Friday April 30th, 2010

NEW YORK -- U.S. soccer coach Bob Bradley probably set a personal record on Wednesday, conducting a pre-World Cup session with the media that lasted one hour, 23 minutes and 58 seconds. The only thing that might come close was the interview he did with me last September that clocked in at around an hour and 15 minutes as he discussed his views on the game.

In general, Bradley is not a big fan of lengthy media chats. One of his favorite terms, after all, is keeping things "on the inside" of the team. Which is to say, not on the screen that you're reading right now.

But there was some revealing information in what Bradley said on Wednesday. Some of it was easy to understand; some of it required reading between the lines. Here were some of the things that I learned:

Charlie Davies still has his work cut out for him to make the World Cup team. After his horrific car accident last October, Davies has made a remarkable comeback just to be training again at full speed for his French club, Sochaux in recent days. But Bradley said it would not be fair to say that Davies will definitely be invited to the pre-World Cup camp as long as he has no more setbacks in his recovery.

"Let's say it's 100 steps to get back to the same level [that Davies played at before]," Bradley said. "Back to some version of regular training, you can decide what step you think that is. Is that step 60? Is that step 80? And eventually with any athlete those final steps are the hardest steps. So we still need to see where that goes. I'm so thrilled and excited that this is a great story. And Charlie is, as everybody knows for us, a popular guy. He's a guy that everybody likes. You can't help but feel that way about him.

"The only part that's coming up is this: There's going to be a decision on our end that is simply about the World Cup. I know that's been one of his motivating forces in this whole thing. Regardless of how that particular decision goes, it's gonna be important ... If at the end he's at step 80 and we think in order to start that camp he needs to be at 85, that can't get in the way of him getting back to step 100. So it's a tricky part because, look, I know what's on the table right away. I know that a lot of his drive has been with that goal. And that means something to all of us. But at the end of the day, we still have to assess completely where he is as we make decisions, even for the camp."

Hot forwards Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez are probably going to be called into the U.S.' pre-World Cup camp. Bradley didn't verify this with certainty, but he did say that he planned to call in "26 to 28 guys" to the camp that starts on May 17 at Princeton University, from which he'll have to name 23 players for the World Cup roster. The U.S. team is thin up front, and Bradley said plenty of positive things about Buddle [who's leading MLS in scoring for the L.A. Galaxy] and Gomez [who tied for the golden boot in the Mexican league for Puebla].

"Edson, the easy thing to see so far this year is that he's scored some incredible goals," said Bradley. "That actually fits if you look back over Edson's career. As a young striker in the league, his talent came through based upon his ability at times to score some great goals, a variety of goals, goals from outside the box, goals where he dribbled, goals with his head. I think that part is not new, but that's been there of late. There's been a lot of maturing that has taken place.

"Herculez we had in in Copa América in 2007 following the Gold Cup when we had almost an entirely different team go to Copa América. We all know again if you go back to his beginnings in MLS, his first year was a year where he came into the scene in L.A. and what you would say is everything he touched went in the net. His pure ability to strike a ball was pretty obvious. I think that's kind of come back again a little bit at Puebla. In a lot of these games he was just a sub, but he came on the field and now a certain ball would pop loose, and the next thing you know he would latch onto it and score a great goal."

Keep in mind, Buddle has not been with the national team since 2003, while Gomez has been absent since 2007. Even though they weren't part of the U.S.' World Cup qualifying campaign, Bradley said that won't keep him from selecting them for the 23-man World Cup roster.

"If a player is playing well, if you think that he's doing things that will translate well to international games and that he's at a point in his career that he can handle that type of jump, then you go for it," Bradley said. "In other cases, you may look at a player and just feel that he's doing well but right now this is probably a little bit too much to ask. There's no set formula for that. That's a little bit of instinct, a little bit of gut feel. Certainly it's predicated on where you are with other players."

Given the number of injuries, Bradley added that he will probably not name the camp roster until May 11, the deadline to submit a 30-player list to FIFA. It's a different situation from the one in 2006, when then-coach Bruce Arena named his 23-player World Cup roster on May 2, before the camp had even started. At the very least, Bradley will have to name a 23-player roster by the time the U.S. plane leaves for South Africa on May 30.

Bradley isn't above going outside his coaching staff. Intriguingly, Bradley revealed that he recently approached four people outside his U.S. staff and asked them to give him their 23 players for inclusion. Bradley called it an "exercise" to help him perhaps "bring up a discussion that we haven't thought of so far," as he put it. Did the talks change his thinking at all? "Honestly, no, but it did bring up a couple discussions that hadn't taken place."

Bradley wouldn't name the four people or even say if they were other coaches, but it would be fun to guess at who they might be. My guesses? I'd say the list might include Peter Nowak, Bradley's former U.S. assistant; Bruce Arena, whom Bradley has worked with in the past; and Seton Hall coach Manfred Schellscheidt, one of Bradley's closest friends.

Bradley isn't a Twitter guy. That much we already knew. But at least he had some fun with it on Wednesday. "We're talking about having a U.S. coaches' Twitter from here on out," Bradley cracked. "So all the things we say when we sit at the table and talk about players who had good training sessions, we're just gonna put it all on Twitter."

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