I think every fan of USMNT wishes he was 20 again and playing the way he is playing now.


  • kswiss

    “We need players with confidence that are on their game.”

    Which is exactly what Cunningham was at the end of last season. If (yes, a big if) he keeps it up through the summer, I sincerely doubt we will be “doomed” in the World Cup.


  • Granitza78

    I agree Gaucho.

    I ABSOLUTELY DON’T CARE ABOUT THE MLS – The Multiple Listing Service – I have 2 houses for sale and it has done nothing for me. No offers in 16 months

    I like the Major League Soccer though.

    Its MY Football League in MY Country!


  • EA Scott

    For True Bumble. But better late than never. Sounds like he’s really pushing for a trip to South Africa… I for one hope he makes it…


  • Brent McD

    I don’t think this will be an easy win for the USMNT. Honduras ‘B’ team playing our ‘B’ team = a competitive match. If Suazo and Palacios were playing, we probably lose


  • jb

    yeah I just wonder about his lack of experience. Has he even been capped yet? But hey ya gotta start somewhere, and I’d like to see him get a shot. Why not start him alongside Cunningham for the Honduras match.


  • Dennis

    The last game he was with the MNT, Cunningham did OK, but he did not link up well with the midfield. He needs to be available for passes when the midfielders had the opportunity, not after when the teammate is under pressure. A lot of that is familiarity with your teammates and it sounds like he is getting more familiar at least with Feilhaber, Beckerman and Finley. He will have to do the same with M. Bradley, Donavon, Dempsey, Clark, Edu, probably Altidore and maybe Jones if he is going to prosper. To the extent that Bob Bradley has put in place a “way of doing things” and a tactical approach, it will be easier for Cunningham to fit in and contribute; to the extent that Cunningham wants to be a free spirit and have others fit to him, it will be harder and probably less successful.
    From his comments, it sounds like Cunningham is taking the “I’ll fit in” approach; at this stage that is definitely good.


  • Charles

    That is my point.

    IF you don’t care about MLS you are killing soccer in this country.

    I wouldn’t say no one cares about MLS. Seattle can pack them in better than almost any team in the world.

    But not enough care about soccer in the US.

    That is why we stink. Root for English teams all you want, but be prepared to get crushed in most World Cups……even by England.


  • TheAtomizer

    Ten caps (mostly in 2002/03 and 2005) and he was mediocre in every one of the games I saw (I didn’t see all 10 to be fair.)

    Not hatin’ on Cunningham nor Bradley’s decision tot bring him into camp. JC needs to understand that he already had his chances and this is a bonus. BB is bringing him in for a look see for cover should we need it.


  • jtd


    the only reason i care about middling euro teams is if a usmnt player is on it.

    and, wake up regarding MLS.


  • LSC

    I agree he can be very dangerous. It’s the quiet most of the game that is the problem. When he played for RSL, his play was lackadaisical 75% of the game yet still was was RSL’s leading scorer. If he had the work ethic of a Kyle Beckerman he could have been a great rather than only a good forward. I imagine that his lack of consistent effort was what caused Jason Kreis to quickly dump him when he became coach, despite his goal scoring ability. With the national team, hopefully he’ll change!


  • Trigger

    He’s no Ryan Giggs but Rogers has gotten just a little better every time I’ve seen him play for the US. Whether he improves enough in time to warrant a World Cup place is anyone’s guess but Edwin the misanthrope, who seems personally offended by the likes of Rogers, Pearce and Bornstein, etc. has frequently posted on how Rogers fails to meet his expectations.

    US “fans” like Edwin love to point out all the things that a guy like Rogers has done wrong in the past. Very useful. It’s like pointing out the economy isn’t doing so well, or that Tiger Woods has marital problems.

    What really matters for the USMNT is whether this group of US players is getting better collectively and individually. The big problem for Bradley, and any national team coach, is that the vast majority of that development can only happen at the club level. Jozy’s record for the US, on the face of it, is pretty good but it’s hard to imagine it staying good if he keeps doing as poorly as he has at the club level since leaving NY. Player development is almost entirely in the hands of the player and the club.

    Rogers was at Heerenveen in Holland and left for whatever reason. At least here he has been playing fairly regularly for a good club. The US talent level is such that they aren’t going to beat anyone with the kind of individual brilliance you see from Barca or Real Madrid but as a team they can make a lot of noise. In terms of how that applies to Rogers, the better he can fit into whatever scheme the US has the better for him and the team.


