Next Wednesday, the United States Men's National Team will visit the beautiful city of Cape Town to play a friendly versus South Africa in a country they've made their second home in recent years, but in a city they have yet to visit. The U.S. went to Johannesburg for a friendly versus South Africa in 2007 on Nov. 17, the same date that next week's match will be played, and then played in the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa and of course, this summer's World Cup. Now they are going back to play Bafana Bafana in a mid-week friendly.
Because South Africa is so far away from Europe and North America and the match is a single date on a Wednesday with league matches on the weekend before and after, USA head coach Bob Bradley chose not to include players on the roster that play a big part in their club. The list of the omitted includes Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and captain Carlos Bocanegra, among others. Players who play for one of the four MLS clubs still in the playoffs were also unavailable. Even so, this match is an opportunity to get a look at some new players so Ryan Rosenblatt and Kevin McCauley had a chat to discuss the U.S. roster.
Ryan: Kevin, Bob Bradley has named his roster for next week's friendly versus South Africa and with it being such a long trip for a single Wednesday trip many of the usual faces were omitted and we have ourselves a squad with a lot of new faces. What immediately stands out to you among the 18 players on the roster?
Kevin: The young players, for sure. I'm happy to see players like Gale Agbossoumonde, Mikkel Diskerud, Tim Ream, Teal Bunbury, and Juan Agudelo get handed their first call-ups. I'm not sure about whether or not a couple of those guys are USMNT starter material, but there's only one way to find out.
Ryan: Agreed. If you're not going to have your best players and use the match as a team-building exercise, going with some youth to see how they fare and what they can do, as well as getting them experience is the right move. South Africa is bringing all of their top players with Steven Pienaar, Siphiwe Tshabalala and the crew so it will be good experience. You mentioned Teal Bunbury, who a year ago many believed would play for Canada like his dad did, but he turned down a call from Canada and is now with the U.S. He's only 20, but is it a big get for the U.S.?
Kevin: It's tough to say. Bunbury showed flashes of brilliance at Kansas City this year but he was hardly excellent on a consistent basis. I think it remains to be seen what Bunbury's ceiling is and whether or not he can be a consistent USMNT player. In fact, I'm surprised he accepted a call-up.
Ryan: Yeah, it seemed as if Canada was going to be the team he chose and I'm not sure if he'll ever be a consistent national team striker, but we've seen worse from good players than five goals and two assists in 13 starts for a 20-year-old. To make it clear, though, the friendly is not an official FIFA competition so the match will not cap tie him to the U.S., but it makes it clear who he would like to play for now. Another youngster at striker people will be interested to see is New York's Juan Agudelo, a kid I'm excited about. How about you?
Kevin: Absolutely, he looks like a fantastic prospect. He was spectacular for the United States in the Milk Cup, a U-20 tournament, and his appearances for New York at the end of the year were impressive. He'll play striker if he comes in against South Africa because of our lack of depth at that position, but I wonder if he projects long term as a striker or a winger.
Ryan: It's a question I've posed to Red Bull fans, at least in terms of where he will play next season for them and with Juan Pablo Angel leaving, at least at the club level it looks like his immediate future is as a striker. That said, he does intrigue me as a winger. He has lighting pace and has the kind of touch that the U.S. has lacked at striker for a bit now. His play in the playoffs was amazing for a kid making his first starts and he didn't look the least bit out of place even though he's still 17. Robbie Findley rounds out the strikers, which is good because it will allow me to keep my Twitter alive with #RobbieFindleyCantScoreAnywhere, but what do you make of the U.S. midfield?
Kevin: I think that Bedoya is in our first 23 right now and that Diskerud is a good young player on his way to being a lock in first choice teams. The rest of the guys seem like they're just filler, but I don't have a problem with it. They're all guys who are on the outside looking in at full USMNT squads at the moment, but between this and Camp Cupcake, maybe a couple of those guys can fight their way into the discussion.
Ryan: I'm a big Bedoya fan and wish he would have been on the World Cup roster. I think he is a true wide player, something the U.S. lacks right now. I mean, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are usually the outside midfielders and Benny Feilhaber has been the first sub in the role so a true wide player is nice. I'm really interested in seeing Diskerud and specifically where he plays. He's played both out wide and centrally so I think we might get a good idea of what Bob Bradley sees him of, but he is a technical player whose arrow is definitely pointing up. The same goes for Eric Lichaj, who is back with the Nats after debuting last month. Should Jonathan Spector or Jonathan Bornstein be scared of Lichaj grabbing one of their spots?
Kevin: I think so, especially based on how poorly each of them have played at times. I'm not sure why Spector is still making rosters, to be honest. He's proved time and again for the national team and for West Ham over the last two years that he just isn't good enough for the highest level. If Lichaj plays half-way decent, I think he should take Spector's place.
Ryan: Yeah, i'm excited by Lichaj and while I think Spector has definitely hit rock-bottom, I'm most intrigued by him possibly playing left back, where the U.S. has had problems for a while and he has played some for Aston Villa. I also think that Tim Ream might get a run out at left back, where I think he will flounder, but he played there in college some and it fits Bradley's MO. OK, final thoughts about a roster with names and nicknames like Boss, Mix, Ream and Teal?
Ryan: Yeah, but you never know if Jigga Man and Pimp C will go along to film a reality show on it all, thus making the reality show better than the match.