This summer the USMNT will once again compete in a Gold Cup tournament that has real importance. The winning nation will qualify for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. It's important that we qualify, as evidenced by the momentum we built in 2009 by shocking the globe and ending Spain's 15 match unbeaten streak before giving Brazil a scare in the final. The Confederations Cup in 2013 will serve as a springboard for the 2014 World Cup, much like it did last summer in South Africa.
Okay, as someone, somewhere once stated...cups are cups. A bit confusing, all of this? It's okay. All I am trying to get across is that the upcoming friendly this weekend vs Argentina is actually an important game for our boys. We need to find out which guys we're going to be able to rely on to win the upcoming Gold Cup, which will lead us into the Confederations Cup and on to the World Cup...phew.
The good news: we're returning most of the core team that reached the knockout stages in South Africa.
The bad news: we've still got glaring holes on a back line that has got to be the weakest we've fielded in a decade. Where oh where have you gone, Eddie Pope?
It's been a little over one full cycle since manager Bob Bradley took control of the squad and we're no closer to being able to rely on anyone at center or left back. Let's take a look at who Mr. Bradley has called up for this important contest:
Oguchi Onyewu - the great american dope. Major disappointment who's regressed over the past 4 years. Terrible in the world cup. Possibly the weakest muscular person on the planet. Absolutely no composure on the ball.
Carlos Bocanegra - old and slow....probably our best CB who happens to play LB because we're even worse at that position. I actually like Bocs, and he'll probably captain our side, but he is what he is: all heart, short on skill.
Jonathan Bornstein - please don't get me started. This is a waste of a cap. This guy is not going to get any better and plays terrible in pressure situations. I guess we need someone at LB, but this stiff is nowhere close to international caliber.
Steve Cherundolo - decent player. He plays RB. Our only "deep" position on the back line. He's marginally better than Spector, but not as good as Hejduk in his prime.
Jay DeMerit - undersized and getting older. Had a good run with Watford but it seems like he missed his international window. Might have been our best CB in last year's World Cup yet still made major mistakes that lead to goals. Playing for expansion Vancouver cannot be that great for his game either, can it?
Jonathan Spector - Not a bad RB moving forward but not a great defender. He's got decent pace and can cross. Guess what? West Ham found out that this guy is really a midfielder. Mr. Bradley, please take note.
Timothy Chandler, Tim Ream and Zak Whitbread - newbies hoping to fill those holes. Someone better step up, because right now it looks like our best option at LB is a CB and our best option at CB is midfielder Marice Edu!
So what do I want out of this friendly? I want to see us defend, period. I don't care if we score, I want us to defend against the incredible, all out attack that is Argentina football. This game is going to tell me a lot about who we've called up and give us a hint as to who Bradley has confidence in. I'm not that excited about the prospects of sticking with a Cherundolo - DeMerit - Gooch - Bocs back line throughout the Gold Cup.
To me, it's important that we develop a new crop of defenders that will mature by 2014. I am a bit disappointed that emerging LA Galaxy CB Omar Gonzalez was snubbed. The kid has the size and athleticism that we need at the international level. We absolutely must find out if he can play or if he's Gooch part II. Out of the crop we've capped for this weekend, I am most anticipating Tim Ream. He's a big guy who everyone says is tactically aware (not a dumb ass) and passes well. I don't care about his passing skills, I want to see him play a classic CB role and clear the box!
So in closing, someone, please, take a step forward and be counted!
My prediction: United States 0 - 2 Argentina
Sorry boys, I'm a realist.