I will be the first to tell you that I am not extremely knowledgeable about the game of soccer. I am not familiar with the strategies and training methods it takes to be successful, however, I have grown up a fan of the game and understand its rules and how the games flows. This being said, I am going to provide my outlook on the future of the United States Men's National Team.
First and foremost, I would like to provide my deepest sympathy to all of the individuals involved in the accident that took a life, as well as injured speedy striker Charlie Davies and another friend. I have prayed for the family of the deceased, as well as the families of Davies and the other passenger. It is widely speculated that Davies will likely not suit up in 2010 World Cup in South Africa and although that is quite unfortunate, the ultimate goal for Davies is recovery so that he can live a normal life again.
Forwards and Midfield-In order for us to succeed as a team, we need to find more chemistry. Coming out of the Confederations Cup, it was clear that there was a chemistry developing between Davies, Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey. Davies and Dempsey were not in uniform last night, therefore the chemistry was a wreck. The most obvious play which points this out would be the shot Donovan took when he had a wide open Conor Casey streaking on the backpost ready to head it in. Instead of making the pass, Donovan sailed a shot wide and high. Additionally, this team cannot be successful with Conor Casey as our second striker. It simply cannot be done. His footspeed is no longer there after an ACL surgery before this MLS season. I am not sure if Casey deserves to be on the World Cup roster. Benny Feilhaber needs to step up his game. He played uninspiring last night and was the first man off the field in the first of three substitutions. Michael Bradley, although erratic, provides great ball possession skills and has scored big goals for us when in the lineup. If the World Cup started today, and assuming Dempsey is healthy, I believe our eight midfielders for the roster should be Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber, Maurice Edu, Stu Holden, and the last spot should go to either Jose Torres or Robbie Rogers. The last one may come as a shock, but Rogers was instrumental in the comeback last night and will only continue to get more caps. The three forwards on the roster should be Jozy Altidore, Kenny Cooper, and Conor Casey. Although I do not think Casey should see the field much, I guess he does deserve the third spot over Brian Ching as long as Davies is sidelined.
Defense and Keepers-First off, Tim Howard is amazing. Although he did not play his best ball last night, he is still, in my opinion, one of the best keepers in the world and will be a stalwart in goal barring any injuries. Backing him up should be Aston Villa's Brad Guzan. If a third keeper were needed, Marcus Hahnemann would be the choice. The back line is where the United States has seen the poorest performances. Oguchi Onyewu, our best defender, suffered a torn patellar tendon last night and will be out for four months or so. He will still play in the World Cup, so that is inspiring, but he looked uninspired last night getting beat badly on the first goal. Still, if he is healthy, he should be in the center of the back line. Edgar Castillo, the former Mexican national team member, will likely suit up for us in South Africa. Does he start? That is still to be determined. Assuming he does not, Onyewu should be joined on the back line by Jay DeMerit, Jonathon Bornstein, and Carlos Bocanegra. Backing those four up should be Castillo, Jonathon Spector, and either Heath Pearce, Steve Cherundolo, or Frankie Hedjuk.
Outlook-Although this team will likely not be seeded next summer in South Africa, I can see them making some noise like they did in 2002. I think they will make it out of group play and into the round of 16. Where they go from there is unknown. I can see the team with Charlie Davies going to the semifinals or potentially to the finals. Without him, I see a round of 16 or quarterfinals as the ceiling for them. Either way, I will be cheering on my Americans with the rest of Sam's Army in South Africa. Go USA!