revisiting “boarding passes, please”

way back in january, i wrote the longest blog post i’ve ever written outlining who i thought bob bradley would be taking to south africa this summer. i’ve been anxiously awaiting the day bob would finally announce his 23-man roster, just to see how well i would do predicting bob’s simple mind.

the USMNT arrived in south africa on memorial day. it's time to see how accurate i was at picking the 23 guys who would get a ticket back in january.

that day has come and passed.

and guess what? i didn’t do too bad.

though there were some shock exclusions/inclusions, most of which i like much better than i had predicted bob capable of selecting. though i don’t want to go on giving him too much credit at this point. let’s revisit that subject after the world cup.

so let’s get on to evaluating how well i did picking who i thought bob would be giving his boarding passes to. and we may as well re-evaluate the players he chose while we’re at it.

for sure on the plane (8 out of 8 correct)
these were the guys i knew would be in south africa. i would have wagered anything on it… but i didn’t, because i’m an idiot (not that there really are any places to bet on “what eight guys will definitely make the US world cup roster,” are there?). either way, i killed it on this round.

1. CORRECT – landon donovan (f – l.a. galaxy): landycakes has certainly set the stage for himself going into the summer. his loan to everton turned out to be a fantastic move, finally proving himself at the highest level consistently. if he has a good world cup, his price tag will skyrocket and MLS will surely cash in on bidding war that will ensue for his signature in august. so, it’s easy to say that donovan has some lofty expectations to meet. will he be able to handle the pressure? here’s hoping he does.

2. CORRECT – tim howard (gk – everton): having a world class keeper is the best remedy for having a suspect backline. good thing that’s not a problem for the USMNT, right? … RIGHT?!?!

3. CORRECT – jozy altidore (f – villareal): my worries persist about altidore. he didn’t get any regular time at with one of the worst premier league teams this season. though he showed some flashes of brilliance, they were very quick flashes and few and far between. i still doubt he’ll ever be able to play a full 90, and he can’t be in that great a form if he wasn’t breaking into relegated hull city’s line-up. he’ll be a starter on june 12th, but will he do anything productive. probably not (yes, that is a challenge jozy. prove. me. wrong.)

4. CORRECT – carlos bocanegra (d – rennes): chuck. what an enigma. captain of the USMNT, regular in europe. but we just can’t ever seem to play him in his best position: left back. if they would play him there instead of the center, then we wouldn’t have to freak out anymore about whose playing on the left flank. we have plenty of quality center backs bobby; please play bocanegra where he belongs. oh, and let’s hope he is fully fit come the england game.

5. CORRECT – michael bradley (m – borussia mönchengladbach): the coach is bringing his kid along, and just like every national pool players’ parents’ worst nightmare, i’m sure they’re all thinking that the coaches kid will get the favoritism. while a case could be argued for this when mike was brought into the national team fold a few years ago, it definitely isn’t the case any longer. bradley deserves to be here. let’s just hope he can keep a level head for the next few weeks.

6. CORRECT – jay demerit (d – watford): if he can shake the injury bug that he’s had over the last year, i want to see jay starting at centerback next to onyewu. that way we can play bocanegra at his natural left back.

7. CORRECT – jonathan spector (d – west ham): pencil him in as the starting right back (though he could face some competition from steve cherundulo), but it’s possible we could see him on the left too. let’s hope he remembers to bring his consistency boots too.

8. CORRECT – brad guzan (gk – aston villa): back up (to another retired american) at aston villa, back up for the national team. poor guy will probably never get to play.

don’t have my pass yet, but pretty sure i’m getting one (8 out of 8 correct)
i must have been taking my genius pills still at this point, because i nailed this round too. don’t worry, this won’t become a trend.

9. CORRECT – oguchi onyewu (d – a.c. milan): gooch proved his fitness  after the horrific torn patellar tendon that he suffered in the USMNT’s last world cup qualifier. the question that remains though is whether or not he can play at the same level he played at in last summer’s confederations cup. if not, the yanks are in trouble.

10. CORRECT – clint dempsey (m – fulham): deuce came back earlier than anticipated from his partially torn knee ligament, even contributing in fulham’s late season run to the europa league final (including this STUNNING goal against  juventus at craven cottage). promising news for a team that needs good injury news.

11. CORRECT – ricardo clark (m – eintracht frankfurt): finding regular time at the end of the bundesliga season was key to clark making the final 23, and he’ll be in tight competition with michael bradley for the starting defensive midfield slot on june 12th.

