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Analyzing the US Gold Cup roster

The United States 2011 Gold Cup roster was released Monday afternoon. The US, in Group C with Canada, Panama and Guadeloupe, will open play against Canada on June 7 at Detroit’s Ford Field.

Goalkeepers : Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Étienne/France), Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres UANL/Mexico), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (Brondby/Denmark), Eric Lichaj (Leeds United), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

Midfielders: Freddy Adu (Rizespor/Turkey), Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor/Turkey), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)


Some of the most recognizable and successful national teams have struggled to produce world-class goalkeepers. Luckily for the United States, Everton mainstay Tim Howard remains at the top of his game and is likely to be key fixture for years to come. As long as American goalkeepers continue to occupy top spots across Europe, and particularly the EPL, things bode well for the Americans as far as keeper is concerned. With regular No. 2 Brad Guzan off getting married, the obvious choice to backup Tim Howard this summer was Wolves’ Marcus Hahnemann. Nick Rimando rounds out the Gold Cup selections at keeper, beating out recent call-ups David Yelldell (MSV Duisburg) and Dominic Cervi (Celtic).


As Dennis Green infamously stated, “They are who we thought they were.”

The American backline under Coach Bob Bradley has varied very little over the past few cycles. A combination of aging legs and lack of up-and-coming talent ready to produce now has led to a very consistent selection. Onyewu, Cherundolo and captain Bocanegra have been stalwarts, but how long can the U.S. continue to rely on these veterans nearing the end of their storied careers? While their contribution will be crucial in this summer’s Gold Cup, it’s safe to assume that help will need to come from elsewhere when 2014 rolls around.

The two center back positions figure to be some combination of Goodson, Onyewu, Ream or Bocanegra. Ream has been hailed for his ability to pass out of the back but is inexperienced and at times has looked shaky defending on the international level. Onyewu has yet to regain the athletic dominance that helped lead the Americans to the Confederations Cup final and ultimately led to a contract with AC Milan.

Bornstein or Bocanegra figure to start at left back, but Bocanegra could also play in the center with World Cup veteran Jay Demerit left off the roster while recovering from an injury. If Cherundolo can continue the form he displayed in South Africa then right back should be his to lose.  Lichaj figures to add depth at right back while Spector can fill in virtually anywhere along the back line and has played in the center of midfield for West Ham this season.


The midfield has consistently been the deepest area of the national team for quite some time. Bob Bradley, channeling his inner Jose Mourinho, almost always opts for two defensive-minded holding midfielders in an effort to disrupt the opponent’s flow. Expect to see Michael Bradley paired with either Jermaine Jones or Maurice Edu in the middle. While Michael Bradley showed last summer that he can excel as a box-to-box midfielder, playing time has been sparse at Aston Villa and critics will be shouting nepotism should Michael start and not produce.

Arguably two of the greatest American soccer players of all time currently call the wings their home. Dempsey and Donovan are frequently dispatched out wide to take advantage of their creativity and speed. While Donovan is all but guaranteed to start out wide, the selection of only three forwards raises questions as to where Dempsey will play. He has excelled as a forward for Fulham this season, where he led the team in goals.

If Dempsey is pushed up the field in a withdrawn forward role, the likely replacement would be Benny Feilhaber. While Kljestan and Rogers inclusions are not a total surprise, Adu is somewhat puzzling as he has not represented the Stars and Stripes for some time and has not had much success or quality playing time in Europe. However, I suspect all three will see limited time barring injury.

The call for Bob Bradley to implore more of an attack-minded approach came to a halt when Stuart Holden was taken down by Manchester United’s Johnny Evans in a Premier League match. Many U.S. fans were hoping Holden would be paired with one of the above mentioned holding midfielders and be the two-way midfielder the team desperately needs. An interesting omission from the squad is Timothy Chandler, who showed well in friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay as both a winger and right back. The exclusion of youngsters like Chandler and Mix Diskerud should raise eyebrows as the Gold Cup would have been an ideal situation to give both players much needed experience.


The lack of output from American forwards has been a troublesome trend. Jozy Altidore has struggled to find consistent playing time since leaving New York and when deployed as a lone striker has been largely ineffective. Juan Agudelo has exhibited a Chicharito-like knack for being in the right place at the right time, scoring two goals in only four appearances but is still very inexperienced. US fan’s are clamoring for a world-class forward, but should be cautious in placing unrealistic expectations on a player who still doesn’t start regularly for his club team.

World Cup veterans Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle were excluded from the roster, along with promising young forward Teal Bunbury.  In Bunbury’s case, his club team currently sits in last in the MLS and that can’t bode well for his inclusion on the roster. Both he and Wondolowski have struggled to score consistently this season, but the inclusion of Wondolowski over Bunbury is questionable at best. Time may yet again be Charlie Davies worst enemy, as he has scored several goals this year for his club but is not far removed from the near-fatal car crash that once threatened his career. With only one experienced forward on the roster, it looks like the U.S. will be relying heavily on the midfield once again to carry the offense.


  1. Wondo is the 3rd leading scorer in MLS this year and lead the league a year ago. How can you describe that as struggling to score consistently?

    • Andrew Desiderio says:

      While Wondolowski did win the Golden Boot last year with 18 goal, his second highest goals per season output before that was 3 in 2009. He is already 28 and has appeared in only one friendly for the US during his career, so I don’t see how his inclusion benefits the future of the USMNT over selecting Bunbury. Sporting is currently having a bad year playing only away games until their new stadium opens up, so it would seem even more beneficial for Bunbury’s development to train with the National Team for a month or so

      • Joe from the Bay Area says:

        Wondo didn’t score as much in 2009 because he was played in the midfield. In the 2010 season he was finally played in his forward position and began to score. Inconsistent? Well, currently he’s third in the golden boot trail. Wondo can be beneficial if he’s played in the right spot.

  2. I still can’t believe we passed on Feilhaber…

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