U.S. men's soccer team opens World Cup training camp without many key players

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Bob Bradley opened World Cup training camp for the U.S. men's national soccer team Monday morning at immaculate Roberts Stadium on Princeton University's elegant campus.

And while the casual setting provided a picturesque backdrop and stirred fond memories for Bradley -- who studied, played and coached here and whose brother Scott, a former big leaguer, oversees the baseball program -- it was at odds with the pressing issues facing the squad before it departs for South Africa in less than two weeks.

Because of injuries, travel plans and other conflicts, several of the 30 players vying for 23 roster slots were not available for the first workout. In all, 16 field players and two goalkeepers participated in the full regimen.

Although Bradley showed only modest concern about the injury situation, the ailing defensive corps will keep his attention leading to tuneups against the Czech Republic on May 25 in East Hartford, Conn., and Turkey four days later in Philadelphia.

Projected starters Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit sat out Monday with lower abdominal strains and reserve center back Chad Marshall was treated for a hamstring injury suffered Saturday in an MLS match.

Bocanegra, the captain, missed the last three games of his French Ligue 1 season with Rennes. On Monday he warmed up with the team and did some individual work on the side. "He is making good progress," Bradley said.

Assessing the overall health of his squad, he added, "Obviously, we will assess as we go through this week whether the issues are already on their way to being better and guys are back in training, or whether it then becomes more of a concern."

Tim Howard, the top candidate to start in goal, was held out with a strained quadriceps. And reserve forward Eddie Johnson continued to undergo evaluation for a strained hamstring suffered last week.

Meantime, defender Clarence Goodson and midfielder Benny Feilhaber were scheduled to arrive later Monday, and defender Oguchi Onyewu and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya were set to join the group Tuesday.

Veteran attacker Landon Donovan and forward candidates Edson Buddle and José Torres underwent physicals after arriving late Sunday and did not practice.

Onyewu recovered from a ruptured patella tendon but has not played in a competitive game since October. He has been training regularly with AC Milan and was under consideration for the game-day roster in the Italian titan's final two Serie A matches.

Despite Onyewu's long absence, Bradley said he is confident that the Olney native, who started in the 2006 World Cup, will be ready for England. (On Monday, Onyewu agreed to a contract extension with AC Milan and pledged to forego a salary in the final year -- compensation for missing most of this season.)

Bradley also revisited the decision to omit forward Charlie Davies, who believed he had recovered sufficiently from an auto accident last fall to get an invitation. Davies blamed his French club, Sochaux, for not providing medical clearance.

However, Bradley said he was in regular contact with Sochaux officials.

"There is a lot of emotion at the time," Bradley said of Davies's angry reaction. "He put all his energy and emotion into his rehab and he did it with an obvious timetable."

Bradley suggested that Davies should have gone about rehabilitation in a low-key manner. Instead, he raised expectations with inflated assessments of his progress.

"You don't want to put yourself in a position that you are making all this progress, and yet somehow it seems like a failure because the timing just doesn't coincide with the World Cup," Bradley told Davies in February.

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