12. CORRECT – stuart holden (m – bolton): i’m glad stu made the team, especially after he cracked into bolton’s squad towards the end of the english season. i was worried he wouldn’t see the minutes after his leg break a few months back. his creativity and consistency are in demand with this roster, and i’d love to see him make the starting 11 against england.

13. CORRECT – jonathan bornstein (d – chivas usa): just as i predicted, the mexijew made the squad simply because we had to bring in another true left back. and hopefully he’ll only play because we’ve gotten to plan C, D or E due to injuries. or if we’re up by two goals against england and we bring him on for a forward… but hopefully not even then.

14. CORRECT – steve cherundulo (d – hannover 96): he’s healthy, and has loads of experience in europe and internationally, but he still can’t get in front of spector. but if spector catches one of his patented cold-streaks, expect steve to steal back the spot.

15. CORRECT – benny feilhaber (m – agf aarhus): not the danish-based player i would have liked to see make the final roster (cough, rolfe), and not exactly the beset player the USMNT have at their disposal. but he’s got the experience and bob’s confidence. let’s just hope he ends up keeping bornstein company on the bench.

16. CORRECT – maurice edu (m – rangers): edu played great for rangers down the stretch this season, and his reward was earning back the national team spot he hadn’t occupied in nearly 9 months due to a knee injury. should be a starter, but that’s only if bob can see beyond benny.

yeah, i think so, but… (4 out of 7)
here’s where it fell apart for me. but that’s to be expected, as these guys are pretty much the fringe players in the squad. like i said earlier though, bob surprised me with some of his picks in this space, in a good way (for now at least).

17. WRONGconnor casey (f – colorado rapids) edson buddle (f – l.a. galaxy): saying that i am stoked that casey didn’t make the roster is an understatement. but there is no way that i could have predicted that buddle would have made this team. who would have known that he would have caught fire this MLS season? certainly not me, and certainly not anyone else back in january. i hope he can keep up the good form, because we certainly don’t have many other forwards with impressive goal scoring credentials lately.

18. CORRECT – jose francisco torres (m – pachuca): miracles do happen, and torres is proof of that. i didn’t think that there was a chance in hell that bob would pick him. now that he’s made the team, my thought process is, “i doubt bob will use him.” if he does though, i would not be surprised to see torres involved in something awesome.

19. CORRECT – demarcus beasley (m – unattached): despite rangers not extending his deal, lazarus has risen from the dead and has reclaimed his national team spot. after last summer’s performance in south africa, i thought for sure he was done. i still think that bob doesn’t quite trust him anymore though, and would be surprised to see him get tons of time in june. and if we play him on the flank in the back again, i might actually fly to south africa to and beat bob silly.

20. CORRECT – marcus hahnemann (gk – wolverhampton wanderers): edged out troy perkins, as he should have. not much to say here, other than it will take a weird sequence of events to actually get to see the wolves shot blocker get the nod in south africa.

21. CORRECT – clarence goodson (d – start): i felt like i was going out on a limb to call this one back in january, and my how well that worked out for me. he’ll provide solid cover in the center of defense in the event that we have any major injury problems.

i certainly wasn't expecting a former MLS journeyman to make the final 23. gomez's good form has made me look silly.

22. WRONG edgar castillo (m – tigres) herculez gomez (f – pachuca): looks like i picked the wrong mexican player for this spot, and i’m not surprised i didn’t see this one coming either. gomez has been in stellar form in mexico this season, and we needed to bring another forward in good form if charlie davies wasn’t passed fit.

23. WRONGcharlie davies (f – sochaux) robbie findlay (f – real salt lake): i don’t need to reiterate why i wasn’t surprised to see charlie not make the squad, but i’m still upset that he won’t be in south africa. will findlay and castillo be able to fill davies’ growing empty shoes? i don’t know. but they need to, because jozy doesn’t look to be prolific at anything aside from headbutting people.

final tally: 20 out of 23 players picked correctly.
so overall, i was pretty pleased with myself on picking this roster. do i like all of the picks? no, not really. but could they really have brought in anyone else (aside from davies or rolfe… both of whom are hurt) that would have been major improvements? no, not really.

no sense in getting all worked up either way, at this point at least. let’s see how bob uses the 23 guys at his disposal, then we can start kicking and screaming. until  then, let’s support out boys and hope that my hired snipers can pick bob off before the 12th.

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