The USA took on the Czech Republic this evening in their first of 2 sendoff matches before the 23-man roster heads on to South Africa. After a hard-fought game where many of our normal starters weren't in uniform, the Czechs took it 4-2, with goals by Maurice Edu and Herculez Gomez among the USMNT highlights. Here are some thoughts on the match:
-Clarence Goodson played excellent. So did Stu Holden. They both were really involved and created tons of chances to score, including Goodson's header to assist on Gomez's goal and Holden's cross that set up Edu's goal.
-Gooch is not 100%. He just isn't. However, I think he's closer than the early exit would indicate. He's probably at 75-80%. The question is, will that be enough for Bob Bradley to put him on the plane?
-Eddie Johnson, Johnathan Bornstein, Robbie Rogers, Heath Pearce and Sacha Kljestan didn't have great games at all...and definitely waited until the worst possible time to do it. When your place in the World Cup is on the line, you cannot play like these guys did. You need to step it up a level and play better than your best.
What this game definitely played out was who was fighting for some spots on the plane to South Africa (and apparently, to meet the President on Thursday. However, the final roster will be announced Wednesday on ESPN, and it will be interesting to see what Bradley has in store. So, here are my predictions for the final 23-man roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Howard, Guzan, Hahnemann. I think BB is pretty set with Guzan at #2, although we will see if Guzan trots out to goal on Saturday against Turkey. Howard is our undisputed #1.
DEFENDERS (6): Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Goodson, Spector. I think Bornstein played his way off the plane tonight, and I don't think Pearce did himself any favors. Goodson played like he could start if Gooch can't go for some reason. He was excellent, and he's a great guy for set pieces in the box, something we'll need in South Africa.
MIDFIELDERS (10): Beasley, Bedoya, Bradley, Clark, Dempsey, Donovan, Edu, Feilhaber, Holden, Torres. We take 10 midfielders to South Africa mostly because of the ability of many of our midfielders to assume other roles. Beasley or Edu could be called upon to play defense, while Dempsey or Donovan could be pushed up as strikers to allow Holden and/or Torres to come in and provide tons of speed on the flanks. Bedoya, while having some limited minutes in appearances, has shown me enough to get on the plane. While initially I thought that Bedoya was in a race with Beasley for a spot, I think both actually make the team. The rest of the choices, in my opinion, were very easy to make, and the cuts (Kljestan and Rogers) were even easier to make.
FORWARDS (4): Altidore, Ching, Gomez, Findley. I think that due to some midfielders like Dempsey or Donovan being able to slide up front if necessary, we only take 4 strikers. Gomez played his way onto the plane and proved he belonged. Buddle didn't do anything to lose a spot, just got beat by Gomez in my mind. Johnson wasn't making it to begin with. Call me crazy, but I think that Findley makes the team, even though I don't think he should. Bradley seems to love him, and he is the speedy complement that we could bring in like we did Charlie Davies (although Findley needs to learn how to finish).
Those are my predictions, but we will find out the true final roster tomorrow. I'm even going to predict the numerical roster (while most are easy to determine, some could be tricky). Who do you think will make the final roster?