United States 2010 World Cup Daily Update: Worries At The Back

Worries Mounting Over Health Of Defenders

There seems to be a swing in the mood surrounding the national team.  The excitement of announcing the provisional roster and getting everybody into camp has waned to concern over health; specifically, health of the back line.  After this weekend's news that Carlos Bocanegra had (a previously unannounced) sports hernia surgery, people seem to be asking:  If Bocanegra was not as healthy as we were told, how healthy is Oguchi Onyewu, coming off knee surgery?  How healthy is Jay DeMerit, with an abdominal strain and still recovering from eye surgery?

That's three-fourths of the projecting starting back line for the United States.

In reading one report's summary of the situation, you can see the descent in mood.  Would the phrase "hopeful they will be ready" have appeared a week ago?

Defenders Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra are all battling injury but the US are hopeful they will be ready for the finals.

I'm hopeful this story reverses itself, but reading Captain Überconnected's prognosis for tomorrow's friendly with the Czech Republic, there's reason for concern:

After wrapping up training camp at Princeton on Sunday, Bob Bradley brought all 30 players to Hartford, Conn., for Tuesday's friendly against the Czech Republic at Rentschler Field (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Galavision). With final cuts tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, the game-day roster -- tentatively set for 23 players -- will offer a small peek into Bradley's plans. However, a few key players recovering from injuries (and who are certain to go to South Africa) might be left off for precautionary reasons (Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit, among them).

There are still 19 days until the United States plays England, so - wait, that's less than three weeks.

Still, that should be enough time for players to recover, provided nobody else has had any surprise surgeries.

Guzan Reflects On Fight For Number Two

Brad Guzan was Tim Howard's understudy throughout qualifying, but Marcus Hahnemann's play for Wolverhampton Wanderers, one of the keys to Wolves' Premier League survival, has the 37-year-old fighting to be the back-up in South Africa.

Six months ago, who would have thought Guzan'd be in this situation?  Hahnemann was sitting, behind Wayne Hennessey at Wolves, while Guzan was getting the occasional Cup-competition start for Aston Villa.

It has to be disappointing when your position on the depth chart is threatened through no fault of your own, but as he told Yanks Abroad, his job is to keep improving and fight for the spot:

Marcus Hahnemann was a mainstay at Wolverhampton this season in the Premier League and has put himself in contention for the number two spot that Guzan has held this World Cup cycle.

Both players will try to persuade Bradley at camp on who should step up if Howard cannot suit up.

Regardless of this role, Guzan has thrived in his backup responsibility and is looking at the positive.

"Everyday [I am] pushing myself, pushing Timmy [Howard], Marcus [Hahnemann], Brad Friedel," he explained. "Whoever [it] may be, it's a matter of getting better as a goalkeeper and fighting for playing time. That's what this business is about. It's about having good players around you and getting better."

You could copy-and-paste this line from every national team article written in the last decade-and-a-half,:  With depth like that in the net, goal is the last of the United States' concerns.

The Explanation For Alejandro Bedoya's Rise

Previously, I had thought Bedoya's "meteoric rise" was a matter of perception - that he was likely always good, but moving to Sweden instead of staying Stateside, while a good long-term career and developmental move, dropped him from sight, temporarily.

Now there is another explanation for Bedoya's burst into the national team picture, and since it comes from the player himself, I'm going to ball-up my little theory as if it were a sheet on Letterman's desk.

As I throw it at my postcard of the San Diego skyline, we have the following:

"I think that for my professional career one thing that changed was last year, the midseason, we had summer break and, instead of going on vacation, I came back home and got a personal trainer," Bedoya said. "I worked out hard, worked out extra, went back to my club and the first game back I came in as a substitute and scored two goals.

"From there on my confidence grew. My motivation [grew]. I ended up taking a starting role. And from there I think that is what changed it for me."

That's the Occam's razor answer: The player improving. Rather than being discovered, Bedoya's worked his way into the team, developing a work ethic that portends well for continued improvement.

Video:  Sacha Kljestan, Post-Training

Dempsey On His Leadership Role

It's natural that Clint Dempsey has become a leader within the national team. He is the set-up's most accomplished player at the club level and a natural role model for players trying to find their way in Europe: Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, Alejandro Bedoya.

As "Deuce" told Goal, he recognizes that he has an increased role in the team:

"I'm a player that has more responsibility on my shoulders now," Dempsey acknowledged. "Before I was someone who was on the fringe. Was I going to make the team or not? That was kind of a toss-up. Whereas now I feel like I'm someone who has to stand up more and be counted. I have to try and affect these games in a positive way."

There might be more to this than just being a regular in the national team. After all, Dempsey has 54 caps and in his seventh year playing for the team. He's not a new face, and with many of the roster's midfielders and attackers coming into the set-up after Dempsey had established himself, he has always been a relative elder statesman.  A couple of other differences may be germane.

First, Dempsey has had unprecedented and sustained out-field success. It's natural (though not obligatory) for a player like that to be a team leader. Whether the player is comfortable with the role or not, others will look to him.

Second, in contrast to criticism that he's received concerning some national team performances, Dempsey has become a consummate professional for Fulham. While the club world often exists independent of international play, with United States' players having few high-level club examples to cite, Dempsey's work at Fulham is a standard.  Over the last two years, he has become known for his work ethic, and his ability to adapt to a stringent scheme shows similarly talented Yanks the sacrifices required to make inroads in Europe.

Such accomplishments provide credibility to any statements beginning, "What you should do is ..."

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