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Archive for June, 2009

23 TICKETS TO SOUTH AFRICA

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

us-team

With the Confederations Cup behind us and the World Cup less than a year away I think it is a good time to start evaluating who will make the final 23 man roster for the World Cup.  Although we still haven’t qualified for the World Cup, I wanted to start this discussion before our most meaningful international games were behind us.  I think the Gold Cup and the remaining 5 qualifiers will answer a lot of questions. 

Here is a breakdown of where I think everyone stands:

Locks: These are players that will be on the roster when the team heads for South Africa next summer, barring a serious injury or an incredible drop in form.

  •  Tim Howard: The best American keeper right now.
  • Landon Donovan: Best American field player.
  • Oguchi Onyewu: Maturing as a player and has become a high quality defender.
  • Carlos Bocanegra: Our captain, leads by example and looks like the answer at left back.
  • Michael Bradley:  Tireless player, and should wear the captain’s armband some day.
  • Clint Dempsey: Love him or hate him, he scores big goals in big games. 

In the fight: These are guys that are the closest to getting a spot on the final roster.  These players are either almost locks, were locks but have been injured, or had a slight slip in form.  These guys have an army of eager players sitting just beneath them waiting for a slip up.

  • Jozy Altidore: Started every game in the Confederations Cup, needs to improve some parts of his game but with the lack of depth up top he should be lock for the World Cup.
  • Jay Demerit: Nobody helped their chances more than Demerit. Played out of his skin in the Confederations Cup, but a good tournament doesn’t assure you a spot.  If he keeps his form, which I believe he will, he will be in South Africa next summer.
  • Steve Cherundolo: The veteran and first choice right back has been injured giving Hejduk and now Spector a chance to stake a claim. 
  • Frankie Hejduk: Every coach loves this guy for his tireless effort and tenacious defending.  He might have just lost his spot to Spector for the second choice right back.
  • Brian Ching: Bradley’s first choice up top and has been playing well in the system. Bradley likes him which is enough to get him on the plane to South Africa.
  • Jonathan Spector: Really helped himself at the Confederations Cup.  Looked like the defender everyone expected him to be and is only 23. 
  • Brad Guzan: Looked great against Egypt and should be the #2 keeper for the US.
  • Benny Feilhaber: After his amazing Gold Cup performance in 2007 he suffered a couple of injuries and endured a long span without playing first team football.  But what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger and Benny looks like his trials and obstacles have transformed him into a better player.  He is on the cusp of being in the top group, but is in a dead lock with Edu, Clark, and probably Jermaine Jones for the second CM spot.
  • Charlie Davies: Looked like a long shot but has done well for himself.  He will be battling it out for the last forward slot but his versatility and speed might give him an edge.
  • Ricardo Clark:  Clark has always been an inconsistent player, but he did show that when he is on he is one of the best midfielders in the US.

On the Bubble: These are players that are working their way into the national team roster but have a little further to go than the group just above them.  Most of these guys have put in good performances in a US jersey but need to do a little more to break away from the pack or be a little more consistent to really challenge for a spot. Some of these players need to stop their downward slide and work their way back up.

