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Saturday, June 23, 2007

USSF Sends Watered Down Roster to Copa America

The USA roster was released last night. We were told to expect some surprises; however, what I am looking at is not a surprise. It is blatant disrespect for our players, along with a prestigious international competition. The USA has not, for various reasons, competed in the Copa America since 1995. They refused the last invitation in 2004. Now that we are given the chance to sample better competition than is found in CONCACAF, we send a group of athletes who have never played 90 minutes together at one time.

Only 2 European based players selected from Gold Cup team:

Let's look at the roster selected by Coach Bob Bradley. Since he took over in January, the USA has not lost a game. Months ago, he stressed that the objective for this summer was the Gold Cup. Winning that tournament would allow the USA to compete in the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa. But the USSF has missed a golden opportunity to send the best team to Copa America. Landon Donovan is not on the roster. Nor is Carlos Bocanegra, Brian Ching, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Pablo Mastroeni, or Gooch Onyewu. Few of the European based players from the Gold Cup were selected. Only Jay Demerit and Benny Feilhaber. Kasey Keller is considered a free agent right now.

15 Players with fewer than 10 caps:

From the 23 man roster, 15 players have fewer than 10 international caps. From that group, eight have fewer than 1 cap. Fifteen players represent MLS clubs. With the exception of Kasey Keller (100 caps), only Ben Olsen (34), Eddie Johnson (26), and Taylor Twellman (24), respectively, have more than 20 international appearances. We are facing Argentina, ranked 6th by the Elo, Paraguay, ranked 33rd, and Columbia, ranked 19th, respectively. When you look at the roster for Argentina, it is like sending rookies against the desert forces of Irwin Rommel in North Africa. Aimar, Ayala, Cambiasso, Crespo, Mascherano, Messi, Milito (2 brothers), Riquelme, Tevez, Veron, and Zanetti.

Blame Players who do not Seek the Challenge:

There is no reason to send this type of team to Venezuela. Our best players, many of whom play in Europe, should be included on this roster. There is no convenient excuse that they are needed for the MLS, or need another week or two of rest before the grueling European campaigns begin again. Blame lies also with the players, such as Landon Donovan, who do not want to meet the challenge of playing one of the best teams in the world (Argentina). Where is the American competitive spirit? Do we really want to send this type of team, which will proudly wear our colors, yet is at a distinct competitive disadvantage compared to their opposition?

Why doesn't the "A" team say, "We want to go, we want to play against the best outside of our region, and give us a roster that has a chance to win." But I have not heard that from any of these players. No mention of facing Argentina. I did hear Donovan say that he wanted to be in LA when Beckham arrived. Three first round games would finish by 05 July. Even if the team went further, Donovan would be back in Los Angeles in plenty of time. The fact remains that he didn't want to play, and Coach Bradley and the USSF didn't push the issue.

A few years ago, Marco Tardelli, former World Cup winner with Italy in 1982, was coaching the Egyptian National Team. When one of his players refused a call-up for a friendly game, Tardelli said, "He will never play for me again. It is an honor to wear the shirt of your country."

USSF takes the road less travelled:

Sunil Gulati, President of the USSF, knows the value of this tournament. He also knows that little will be expected from this group of players. If we happen to avoid embarrassment, or somehow gain a result, he and others at the USSF do not lose face. If anything, they win on all accounts. The mainstream media does not follow this event closely. The few that do will note that the US team was experimental at best, and highly inexperienced at the worst. This is not like the MLS All-Star game. Or any type of "US summer friendly" where the MLS and/or the USSF can proudly say "We beat them (Chelsea, Celtic, etc.) or only lost by one or two goals." Especially when the European competition has the attitude of a training camp. As Jose Mourinho, the famous coach of Chelsea FC, said last summer at UCLA: "We like to come here. Nobody knows us. It gives the players a chance to bond like a family outside of the usual intense media scrutiny and expectations."

We are not sending our best players, nor a team feasibly capable of winning. If you don't intend to win, why go at all? You disrespect your team, sport, opponents, and the competition itself. This will only give the South American media more reason to criticize North Americans who do not take the sport seriously.

Credibility and Respect:

Credibility and respect come from a quality product on the field. Whether in the USA or South of the Border. We rarely have the opportunity to play better teams outside of our region; however, we took the easy way out for Copa America 2007. Coach Bradley has done a superb job since taking over the reins, but realistically, a win in any game would be an accomplishment in Venezuela.

Argentina x USA, Thursday, 28 July 2007, at 2045 Eastern time from Maracaibo. The Amoias of the Americas will be on opposing sides for this game. ;-) The USA has defeated Argentina twice at the senior level, but Thursday will not be the third time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Excellent blog! Three thoughts, re: Copa. One - the US roster is a borderline disgrace, I agree. (Two) - that said, is there at least some credence to the argument that says, IF the European- based Copa players HAD gone, they would not have had a significant break from soccer upon returning to Europe in August? (I personally think that the US should have sent a better squad, but I am trying to play somewhat of a Devil's Advocacy position. BTW - I make no excuses for Mr. Donovan.) Three - Irwin Rommel lost to Montgomery in the end. ;) Cheers, CJM

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