The USMNT: A Long Lead up to a Dud
I have been keeping an eye on the annual January U.S. National Team camp. The Crew had three of the 30 players originally called into camp. Chad Marshall, Robbie Rogers, and Eddie Gaven all had a chance to impress Bob Bradley six months before the World Cup. Over three weeks of work and preparation may have landed Marshall and Rogers into the starting lineup but a 3-1 friendly defeat to Honduras certainly didn’t allow anyone to distinguish themselves.
With Frankie Hejduk looking very much like a player losing a step, Chad Marshall has taken the title of Crew player most likely to get a free trip to the World Cup. He got another start, paired with veteran Jimmy Conrad. If Marshall looked good, it was only in relation to Conrad. The ref, obviously trying to get his own World Cup call up, dished out two yellow cards to Conrad for lazy shirt grabs in the first 17 minutes.
Marshall was left to be the only stabilizing force in the center of defense. Left back Jonathan Bornstein covered for the missing Conrad, but also had to back up the deputized left back in Rogers. A makeshift defense like that was bound to be pulled all over the field and they were, but Marshall looked slow, unsure, essentially flat footed, he may have been rattled with the red card, but cards happen in the World Cup.
Rogers never got many chances to show his offensive potential. Rogers again showed that he isn’t a threat that forces the defense to adjust and focus on him. Initially, he played tucked in with Bornstein overlapping. It really didn’t suit his game. His shift to left back after Conrad’s repeated mental lapses were even less suited to his skill set.
Rogers would try to spring the attack from deep, but he looked timid attacking players one on one. He also refused to cut inside, rather deciding to take the ball towards the end line and fire in a cross in a vague attempt to threaten the Honduras defense. His one lone highlight was his right footed rocket shot early in the 2nd half from 30 yards out that rang off the post.
The final Crew standard bearer couldn’t make the 18. Eddie Gaven’s national team career is probably dead at this point. I always have a vague sense of disappointment when I watch Eddie Gaven play. He will show sparks of brilliance mired in long stretches of languidity. I guess I always expect something different that what I see in Gaven’s game.
I keep thinking about writing something longer about his ability to always stay in the picture, but always on the edges and slightly out of focus. Gaven has been around for seemingly ever, but he is still only 23. He keeps on confounding me, it’s a study that will have to wait.
So it was only a friendly, but there aren’t a lot of chances for any of these players to impress. The National Team only has 2 or 3 games before Bob Bradley sets the roster for the World Cup. Rogers and Marshall will probably get another chance against El Salvador in a month. Others like Jimmy Conrad, Sasha Klejstian, Marvell Wynne, and Jeff Cunningham probably shouldn’t.
As far as how this effects the Crew, I see the same troubling things, Rogers lacking confidence to take players on, Gaven hanging around the edges, and I hope (and expect) that Marshall’s shaky game was just preseason rust. I still would have liked to see a sharper U.S. team (signs point to Bradley’s preparation and the MLS talent pool) and specifically, sharper games out of the Crew contingent. It is still only January.