  •  Jose Francisco Torres: The fact that he didn’t get any time this past tournament shows how far down the chart Bradley rates Torres.  Torres is still young and very talented.  I believe he will still be in the fight when the final roster is being made.  
  • DaMarcus Beasley: Nobody has hurt their chances more than Beasley.  He looked just awful in the Confederations Cup and for the past few years.  Not playing for his club, constant injuries, and the fact that he never learned how to play the game are not good things going into a World Cup year.
  • Jonathan Bornstein: Never convinced at left back, but was still better than the other options until Bocanegra stepped in.  Bornstein could be the #2 guy at left back spot since Bradley likes the kid.
  • Heath Pearce: He is now third in the pecking order at left back and very close to falling off the map completely.  Being relegated to the reserves of a second division team is not going help him either.
  • Pablo Mastroeni: Pablo is past his prime and it is starting to show.  Even at his best he was still a red card liability. 
  • Freddy Adu:  Bradley has already made it clear Freddy needs to get regular playing time if he wants to get a spot on the roster.  The super talented youngster has the talent to start for the US, but every year that he goes without playing first team soccer his star starts fade a little.
  • Conor Casey: Didn’t do himself many favors at the Confederations Cup.  He couldn’t be expected to just jump into the national team and produce right off the bat but he doesn’t have much time left.  I think the Gold Cup would have been a better venue for him.
  • Sacha Kljestan: The more caps he gets the worse he looks.  He was forgiven early on for his mistakes because he was young. Now he has 20 caps under his belt and is not looking much better.  Maybe it just isn’t his time yet.
  • Marvel Wynne: Still too raw and has fallen another spot down the pecking order. I can see the potential but maybe it won’t be till 2014 that he’ll be ready.
  • Maurice Edu: His stock is falling a little but none of it is really his fault.  In light of the reemergence of Feilhaber and Clark’s stellar performance at the tournament Edu has some work to do.  Additionally, if Jermaine Jones gets to play for the US and is as good as his hype, Edu might be out of luck.
  • Danny Califf: Before Demerit came around; Califf looked like the obvious number 3 center back. Now he has a serious challenger on his hands.
  • Luis Robles: The #3 spot at GK is still wide open.  Bradley has taken an interest in him and he needs to show he is the best candidate.

Waiting Room: These are guys that are just waiting for their number to be called.  There is definitely a ton of talent here and these players are waiting for their chance to prove what they can do. Some of these guys are playing to get a second chance others are trying to prove for the first time that they have what it takes.  You’ll see a lot of new names and names disappearing pretty frequently from this group.  

  • Stuart Holden: Great young attacking talent that can play midfield or forward.  He is having a great year for Houston and probably would have gotten a shot sooner if wasn’t for an injury.
  • Eddie Johnson:  He is in a contest with Beasley for fastest career nose dive by a one time unquestioned national team starter.  Fortunately for Eddie the forward options aren’t as deep as the midfield group.  He needs to do something soon to get back in the discussion.
  • Kenney Cooper:  He is on the Gold Cup roster and needs to show he can be an asset. He has great skill for a big guy, but needs to play bigger to fit into Bradley’s system.
  • Michael Parkhurst: Smart young player, but might be out of his depth with our current crop of center backs. Regardless, I think he has the talent to wear the US jersey at least someday.
  • Colin Clark:  Nowhere is the US team lacking depth more than at left mid.  Clark is having a fantastic season with the Rapids and could be the answer.  His blistering pace and ability to put in dangerous crosses is exactly what we need on the left.
  • Robbie Rogers: Similar to Clark, he has a real opportunity to take advantage of current hole at left mid.  Though, I think Clark is in better form right now.
  • Clarence Goodson: The few chances he’s gotten he has played well.  Like Parkhurst, he might be out of his depth.
  • John Thorington: Coaches love versatility and Thorington can play anywhere. 
  • Troy Perkins: Is in a wide open race, but I don’t think he has the quality.
  • Matt Pickens: Similar to Perkins he might not make the cut for a World Cup.
  • Jon Busch: Great club form, but we’ll see if he can translate it to the big stage.
  • Kyle Beckerman: Beckerman has been a steady force for RSL but hasn’t translated that form to the national team. He’ll be hungry to get back into the fight for a roster spot.
  • Jimmy Conrad: Always seems like the odd man out even though he hasn’t done anything wrong.  He needs to prove he is better than Califf and Demerit.
  • Santino Quaranta: Santino’s battle with addiction is the soccer feel good story of the year.  He has been playing great soccer for DC United and might actually become the player he was supposed to be.
  • Chad Marshall: A few years ago he was supposed to be our answer at center back.  The 2008 MLS defensive player of the year now has the chance to prove he is that player.  
  • Jermaine Jones: Everyone’s favorite German defector. If his papers get straightened out and he recovers from his leg injury he should jump up this chart pretty quick.

