YOUNG ROSTER FOR JANUARY TRAINING CAMP

Brek Shea is looking to earn his second cap against Chile
Brek Shea is looking to earn his second cap against Chile

US Soccer announced the roster for the January training camp. The camp begins on January 4 in Southern California, and concludes with a friendly match against Chile on January 22 at the Home Depot Center.

Here is the 24 man roster:

GOALKEEPERS (4): Dominic Cervi (Celtic), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Matt Pickens (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (9): A.J. DeLaGarza (Los Angeles Galaxy), Sean Franklin (Los Angeles Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Ryan Miller (Halmstads BK), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Anthony Wallace (Colorado Rapids), Marvell Wynne (Colorado Rapids)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Eric Alexander (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes), Mikkel Diskerud (Stabaek), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Dax McCarty (D.C. United), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Here are my thoughts:

Who the ‘F’ is Ryan Miller?

I know you asked yourself that question when you saw his name.  Lucky for you I’m here to explain these things. Miller, an Illinois native, is a midfield/defender that plays with Halmstad in the Swedish Allsvenskan league. He played his college ball at Notre Dame before joining the Columbus Crew in 2008. After two unsuccessful seasons in MLS, one with the Crew and the other with DC United, Miller went on trial in Europe and wound up in the Swedish league. The 26 year old probably needs to impress at this camp if he wants a call back in the future.

Youth Movement

The group is young, with an average age of 23.  The most experienced player on the team is 23 year old Alejandro Bedoya with 6 caps. First year professionals such as Eric Alexander (Age 22), Zach Loyd (23), and Sean Johnson (21) are coming off strong rookie campaigns. The trio was probably brought in to get a feel for the system and the staff,  but we might see at least one of them on game day. This experience should boost their development.

Its nice to see youngsters Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, and Mikkel “Mix” Diskerud in the camp. The three attackers earned their first cap against South Africa last month.  Mix and Agudelo combined for the winning goal that night.

This is the first step in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, so it isn’t surprising that Bob Bradley took chances on some young players.

MLS Success = USMNT Opportunity

Strikers Chris Wondolowski, MLS Golden Boot winner, and Justin Braun had breakout seasons with their MLS clubs.  Both are fairly young and the race for a forward spot is wide open at the moment.

MLS Cup Champions Colorado Rapids are represented by four players: Marvel Wynne, Matt Pickens, Jeff Larentowicz, and Anthony Wallace.  All four were pivotal figures in the teams MLS Cup run. I see Wynne and Wallace with the most opportunity in this camp. Wynne, typically deployed as a right back, might see time as a central defender against Chile. The young defender has excelled for the Rapids in his first season playing centrally. Wallace is young, athletic, and has a good left foot. He is also a very smart defender that can contribute to the attack. I think the left back spot is his for the taking.

The 2014 center backs?

Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Brek Shea are turning heads with their defensive play. Ream (23) is a very refined defender who had a rookie of the year caliber season in 2010. He earned his first cap last month against South Africa and impressed with his calm and composed demeanor on the ball. Omar Gonzalez (22), 2009 R0okie of the Year, is one of the best defenders in MLS. His towering 6’5 build makes him an ideal candidate to inherit the center back role. Brek Shea (20) has played everything from forward to center back. The young FC Dallas midfielder astounded observers with his play at center back during the Generation Adidas tour in Spain. It is also suggested that Sir Alex Ferguson commented that Shea’s best position would likely be as a central defender.  Shea’s 6’4 build is suited for that position and we could see Bradley groom Shea with that goal in mind.

Let me know your thoughts on this roster.

RAPIDS: BUSY START TO 10/11 OFF-SEASON

The Champions busy Off-Season has already begun
The Champions' busy Off-Season has already begun

Written by: Ian Campbell

The Rapids were off to quick start to cement their position at the top of the league. The day after returning to Colorado with the MLS Cup, Julien Baudet and Danny Earls were traded to Seattle for Peter Vagenas. This was a move to reduce the number of international players on the Colorado roster. Under expansion draft rules, teams are only allowed to leave one international player exposed and protecting extra international players would have left others (like Matt Pickens) exposed. Baudet was nice enough to record a message to fans while at the rally last Tuesday and he will be welcome back at the Dick when he returns with Seattle. Danny Earls started 15 games in his first year in the MLS but was not a factor in the late playoff run. Vagenas’ age (32) and position (midfield) make it unlikely that he will crack the starting 11 on a regular basis but it is likely he will make appearances in the additional games the Rapids play as MLS Cup champions.

The Rapids protected 11 players leading up to the expansion draft: forwards Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, and Macoumba Kandji; midfielders Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith, and Brian Mullan; defenders Drew Moor, Kosuke Kimura, and Marvell Wynne,; along with goalkeeper Matt Pickens. The only player from the starting 11 in the MLS Cup left unprotected was Anthony Wallace. Wells Thompson, a key substitute in the postseason run, was also left with an uncertain future. Wallace was drafted by the Portland Timbers in the 4th round of the draft, but Colorado had already worked out a deal that would send Wallace back to the Rapids in exchange for allocation money. With a player drafted, Colorado was able to pull Thompson from the draft.

Sanna Nyassi is a Colorado Rapid
Sanna Nyassi is a Colorado Rapid

We were also able to pick up midfielder Sanna Nyassi from Vancouver (who had been drafted in the first round from Seattle). With the upcoming season adding games to the schedule, it was a great pickup for the team because Nyassi will provide additional depth at midfield for Gary Smith (whose substitutions had become routine). And that wasn’t the end of the action for the first week of the offseason. Joseph Nane was acquired from Toronto for a 3rd round pick in the 2012 draft with the Rapids again adding a midfield player for the upcoming season.

It seems almost repetitive to say it, but the Rapids are adding depth to the midfield. Technical Director Paul Bravo has repeatedly emphasized the difficulty of navigating through multiple competitions and the recent moves indicate that the Rapids plan on taking every competition seriously. Hopefully they can repeat the success of 2010 in 2011 and show the naysayers that it was no fluke.