Before the 2002 and '06 World Cups, training camp opened rather placidly for the United States with 22 players all breathing easy about their spots on the final roster.
In both cases, injuries forced some 11th-hour tweaking. But essentially, the players who reported to camp constituted the U.S. World Cup team, and everybody knew it.
It won't be anything like that for South Africa 2010. Training camp opens on May 15 and there are many unanswered questions.
As a result, coach
U.S. national team spokesman
Obviously the circumstances in question are about two things: key players returning from injuries --
This camp isn't about Bradley continuing to assess the general qualities of bubble players, guys like
The process from here looks something like this: Most European leagues wrap up on May 8-9, so U.S. Soccer will likely announce its list of camp invitees that weekend. At worst, we'll know on May 11 when FIFA releases each team's preliminary selection of 30.
Bradley's players will begin filing into camp May 15, with all expected on site by May 17. U.S. Soccer officials have not said where the team will gather, as final arrangements continue to be worked out. But it will definitely be somewhere on East Coast, where the Americans will play two friendlies before leaving for Africa on May 30 (In Connecticut against the Czech Republic on May 25 and May 29 in Philadelphia against Turkey.)
It should also be noted that there will be no high-altitude training before going to South Africa. Kammarman said the decision was made after consultation with U.S. Olympic personnel who have studied athlete performance at higher altitudes.
Since the U.S. is arriving in South Africa more than 10 days before the first match and basing at Pretoria's 4,000-feet, it's believed that acclimatizing to the slightly thinner air at 4,900-feet Rustenburg should be manageable. Besides, Kammarman said, training at altitude in the United States would necessitate less strenuous workouts. Rather, the plan is to push hard on the base fitness work here and then taper into the acclimatization process once in South Africa.
The logistics have been worked out but not the 23-man roster, which won't be settled until right before the June 1 deadline. Onyewu is back in Italy with AC Milan. Assuming no further setbacks, the big U.S. center back will be in the U.S. camp, ready to show that he's fit and sharp. The situation for Davies remains far less clear; the speedy U.S. forward continues his quest to beat the odds with a stunning recovery.
In normal circumstances even prodigious goal scoring at this point wouldn't convince Bradley to consider someone who hasn't gone through the international paces. But again, these are difficult times, and Bradley might be forced to stretch beyond the norm. It wouldn't even be ridiculous to suggest that Bradley would consider, if only briefly, approaching veteran
McBride retired from international competition four years ago and he hasn't done anything particularly startling in MLS this year. So chances of this clearly are remote. Then again, Bradley's preference has always been to play with a target forward -- and he doesn't have an ideal one at the moment.
He's certainly not locked into it for South Africa, especially with the increasing likelihood that Donovan,
Things are always interesting as a national team begins the serious prep a month before a World Cup. But it's usually starting spots, systems of play and even choices of TV announcers that has everyone talking. This time around, there's too much left to be decided before we can even get there.
Do not let Thursday's result at BMO Field fool you. Toronto is a mess right now, never mind the 2-1 win over 10-man Philly on the new grass at BMO -- a.k.a. the least deserved win in MLS this year. (By the way, will the new field in Toronto always play that slowly? Let's hope not.)
The lively and organized Union had things under control against Toronto, whose two best players were stationed in ill-fitting roles. DP
But Philly tough guy defender
The game of the weekend is in Carson, Calif., where a championship rematch between the Galaxy and Real Salt Lake takes place. The champs have done OK so far, but nothing like the Galaxy, which has been perfect in three games. Buddle is ringing the bell on offense while goalkeeper
Elsewhere, Chicago plays at D.C. United, a side now desperate for goals and points. If
Dallas travels to New Jersey, where the Texans will be the second MLS guest inside the country's latest and greatest dedicated soccer facility. Keep an eye on Red Bulls striker
And speaking of strong starts, the Wizards have looked terrific over two home wins in their new 4-3-3. The system gets its first road test in Seattle on Saturday night.
A few key dates for U.S. fans to keep an eye on: