Bradley to begin fine-tuning
Everyone can now exhale and breathe a moment after this
A camp of 30 must be reduced to 23, so critical selections will unfold in the U.S. camp beginning Monday in Princeton, N.J.
The personnel choices for studious U.S. coach
Even before those weighty roster snips -- reductions that will crush seven players while pollinating a fresh thorny batch of debate -- another big decision looms for Bradley. It's a strategic choice relating to the bigger picture of the Princeton process:
How will he approach the camp in general and, specifically, in regard to a pair of friendlies along the East Coast? Is it all about fine-tuning the core group, which means going primarily with the starters May 25 against Turkey and May 29 against the Czech Republic? Or is it about rendering final judgment on bubble guys, which means giving the minutes to players who may not even appear in South Africa?
Bradley can do both, but only to a point. And there will be one friendly, at least, where the coach can comfortably deploy the starters: June 5 against Australia, shortly upon South African touch down. The final 23 will have been submitted by then.
On one hand, the core has extensive time together in qualifiers and more recently in a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in March. So familiarity isn't necessarily a big problem. On the other hand, further time in the marinating process can't hurt. The little things do matter in a World Cup, after all, so polishing communication and sharpening awareness on certain situations can mean a world of difference. Behind England, the three remaining teams seem fairly well matched in Group C, so the margins between big success and first-round futility seem tiny.
Plus, there will some acclimatizing with a new attacker somewhere along the line. That could mean getting chummy with a new striker in
Even in central midfield, there's a strategic choice to be made prior to final personnel choices.
But who will partner with Bradley in the middle of the 4-4-2 we're almost sure to see? Does the coach pick a guy and get a head start on improving the partnership with Michael Bradley? Or will the camp and the May friendlies be devoted to finding that guy?
The candidates for this important spot seem fairly well matched.
Even in defense, is this camp about fine tuning communication and coordinated movement along the back line, or is it about picking the top four of the moment? Truly, among nine defenders in camp, only Carlos Bocanegra is sure to start in South Africa. Even then we're not sure just where, at left back or in the middle?
Complicating matters is the choice regarding
This isn't a choice then-U.S. coach
FIFA added more wiggle room to the process this time; Final rosters aren't due to FIFA until June 1.
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There will be hugs and a round of "Go get 'em!" upon the completion of MLS Round 8. Some of the league's poster boys will disappear for up to six weeks, joining Bradley's training camp and then, for some, heading to Africa.
Others may miss only a week or two before rejoining their MLS sides -- dragging the emotional undertow of a near brush with every soccer player's dearest dream.
The West-leading Galaxy will bid adieu to league assist leader Donovan and possibly to league scoring leader Buddle until late June at least. Even though MLS will break for two weeks next month, Donovan (and perhaps Buddle) will miss five MLS matches at least.
Bruce Arena's side has built such a comfortable lead, his Galaxy could decline to show up for its next three and remain tied for first at very worst. So, even though L.A. could be hardest hit by departures, the Galaxy should emerge just fine on the other side.
Chivas USA could possibly be worse off.
Of course, it's not all about World Cup rosters. At Red Bull Arena,