Most of us did fairly well reading Bruce Arena’s mind trying to predict which 23-players he picked to play for the US national team at the World Cup in Germany.
His choices of Brian Ching and Jimmy Conrad at the expense of Taylor Twellman and Gregg Berhalter, however, were a surprise.
It seems that a white-hot start to the MLS season does mean something, as both Ching and Ben Olsen took full advantage of that scenario, while Twellman lagged through four matches, finally tallying his first goal this past Sunday against Chicago in a losing effort.
Berhalter’s last match against Germany was surely his death knell, as he was horrific.
Conrad played very well in the build-up friendlies and in his few MLS matches this season, but he didn’t play well in that Germany game. Based on that information, I was adamant that Arena would go with experience, but he decided, essentially, to go with the better player now–Conrad.
Well done, Bruce, though I don’t think the dozens of Kansas City Wizards fans that pack Arrowhead Stadium are all that excited to lose three starters for the next two months of league play.
The Brian Ching/Taylor Twellman debate will no doubt continue, and I have every confidence that ESPN analyst Eric Wynalda will lead that charge in Twellman’s good name. I, too, thought Twellman did enough against international competition (a bit watered down, to be fair) to make the team. If Ching had scored a third of his season-to-date goal total, Twellman would be a lock for the team because, to be quite honest, Ching hasn’t played well for the national team since the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. That is when he scored in back-to-back games against Jamaica and El Salvador. Since then, crickets. Expect a lot of whining out of Wynalda and any other media types from the northeastern part of the USA, and for good reason.
The other choices in the final 23 were fairly predictable, but it’s clear Clint Dempsey, Olsen, Conrad and Ching made the team (according to Arena) in the past few months. Those four players were on the outside looking in before the national team camp in January, with only Dempsey realistically having any kind of chance to make the squad.
On the whole, this is clearly the most talented team in US history. Expect 2010 to be even better. The international development of this team is on a serious upswing, and they have every opportunity to prove it June 12 in Germany.
Though this team may not get out a tough Group E, having to go up against the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana, it doesn’t mean France 1998-type despair. Back then, the cupboard was bare. Right now, many youngsters wait in the wings to impress and push for a spot on future national teams.
I relish the tough challenge ahead, and to savor it that much more, I’ll be in front of a newly-purchased 50-inch widescreen HDTV enjoying the World Cup.
Good luck boys, and give ’em hell.
Official Roster (By Position, all-time World Cup roster selections):
Goalkeepers (3): Marcus Hahnemann (2006), Tim Howard (2006), Kasey Keller (1990, 1998, 2002, 2006)
Defenders (8): Carlos Bocanegra (2006), Steve Cherundolo (2002, 2006), Jimmy Conrad (2006), Cory Gibbs (2006), Frankie Hejduk (1998, 2002, 2006), Eddie Lewis (2002, 2006), Oguchi Onyewu (2006), Eddie Pope (1998, 2002, 2006)
Midfielders (8): DaMarcus Beasley (2002, 2006), Bobby Convey (2006), Clint Dempsey (2006), Landon Donovan (2002, 2006), Pablo Mastroeni (2002, 2006), John O’Brien (2002, 2006), Ben Olsen (2006), Claudio Reyna (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006)
Forwards (4): Brian Ching (2006), Eddie Johnson (2006), Brian McBride (1998, 2002, 2006), Josh Wolff (2002, 2006)
Goalkeepers (2): Tony Meola, Matt Reis
Defenders (3): Chris Albright, Gregg Berhalter,Todd Dunivant
Midfielders (5): Chris Armas, Chris Klein, Pat Noonan, Steve Ralston, Kerry Zavagnin
Forwards (3): Conor Casey, Chris Rolfe, Taylor Twellman