The World Cup is just six months away and with serious injuries and the inclusion of some new faces shaking things up on the U.S. national team, it is getting a bit tougher to project just which 23 players will be on the team when it heads to South Africa.
This is our first attempt at projecting the squad since Charlie Davies' deadly car accident, and while he isn't ruling himself out of the World Cup just yet, the reality is that the U.S. team stands a very good chance of being without one of its most dynamic attacking players when the World Cup kicks off.
In case you forgot, here is our last U.S. World Cup roster projection. There are five new players on this month's list, a shift in names that shouldn't come as a surprise given the events that have taken place during the past three months.
Now, here is the group of 23 players we see the U.S. team taking to the 2010 World Cup as of right now:
SBI 23 for 2010 (December 2009 edition)
GOALKEEPERS– Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann
DEFENDERS– Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Bornstein, Chad Marshall, Jay DeMerit, Frank Simek
MIDFIELDERS– Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Stuart Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres, Robbie Rogers
FORWARDS– Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey, Jeff Cunningham, Robbie Findley
Left off last team-Troy Perkins, Clarence Goodson, Maurice Edu, Charlie Davies, Brian Ching
New additions– Marcus Hahnemann, Frank Simek, Conor Casey, Jeff Cunningham, Robbie Findley
Here is a closer look at the the positions:
GOALKEEPERS– Marcus Hahnemann only recently won the job with EPL club Wolves, but his recent return to the national team mix coupled with his promotion to his club's first team puts him on the squad now ahead of Troy Perkins.
DEFENDERS– The initial question here will be "Where is Edgar Castillo"? He has made just one brief appearance for the national team, which came as a left winger, so it's a bit early to plug him into the World Cup squad. The lack of left back options is a cause for concern, but Jonathan Spector remains a wild card in that mix since he has already shown at West Ham that he can slot into the position (though it may be his third best position after RB and CB).
Frankie Simek makes this squad over Clarence Goodson, who was on our August team. Spector's ability to provide cover at left back and centerback could allow Bradley to carry one more fullback as cover for Cherundolo if Spector is being used elsewhere. We know Simek hasn't been on the national team radar for some time, but he's finally healthy again and he's starting regularly for Sheffield Wednesday. If that continues, I see him being on the team.
Yes, Oguchi Onyewu is on the list despite his major knee injury. He's projected to be back from the injury well before the World Cup, and the reality is that he's just that much better than the rest of the defenders in the pool so he will be on the squad even if he's a bit rusty.
Who is missing from this list? Jimmy Conrad, Clarence Goodson and Frankie Hejduk were all considered, but the depth at centerback would push Conrad off while Hejduk's poor recent form and injuries in 2009 leave his participation in doubt. Now, if for some reason Onyewu can't recover from his injury, or there are any other centerback injuries, we like Conrad's chances of making the team. Geoff Cameron is another player worth considering as a potential surprise inclusion.
MIDFIELDERS– The two names most people will want to know about here are Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu. Jones' injury issues leave him a question mark, though it's a safe bet that he would make the team if he were healthy and playing. Edu isn't as much of a sure thing to be included if healthy. While he did enjoy a great stretch late in the season for Rangers last season, he wasn't a national team regular before his knee injury, so it shouldn't be assumed that he will be guaranteed a spot once he's healthy.
Now, if Jones and Edu are healthy and playing regularly, they could each force their way into the squad, which would create some serious competition for Ricardo Clark and Jose Francisco Torres. I don't include Benny Feilhaber in that mix because I think he's more safe because brings an attacking element and some versatility than Jones, Clark and Edu don't.
As for the wings, Robbie Rogers might seem like a surprise inclusion but he's a true winger who can play on either flank, versatility at thin positions makes him a very good bet to make the squad, assuming he is on form in MLS.
One player who continues to be someone off the radar but who can't be forgotten is DaMarcus Beasley. No, he's not getting minutes for Rangers, but a winter transfer move could give him the playing time he needs to fight back into the mix. He's off the radar right now, but he could still work his way into a very thin field of wing midfielders.
FORWARDS– Will Charlie Davies be ready? That's the big question right now and after his recent ESPN interview, there seems to be more reason to believe that he will be ready. We'll play it safe and take it slow on that front and will leave him out for now, but it's safe to say that if he's back and playing before June, he'd be hard to leave off.
Jozy Altidore is a lock if healthy, but the rest of the spots are certainly up for grabs. Casey is the best bet to be included as a target forward option. There just aren't many others in that mix. Brian Ching could regain his spot there, but he's not getting any younger. That leaves spots for some speed options and Cunningham and Findley are coming off stellar MLS seasons, not to mention Cunningham's impressive goal for the USA vs. Denmark.
Something to consider at this point is whether Bob Bradley would consider bringing just three forwards in order to add another defender or midfielder. The fact that Donovan and Dempsey can both play up front could make this an option, and would certainly help alleviate the glut of midfield options. This would probably be moot if Davies can return, but if he can't, and if Bradley decides he can live with bringing just one of Cunningham and Findley in order to bring one more quality midfielder, then you could see just three forwards (or should we say three players who only play forward).
Lastly, just remember that this is a projection as of now. Things can and will change. Jermaine Jones should eventually get healthy, and Charlie Davies could make the recovery U.S. fans are praying he can make. There are also wild cards who could emerge. Geoff Cameron could continue to dominate as a centerback and Marcus Tracy could wind up developing into a real force at Aalborg. Consider the 23 above to be a starting point for a good discussion on the state of the national team pool. I will look to provide a new 23 every month, or at the very least, every other month, from now until the World Cup.
What do you think of this group? Which player do you think should be on the list? Who made the team that you don't think should be on it?
Share your thoughts below.