  • Striker

    “It’s the quiet most of the game that is the problem. When he played for RSL, his play was lackadaisical 75% of the game yet still was was RSL’s leading scorer. If he had the work ethic of a Kyle Beckerman he could have been a great rather than only a good forward. ”

    I hope Cunningham stays as far away from Beckerman as possible. Fans like you seem to think that unless you are running around like your hair is on fire you are “lackadiasical”. I don’t believe you understand how a goal scorer, goal poacher, striker, whatever name you use goes about their business. This is a debate that has been going on forever.

    Cunningham is primarily a goal scorer. If he scores, he has done his job. Other than the fact that he takes up a certain space and can harass defenders with the ball to some extent he doesn’t play defense per se.

    I doubt that Romario, Michael Owen, Rudd van Nistelrooy, Juergen Klinsmann, Anelka, Eto, Ibrahimovic or any other player whose primary job was/is to score goals runs/ran around as much as Kyle Beckerman. They are too busy trying to set up defenders to get into position to score.

    If they ran around like Beckerman, they would probably not be in position to score when the opportunity arises or would be too tired to properly take advantage of it.

    Managers hate guys like Cunningham (or Kenny Cooper) because, they are feast or famine. When they don’t score, they don’t contribute much to the overall effort. However goals are very hard to come by that so sometimes you just have to live with their down times ( ask Ferguson about RVN).

    Ask yourself if what’s more important, running around everywhere,hustling like crazy, huffing and puffing and dirtying up your uniform or scoring a goal that wins or ties the game?

    If you are one of the guys I listed, you have a proven resume so it’s okay but for a guy like Cunningham, he doesn’t have the big rep so he scores or he is out.


  • kenny_b

    But what Cunningham did do when he finally linked up was score….something Altidore, Casey, and Cooper have all struggled to do. Altidore was at his best when he linked up with Davies because of his (Davies) speed. Our best hope may be in a flat out speed combination of Findlay and Cunningham up front. We aren’t looking to good at breaking down defenses with skill, so we better do it with pace.


  • jimmie johnson

    RSL fan here:

    I have always like JC’s ability to get the goals, and loved him at RSL. Now we have Findley, and I think he has a future with the USMNT.

    I would truely love it if JC and RF could form a fast and furious tendem strike force. My favorite former and present RSL strikers on the sme team. I can see them complementing each other because Findley moves more and tracks back to keep possession with the mids, while JC tends to stay more forward.

    JC has a better first touch, but RF is likely to be a tad faster at this point. not that I have seen a race between them.

    Also, RF has mad hops and can “elevate” his game to win headers.

    I do like Beckerman and Rimando, but I don’t think they are what the USMNT need at this time. An injury to any of the more defensive mids would open a slot for Beckerman.

    I think we would have to lose Timmy, Brad, Troy P., and Marcus H before Rimando would be called for the WC.


  • Tommy

    Would just like to add that I completely agree with both Einar and EA Scott, I have a really good feeling about both players and think we will need them in South Africa.

    Jeff is perfectly suited for the style of play we will likely employ in at least one game (England) and in the rest of the matches should we advance from the 1st round. i.e. defend like crazy, create goals from nothing, blitzkrieg counters like we saw against Brazil.

    What’s more, Jeff is the only striker I know of in the U.S. pool that consistently has proven in his career he can create goals and guilt-edged chances out of thin air, or defensive mistakes (see Denmark).

    Beckerman I won’t comment on here b/c the post is already too long. Sorry!


  • Tommy

    Have to agree with Jeff on this one. I’ll see your 50 caps and suggest that if 45-47 of them were brief cameos, then no, you never really got a fair shake.

    Roy Lassiter is a player who *did* get a chance, 30 caps in all and enough starts mixed in to be considered a legit chance. He never made enough of it though and ended up with 4 goals to his name.

    Steve Ralston is yet another example of a productive MLS player who never really get a fair shake with the Nats until later in his career, and he seized it.

    I see Jeff as more Ralston than Lassiter in this case.


  • Tommy

    Interesting comparison, I’ve always thought of Jeff as a poor man’s Hasselbaink, right down to the surly attitude and gaudy numbers.


  • GY

    So you’re telling me that our B-team Nats wouldn’t be able to beat the U-23 CAN Nats easier than Honduras? That’s bad news for US Soccer.


  • dhines

    you on your days, or just need to chill out? it was a simple mistake. keep in mind that we will be playing salvador soon.

    ok ‘bro’?


  • Micah King

    I agree with you Tigger. I am a Rogers fan, he isn’t the best player, but his work ethic is better then McCarthy and Pontius. And in the Friendly games it was not his fault USA lost. He was pretty solid.


  • A.J.

    I would like to see Findley get a shot with the national team. His style most resembles Charlies. If he gets more experience he could be solid player and in a few years he could possibly move to a european League.


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