Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Friday, May 05, 2006

US Futbol: Cup Roster Breakdown

Alrighty folks, we finally know who has been booked for the flight across the Atlantic in a couple weeks and I have to admit some surprises popped up. Here's your 2006 US Men's National Team roster (*=who I think will start):

Keepers:
Kasey Keller*
Tim Howard
Marcus Hahnemann

Defenders:
Eddie Pope*
Carlos Bocanegra*
Steve Cherundolo*
Oguchi Onyewu
Eddie Lewis
Jimmy Conrad
Cory Gibbs
Chris Albright (replaces Frankie Hejduk, who just tore his ACL)

Mids:
Claudio Reyna*
DaMarcus Beasley*
Landon Donovan*
Pablo Mastroeni*
Bobby Convey*?
Clint Dempsey*?
John O'Brien
Ben Olsen

Strikers:
Brian McBride*
Josh Wolff*
Eddie Johnson*?
Brian Ching

Between the sticks, there's no question as to who is the man. Keller is in great form for being as "experienced" as he is. Hopefully the German Bundesliga will have prepared him to remain comfortable no matter the opponent on the Bohemian motherland soil. Howard is a great backup but has seen little action at mighty Man U. Unfortunately for him, the team playing well will probably mean we won't see him play at all. Now Marcus Hahnemann caught me off guard. In my little following of the national team since 2002, I've not seen his name at all...but it looked so familiar...interesting. Turns out there's quite a good reason why I've heard of him before. A 1993 grad of SPU, he went on to play for your Seattle Sounders 1994-96 and capped his time with an A-Leauge championship. Next came the MLS and eventually the English First Division, where he now currently plays with Reading - who surprisingly have just claimed a promotion to the Premier league for next year. Although it's extremely unlikely we'll even see more than a glimpse of him on the bench this summer, he's got quite a resume and should do well to continue in the footsteps of US standouts like Friedel, Keller and hopefully Howard.

Defense features the tried and true trio of Pope, Bocanegra and Cherundolo - all of whom I see as starters. Pope can dish out the booyah and I seem to remember Bocanegra getting quite fired up in the past. Yes, as a country we're a worldwide superpower but can't get no respect from the soccer world. These three will do well to earn respect should they not show their age. Pope, I'm talking to you. No Agoos repeats...promise me. And I know I've seen Onyewu play before, but cannot recall it to mind. I hear he's another enforcer-type and the more the better for the backline. Eddie Lewis is a surprising midfielder turned defender with a Roberto Carlos-esque left foot that should get some exciting crosses into our offense as well as the occasional free kick. Then again, I think he'll spend most of his time on the bench. Conrad is doing well lately, but I say the MLS defender of the year accolade is nothing much when compared to the World Cup scene. Give him some time to develop in Europe and then I can get an accurate feel for how he'll do on the international scene. Nonetheless, I hope to be pleasantly surprised by his play should get get any minutes (unlikely we'll use any defense subs except for injuries). I honestly have no recollection of Gibbs and Albright...although I'll probably say that the second week of July as well.

On to the middle of the pitch and I must say it is great to see Reyna apparently ready to take up the captain's armband...and with no current injury worries to boot (bad pun, I know). He is a quiet force that should be more in the spotlight. The style of Beasley and Donovan might draw more cameras, but I see Reyna as the solid foundation to our impressive defense. If we do well, he'll be the one orchestrating it from the hub. I hope, for his sake and age that this Cup is a great sunset to ride out an international career on. Beas and LD are fun to watch, with DaMarcus as quick lightning and Landon as a great dribbler/space maker. Yes, our expectations are high but these guys are talented enough to rise to it.

Mastroeni, in my mind, has quietly risen to become a national team regular. Funny that he used to be a defender...but hey, so was I and we all know midfield is more fun...

Convey is allegedly the biggest surprise of the roster and I don't recall being impressed with either his or Greg Berhalter's (the one Convey supplanted) play. GB seemed to make too many dumb fouls out of angst, in my limited memory and all I remember of Convey is the frustrated/sad face reminiscent of one Tim Duncan. This could be the late night remnant of Cinco de Mayo talking now, but in terms of positive impact, I don't recall either player having it. Same goes for Dempsey. I'm sure he's capable, but it's at this point I wonder where our other national talent is at - I guess I'll be able to quell this rant once I get to the forwards. O'Brien is a liability as he's 2 steps away from injury every time he's just healed up again. He did score a great reflex goal against Portugal in 02, so I have to give him credit, but as I recall he happened to be in the right place at exactly the right nanosecond (and, yes, that's often the sole difference in 90 minutes of action, so important still). I'd rather not see him play. Olson had some high hopes placed on him when he graduated college. I don't know why, but I feel he should get some minutes starting 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through games when we seem to plateau and need a new flavor to our attacking style. Anyone could fill this role, so now this is just wishful thinking but my sinking feeling is that MLS just doesn't prepare players to jump to that leadership level. Hopefully I'll be proved very wrong by the progression of MLS players over the past 4 years...but I'll have to see it first.

Finally, the goal scoring unit (ok, actually our mids are probably going to score as much or more than the strikers, but it all depends on the defense style of our opponents). Take McBride, for example. He's the aerial target everyone knows about...and yet he still scores. I expect he'll be well marked by some bruisers in the June tourney, so his flick-ons and drop passes could result in more assists than goals. Ching is supposed to be a similar player but I don't expect we'll see much of him until late into games. Again, the MLS game is so different. I can't stand watching more than 5 minutes of it...it just frustrates me with uber-sloppy play and uninspired movement (both off and on the ball). I know I'm over-generalizing here, but again I'll change this view when MLS players prove me wrong. I believe Ching, Olson and Convey are all in that category so my challenge stands: Rise up gentlemen and play the beautiful game. No flopping and don't attempt to throw pseudo-Brazilian "flair" into your game - you are not Ronaldinho yet we need a definitive US playing style. I believe it starts with passing and I expect to see Valderamma-quality square balls and conservative use of long passes to space. We do have speed, but I think in the manner of small ball (short, smart passes building to a charge into the final quarter of the field ONLY when the timing and numbers are right and not necessarily the first possible chance. Our patience could be a great ally. After all, we are ranked 4th in the world right now... (!)

Ok, enough of my nationalistic futbol diatribe. Wolff brings speed and poise that has yet been untapped so I hope he fully shows up in Germany and Johnson, for me, is the biggest opportunity/question mark/potential surprise. He did wonderfully well in the CONCACAF qualifying, but might that have been a fluke? If Eddie can get in stride quickly and make the most of his probable few minutes I am very excited to see what he brings. I believe he is only 22, but dang that's an old timer compared to the what, 19 or 20 years Beasley and Donovan were 4 years ago?

So that's where we currently stand as a team in my opinion. Changes are sure to be made before June finally gets here so once Arsenal finish out the Champs League run on the 17th, I'll get a more indepth, insider's look at the keys to success for the Yanks. Maybe even an Ultimate Explosion rip off post titled "Yahtzee!" which will signal wisdom and abounding profundity with a fresh in-your-face style like never seen before by the Crushed staff. Or not.

March on Gunners - sink Barca!!

posted by El Jefe @ 11:37 PM  0 comments

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