Share your thoughts on who you think will make the final 23 man roster for South Africa.

EDGAR CASTILLO’S CHANGE OF HEART

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

p1_castillo_1010

In 2007, Edgar Castillo turned his back on the US, the country of his birth, to play for Mexico.  Castillo, the son of Mexican parents, was born and raised in New Mexico and was a member of US youth national team pool. 

During high school he was one of the best soccer players in New Mexico garnering the state High School Player of the year award as a sophmore.  As time passed, he noticed that the ODP and National team system began to lose interest, deeming him too small.  Castillo explained in an interview with Sports Illustarted:

“I did ODP,” he said. “Made the regional team. Made the national pool when I was 14. I don’t know what happened. They just didn’t call me for some reason, so I decided to go to Mexico and give it a try and now I’m playing here in Santos.”

Castillo found early success in Mexico with Santos and he received a call up to the Mexican National team from Hugo Sanchez. Here is what he had to say in 2007:

“I wasn’t expecting it that soon but it came so that’s good, getting called up to the national team with Hugo Sánchez,” Castillo told SI.com. When asked about his potential role with the national team, Castillo said he’d like to participate in “[The 2008 Beijing Olympics] and fight for a spot in the [2010 World Cup in South Africa].”

Castillo, only twenty at the time, felt rejected by the US Soccer Federation and took full opportunity to hit back when the US finally came calling:

As far as any future with the U.S., Castillo said that would never happen. “Even if they call, I’m not going to come,” he said. “I already told them that I’m staying with Mexico.”

After losing Castillo to Mexico, Bob Bradley sounded concerned about the current player scouting situation:

“Hopefully we can be more proactive in the future and keep our best talent here,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said.

Fast forward two years later. Castillo played with the Mexican U23′s that failed to qualify for the Olympics. For the full national team he only played a handful of friendlies for Hugo Sanchez, once for Sven, and isn’t in the plans of new national team coach Aguirre.  Additionally, Castillo made a move from Santos to Mexican powerhouse America, but has failed to get much playing time. 

Still only 22, the Mexican-American left back, is starting to have a change of heart. With the new FIFA ruling allowing players who are not cap tied to change national teams Castillo might go back on his words.  In a recent interview with USsoccerplayers.com, Castillo had this to say:

“I would play for the United States,” Castillo said during a recent phone interview from Mexico, “I’d want to talk to them first, but I want to play for the US. I think it would be a very good opportunity for me, for my career. If they call me I would play for them. “

Apparently the feelings of resentment towards the US are fading and Castillo wants a second shot with the red, white, and blue.  The USSF has yet to give him a call and Sunil Gulati had no comment on the situation from South Africa.  Castillo though, knows it won’t be as easy as just getting papers filed:

“They have a lot of good players. I don’t think I’d come in and be handed anything. But I’d like a chance to compete” for a starting spot.

Humbled, Castillo states that a change would be the best thing for his family and his career.

Here are both articles: Sports Illustrated, and USsoccerplayer.com

I think we should give Castillo a shot on the national team.  He is a young and talented left back and left mid.  Those don’t come around too often. 

Concerning his comments, the 2007 remarks hit close to home.  Not too long ago this country was quick to push out hispanic players from the system deeming them too small or unathletic.  The times have changed and the USSF has opened its eyes.  I understand Castillo’s frustrations and I can’t hold it against him.  I think the US Soccer Federation owes him another shot, not just for him but also to make amends for years of racist scouting policies.

Share your thoughts on this development.  Do you think Castillo should get a second chance?  Do you think he has a shot at making our roster?  If he isn’t good enough for the Mexican side do you think he’ll be good enough for the US?

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