U.S. soccer roster for World Cup features unlikely trio
Thursday, May 27, 2010
A few months ago, the notion of forwards Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez and Robbie Findley making the U.S. World Cup roster was downright preposterous. But on Wednesday, when Coach Bob Bradley revealed the 23 players going to South Africa for soccer's majestic tournament, the unlikely trio was on the list.
Despite their accomplishments on the club level -- Buddle is MLS's leading scorer, Gomez took the Mexican league by storm this year and Findley helped Real Salt Lake win the MLS title in November -- they have combined to make just nine appearances for the national team.
And until Gomez converted a header in the second half of a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic on Tuesday, none had scored in international play.
They join a front-line arsenal headed by regular starter Jozy Altidore (eight goals in 24 U.S. matches) and complemented by Clint Dempsey, who usually plays in the midfield but seems likely to start up front in the World Cup opener against England on June 12.
While Buddle, 29, and Gomez, 28, strengthened their cases with quality performances in Tuesday's friendly, Findley apparently earned the last invitation at the expense of Brian Ching (11 goals in 45 games). Findley's quickness trumped Ching's strength and aerial presence.
"It's always hard whenever you make these types of decisions, but it's particularly difficult when it's a player that has contributed so much to the national team over the years," said Bradley, who referenced Ching's hamstring injury and recent recovery in factoring in the decision.
Ching's omission was the only roster surprise -- and it was a mild one at that. Most of the slots had been set for the past year with a core group that includes Dempsey, Altidore, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu. There was no doubt, either, about Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, Jonathan Spector, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark and Jay DeMerit.
Onyewu, who was born in the District and grew up in Olney, was among three players with local ties chosen. Defender Clarence Goodson is from Springfield and played at W.T. Woodson High School and the University of Maryland, and Edu starred for the Terrapins as well.
Bradley also cut defenders Chad Marshall and Heath Pearce, midfielders Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers (Maryland) and Alejandro Bedoya, and forward Eddie Johnson. All will remain under consideration in case of a significant injury suffered by a U.S. player in Saturday's friendly against Turkey, the June 5 tuneup against Australia, or the training sessions near Johannesburg.
Like Ching, Johnson has more international experience than Buddle, Gomez and Findley, with 41 appearances plus 12 goals. But he was a long shot after straining a hamstring a few days before training camp opened.
Commenting on Findley, Bradley said: "Robbie still brings something special, especially as a reserve. His speed when he comes into a match, his willingness to try and run behind a defense; we felt that those are things that when we looked at everything our team had, we could still use some of those qualities."
Findley's stock rose when Charlie Davies, a forward with equal pace and superior technical ability and experience, was left off the training camp roster. Seriously injured in a car accident last fall, Davies did not fully recover in time for World Cup consideration.
Buddle has played for four MLS teams since 2001 and, for three years, has paired with Donovan at Los Angeles. He had 15 goals in 2008 and five last season and has nine in nine matches this spring.
Gomez showed promise with the MLS's Galaxy 2003, and after uneventful stops in Colorado and Kansas City, he moved to Puebla in Mexico, where he tied for the league lead with 10 goals in 14 matches this spring.