Wednesday, February 06, 2008

US vs. Mexico - Who needs to perform?

US vs. Mexico
9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT
TV: ESPN2, Univision (Spanish)
Internet text call: US Soccer

The final super event of this very super week is here at last as the US men get ready to face off against their friends to the south. Everything points to this being another great installment of the cross-border rivalry, but all things are not equal in the US camp as players are jockeying for position on coach Bob Bradley's roster.

With that in mind, I give you the pressure list of who needs to perform tonight against Mexico. This list is based on where I think players currently stand in the race for the spots as well on other attributes such as leadership, skill and play with their club team. I have listed all 21 players on the roster, however only 17 at most will see playing time.

And away we go:

High Pressure
Ramiro Corrales (D) - The outside back positions are still a toss up and he needs to show in order to climb the list.
Benny Feilhaber (M) - With no playing time at his club, he needs to prove that he still deserves a spot with the national team and maybe show his club that they are be better off with him on the pitch.
Stuart Holden (M) - A first call into camp is great but he needs to show that he deserves a second.
Drew Moor (D) - Much like Corrales, Moor is fighting for an open position and he needs a good night to move up the list.
Pat Noonan (F) - His best moments against Sweden where with Twellman. Since Taylor is off due to injury, he needs to prove he can play well with others.
Michael Parkhurst (D) - Last year was a wonderful year for Parkhurst, now he needs to wow at the national level. To make an argument for his inclusion in the big games, he must make a statement tonight.
Heath Pearce (D) - Pearce is in the top two for his spot but his lack of playing time for his club combined with desperate need for a quality left back put the pressure on him to prove that he should be there instead of moving another player from the center.
Eddie Robinson (D) - Trying to earn a center back spot is difficult and although he did great against Sweden, if he wants to convince Bradley to push Gooch or Bocanegra to outside back, he needs to repeat this against the storm that is Mexico.

Medium Pressure
Freddy Adu (M) - Talent is in him, now he just needs to explode. Bradley will give Adu time to develop, so the made pressure on Adu is earning future starts.
Jozy Altidore (F) - He looked amazing against Sweden, now he needs to prove he can do it at the highest level.
Ricardo Clark (M) - Depending on how other players shake out, there might be a good opening for a controlling center mid player and Clark could fill that well.
Bobby Convey (M) - The past couple years have been hard on Convey due to injury, which has caused him to drop in the overwhelmingly strong midfield. He needs to turn in some good minutes to show that he is back in full.
Brad Davis (M) - Another player trying to earn a spot in the middle, but Davis's not-so-secret weapon is his skill on free kicks. Since the team has a need for a dead ball specialist, this could be his in.
Landon Donovan (F) - The top scorer in US history needs to prove that he can be consistent both with his play and leadership. Good news for Landi, he loves to beat Mexico.
Maurice Edu (M) - Yet another midfielder trying to push up. He is great at finding his position but his ball skills need some sharpening.
Oguchi Onyewu (D) - Gooch is still tall in the center but his form has been less then great of late.

Low Pressure
Carlos Bocanegra (D) - The defense is built around Bocanegra and that's not going to change anytime soon. The question now is does he stay in center or move out wide?
Michael Bradley (M) - Everywhere this kid goes, he electrifies. He can read a game and turn it on one strike. A wonderful season in Europe means he is a major part of the team for some time to come.
Clint Dempsey (F) - His scoring and technical abilities are only getting better at Fulham, plus he can play up top or in the middle. Unless coach Bradley hates America, Dempsey is here to stay.
Brad Guzan (GK) - For now, he is the number two, so the only pressure may be convincing Bradley not to call in Howard for some of the lesser qualifiers later this year.
Tim Howard (GK) - Nothing hints at him losing the top spot, especially with Guzan playing at least one more season in MLS.

Overall, the position that I will be watching most is forward simply because the team doesn't really have a killer striker. It is amazing how few goals over the last couple years have come from forwards during the run of play. Simply put, the US cannot compete with the best in the world if they do not have a big threat up top.

Altidore is often mentioned as that threat, and it looks like there might be something to that, but until he has a few more games such as this under his belt, we will not know for sure.

It will also be interesting to see how the backline works out. Will they be able to shut Mexico down or will the keepers need to come up with a number of quality saves and will there be some shifting of center backs to the outside?

My prediction for the final: US 2-1 Mexico

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Blogger Jonathan Geissler said...

Gooch at outside back = recipe for disaster.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat Noonan (F) - His best moments against Sweden where with Twellman. Since Taylor is off due to injury, he needs to prove he can play well with others.

Didn't Noonan have a hand in both goals? (A barely flicked header, and a pass to Altidore in the box prior to the foul.) In my viewing, he was the third best player for the US.

1:40 PM  

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