Friday, November 16, 2007

US vs. South Africa, who needs to perform?

US vs. South Africa
Saturday - 9am ET/6am PT
TV: Fox Soccer Channel
Internet: Text commentary

The US men are a bit under 24-hours away from playing their first match in Africa since 1999. This might be a friendly, but like any game, players have something to prove. That said, some players have a bit less to prove then others. Here is my look at the pressure each of the 17 men on the roster face:

Heavy Pressure
Freddy Adu (M) - The match against the Swiss was a good tease, but it is just about time for him to prove if he can sustain for more then 15-minutes and prove the critics wrong.
Dan Califf (D) - He is one of the oldest players on the roster and if he hopes to work himself into a regular spot, he needs to prove that with age comes wisdom.
Brad Guzan (GK) - Brad has worked his way into the number two spot, but he doesn't have the lock on it just yet. A great game in South Africa (and a move to Europe) should help get him there.
Sacha Kljestan (D) - He is one of Bradley's boys from Chivas USA. He is good but he must prove that he deserves to be there.
Oguchi Onyewu (D) - As much as it pains me to say this, the Gooch has been off his game since the crap pk call against Ghana in the final World Cup match. He needs to find his mojo again and not let the opposition get into his head.
Heath Pearce (D) - Pearce is always on the edge when it comes to the roster. He adds something to the attack and his defensive play is usually at least okay, but he needs to do something to cement the spot.
Jonathan Spector (D) - Time to prove that the injury problems are past.

Medium Pressure
DaMarcus Beasley (M) - This year has been one of Da Bees best. Another good performance will take the international nerves down a few levels.
Carlos Bocanegra (D) - His work on the backline has been good for club and country and he is a lock as long as he is healthy, however all captains have a pressure to perform in order to inspire their team.
Jonathan Bornstein (D) - Is Bornstein one of the most polarizing figures to US fans? It seems people either think he is very good or a pile of dirt. As one of Bradley's Chivas boys, he has an in, but to win over all the fans, he needs to play a near perfect game.
Maurice Edu (M) - Wonderful first outing against the Swiss, now can the MLS Rookie of the Year do it again?

Low Pressure
Josmer Altidore (F) - The pressure on Jozy will come more from himself then anyone else in his first senior level match. The US needs strikers bad, so even if he bombs out there, he is going to get a few more call-ups.
Michael Bradley (M) - Quickly becoming the key (along with Feilhaber) in the center. Also, another good night might finally get the TV announcers to stop talking about the 'controversy' of the son playing for the father. Note to all, the only people who talk about it are TV announcers.
Steve Cherundolo (D) - The right back spot is his, so should use the time to soak in the spring weather before heading back to the German fall.
Clint Dempsey (F) - The Deuce is making it happen in the EPL and has shown himself to be a smart player internationally. Short of taking a swing at a teammate or breaking someone's jaw (where is Jimmy Conrad?), he is safe.
Benny Feilhaber (M) - Like Bradley, he is quickly becoming the center of the team.
Tim Howard (GK) - Unless he loses an arm, he has the job between the posts for some time to come.

So there is the pressure cooker report for this match. Actually, I think there is one person who has a lot of pressure hanging over them even though they will not be on the pitch. That person is none other then Landon Donovan. With Bradley showing signs of not building the team around Donovan like Arena did, a good combination between the midfield and Dempsey/Altidore, might diminish his star a bit. He is still far from being off the team, but his role is changing and he must change with it.

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