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October friendlies: Who’s got next?

With two friendlies coming up on American soil, October 9 at Soldier Field vs. Poland and October 12 at PPL Park vs. Colombia, Bob Bradley has called on an almost entirely European-based roster as the US looks to close out the 2010 calendar year on a high.  While Bradley should use the matches to evaluate up and coming talent and test combinations, many of the players will be using the opportunity to position themselves ideally for the upcoming January transfer window.  Regardless of results, there are places to be won and most of the 20 man roster has a considerable amount to prove to Bob Bradley and his staff.  Here are eight American players with a lot to play for :

Holden-The next US Great?

Stuart Holden – Until news of his contract extension broke, Holden’s contributions at Bolton had flown largely under the radar. Holden has started in the center of Owen Coyle’s midfield in all seven Premier League fixtures, playing the full 90 all but once.  Coyle is still in shock to have snapped up Holden on a free transfer, “It’s not very often you get someone of Stuart’s quality for nothing.  He’s a heart the size of a lion.”  With high praise from his manager, Holden looks to have the stability to grow and improve and as the US looks to a future beyond Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, Holden seems the best bet to grab the opportunity with his great vision, high work rate and precision dead ball delivery. Hopefully he will see plenty of the field against Poland and Colombia not just as a winger, but as the attacking center midfielder that his club coach believes he can be.  Scotland is kicking themselves for letting him get away.  And to the US, no less.  Deal with it Scotland.

Brad Guzan-Please let me play

Brad Guzan – The curse of the world class American goalkeeper continues to follow Brad Guzan around. At Aston Villa, Brad Friedel seems as if he will be playing forever and with the Nats, Guzan must contend with Tim Howard’s considerable shadow. At 26, Guzan is by no means an old man, but if he is ever to lay claim to being a top shelf keeper in his own right, he must get on the field. He should see a full 90 in at least one of the two fixtures and a good showing would be timely as clubs begin to build their transfer wish-lists for January. Guzan has the tools, but at this points it is really a question of whether Bob Bradley can give his Tim Howard fetish a rest long enough for Guzan to see the field.

Those Danish love them some Hummel

Benny Feilhaber – Whether it was nobility or lack of options that led Feilhaber to stay with relegated Aarhus is still anyone’s guess. But while Benny has been in fine form lately, netting a hat trick in a Danish Cup game (two on PKs) and scoring again this past weekend, setting the Danish Second Division on fire should raise few eyebrows with the national team selectors. Despite being one of Bob Bradley’s favorites, with Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Stuart Holden and Clint Dempsey all playing nearly maximum minutes for top European clubs, Feilhaber must find himself a new situation if he is to stay in the running for the American midfield. Like Guzan, Feilhaber should be going full bore in an effort to win a transfer to a more reputable club.

Please just score at the YELLOW SUBMARINE!!

Jozy Altidore – There are some that see riding the pine and fighting for minutes at Villarreal as a bad thing for Jozy. Personally, I disagree. Villarreal are currently second in the Spanish table and for a young striker whose work rate and effort in training have been the main knock on him in the past, forcing himself to fight daily for a spot on the roster, let alone the pitch, can only do him good. With World Cup and European Champions like Santi Cazorla, Marcos Senna, Joan Capdevila and Carlos Marchena on a roster that also includes prolific talents Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar and Cani, Altidore is surrounded by the best and will undoubtedly be the better for it, if he is up to the challenge.  And while he has yet to see the pitch in La Liga, he has played considerable minutes in the Europa League. It may be too soon to see a more mature approach from Altidore, but its coming, look for him to play much of both games with an increased level of effort. And the goals…they’re coming too.

Who am I?

Eric Lichaj – Seriously, when Lichaj (pronounced Lehigh) popped up at Aston Villa, American fans the country over said a collective, “Who?”  The 21 year-old Lichaj holds a Polish passport, making it easy for a European club to sign him without obtaining a work permit. So, after one year at North Carolina, Lichaj headed for Villa Park to join fellow Americans Brad Guzan and Brad Friedel.  So far this season, Lichaj has worked a full shift in two games, one in the Europa League and the other in a Carling Cup match.  Bob Bradley has thus far been impressed with Lichaj’s ability to get up the field, serving dangerous crosses into the area.  While it is still unclear on which side of the field he will line up for the Nats, Lichaj will likely get his chance in one of these two matches.  It would be of particular interest if Lichaj were to make his debut in the Poland game at Soldier Field given that he is not only from the Chicago area, but also because he turned down the chance to play for Poland in favor of the red, white and blue.

