World Cup 2010 has been over for a few weeks now and parts of Madrid may still be in flames, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to look to 2014. Actually, that’s a bald-faced lie. It’s far too early to make any sort of substantive analysis, but I’m not ready to let go, so we’re going to have one more post on U.S. soccer. And if you don’t like it, you can get outNO PLEASE DON’T GO.
The only thing we can look at this far out from Brazil is who from this 2010 team might still be around in four years. Speaking strictly in terms of age, the U.S. team is… alright. We’re not particularly young, but we’re not 2010 Italy either. The median age of our starting 11 plus five regular contributors (Bornstein, Buddle, Edu, Findley, Feilhaber) is 27. And as far as talent and performance goes, every part of our squad, save one, had its ups and downs, so there shouldn’t be any massive shake-ups except for the one. But now we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s look at each part of the field.
Tim Howard is a beast, no question. He was one of the brightest spots in the U.S. experience in South Africa, and without him Donovan’s Hollywood goal never would have happened. So, yes, he’s the man. But he’s a 31-year-old man. In 2014, he’ll be halfway through his thirties and, hopefully, still blocking shots for an English Premiership team. At that age and with that amount of time spent performing for a league that, every match, requires a player’s best (particularly a Yank approaching mid-life), I’m not sure Howard will be able to do what he did in South Africa. So, who else have we got?
Marcus Hahnemann is older than Howard, so it’s doubtful he’ll be there if Howard isn’t. But we do have Brad Guzan. Guzan is 25 right now, has appeared in 16 matches for the Stars and Stripes, and is Brad Friedel’s backup at Aston Villa. He had a 3-1-1 record in World Cup 2010 qualifying, so we know he’s got good experience on the national level. Playing for an English team, particularly under a solid, veteran keeper like Friedel can only improve the play of a young footballer, so we also know he’s likely to get better.
Guzan could be good, but we’ll likely be losing two of our three current keepers, which means there’ll be some new faces. So although Guzan’s probably got the inside track on the job, there’s a chance that somebody new could make a splash and get between the posts.
Goodness, me. You could remove two of our defensive line from the field mid-match and you’d never know the difference. So, yes, there will be some changes here.
Besides the obvious age issues (by 2014, five of the seven defenders listed on the World Cup roster will be 32 or older, compared to zero right now), the US back line was the flashing, orange weak point everyone pointed to before the start of the Cup. And though there were times when it looked like the US had found a way to play around that weakness, our back four were just as bad as everyone thought. And even when we DID find a workaround for that weakness, the fix was, essentially, keep the ball far, far away from Gooch and co.
So, expect big changes here. Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, and Jay Demerit have probably played their last World Cup, and Oguchi Onyewu is likely out as well. Jonathan Spector, our lone under-30 in 2014, might be there, but I’ll be honest and say I don’t remember seeing him play, so I have no idea if he’ll hang around or not. Either way, this unit will be overhauled and it needs it.
Let’s wash that ‘Guchi taste out of our mouths and talk about something more pleasant. Our midfielders are in pretty good shape. Damarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey (heretofore identified as Deuce) and Landon Donovan will be in their thirties, but Michael Bradley (he of the game-tying shot against Slovenia) and Maurice Edu (he who WON THE SLOVENIA GAME FUCK YOU COULIBALY) will be 27 and 28, respectively, for the next Cup. And really, for a player of Donovan’s caliber, four more years may not create much of a drop off in talent; Lando will probably still be good enough to make the cut.
I don’t think there’ll be a huge change made here. We’ve got two young players who showed they have the ability to make plays on the big stage along with two or three veterans who will be, at the very least, serviceable. And the US can ill afford to lose the ice-cold pimpness provided by Deuce.
I didn’t notice until writing this, but the US World Cup roster only included four forwards: Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley, and Herculez Gomez. That works for our system, but I guess I just never considered that we didn’t need many.
Anyway, looking at our four, it’s probable that only half of them return. Altidore, in play and in age, has a strong case to be around for 2014, and Findley, at 25 and with a decent showing as a backup, could reprise his substitute role. Buddle and Gomez, though, are both near 30 now and didn’t look that great in the Cup.
For this position to make an impact, the players need to improve. And of the ones we have now, only two are likely to do that. Look for Altidore to be in another commercial in 2014, when he may actually live up to his star billing.