Hey Eddie. Here's a thought. Try SCORING.

Hey Eddie. Here's an idea. Try SCORING.

Eddie Johnson – Cats have nine lives, players like Demarcus Beasley, who has probably squandered seven of them are on their last legs with the national team, yet as long as the US has a dearth of scoring options, Eddie Johnson still has hope.  Back with Fulham after his most recent loan spell in Greece, Johnson has benefited from injuries to Moussa Dembele, Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora and has found himself playing considerable minutes this season alongside Clint Dempsey. Yet, while Dempsey has found the back of the net twice in recent weeks, EJ has yet to open his account.  These two friendlies set up another crossroads in a career of crossroads for Eddie Johnson.  The table is set.  Consistent club ball and a national team call up.  If he takes the opportunity with both hands, he could truly become the player fans always believed he could become.  But at this juncture, it sure doesn’t feel likely, does it?

FINALLY!

Jermaine Jones – The wait is over.  On October 20, 2009, FIFA cleared Jones to switch his allegiances from Germany to the United States.  While he had played for Germany at the junior and senior levels, Jones had never competed in a full FIFA-sanctioned international, leaving his international status up in the air. Once the appropriate paperwork was complete, Jones seemed primed to jump right into the American World Cup build up, but a long string of injuries kept the Schalke player out of action and after the excitement surrounding his capture, American fans have been forced to wait nearly a year to see their new prize in action.  Jones enters the lineup in a position of strength for the USA, with Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu already poised to capably fill out the two holding midfield roles that Bob Bradley rightly or wrongly employs. It will be of particular interest to see how a player of Jones European pedigree fits in with his teammates and whether he can provide some offensive spark to kick start the American outfit to victory.

Edu - Back...and better than ever

Maurice Edu – Mo is back.  He’s healthy and he’s holding down a starting spot for Scottish champs Rangers.  He is playing maximum minutes in both the Scottish League and in the Champions League. The serious knee injury that dogged him for so long and hampered his build up to the World Cup (allowing for the Rico Clark disaster to even be considered) appear to be in the rear view mirror.  The present, for Edu, is about consistency.  Going out match after match and enduring the grind of being a gritty ball-winner all while keeping his body injury-free.  The former Toronto-man has the skills, the speed and the strength to be a major contributor, that is no longer the question.  Whether he can keep himself fit for an entire season remains to be seen, and if he can answer the bell and remain healthy, it will see him stake a claim to a starting spot with the Nats for years to come.

Here’s the complete 20 man roster:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne, France), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa, England), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan, Italy), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland, Denmark), Heath Pearce (Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham, England)

Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro, Sweden), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus, Denmark), Stuart Holden (Bolton, England), Jermaine Jones (Schalke, Germany), Brek Shea (Dallas)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Villarreal, Spain), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Eddie Johnson (Fulham, England)

The most interesting (and informative) US formation with this group is a 4-5-1, something like this.

______________Guzan

Cherundolo(C) – Goodson – Onyewu – Lichaj

____________Jones – Edu

Shea______________________Feilhaber

______________Holden

_____________Altidore

Though I somehow doubt that will happen.  Enjoy your 4-4-2.

USA!!! USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!

And as a final aside, the opportunity to see your national team play live is a rare privilege.  The opportunity to see them at home in the relatively small confines of our PPL Park is even more extraordinary.

Do not miss your opportunity to come out and be a part of it!!

2 Comments

  1. Ed Farnsworth says:

    I was very disappointed watching the game against Poland on Saturday that Bradley made only one substitution, and that one somewhere around the 70th minute. I can’t believe I have to spend another four years watching that guy leaning against the post of the players bench while time inexorably advances and the development of the team apparently stands still.

  2. Anyone know where is the best place in Philly, aside from the stadium, to watch? Oh, if I had the money, I’d be there…

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