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USA Vs. Chile, Preview: Which Americans Have A Shot At Making The Gold Cup Roster?

One of the things about Saturday's match that leave some viewers disappointed is that they aren't likely to see most of the players in the match for the United States playing for the national team anytime soon when the team's top players are available for selection. Only four players who were on the roster for last year's January friendly made the World Cup roster and one of those players, Clarence Goodson, never even saw the field in South Africa.

While some have found it difficult to drum up excitement for the match because the U.S. is without most, if not all, of their top players, there is still a handful of players to keep a close eye on for the immediate future. The U.S. is squarely focused on the Gold Cup in 2011 and to be completely realistic, there are six players who will have an opportunity between now and June to make their case for a spot on the tournament roster for head coach Bob Bradley's squad.

  • Juan Agudelo- Of the six players on this list, Agudelo probably has the longest odds to make the U.S. Gold Cup team, but the chance to get there remains because the team is so thin at striker. The newest American youth sensation, Agudelo has already accomplished more with the national team than some of the past great young hopes by scoring a goal, but he still only has four professional matches to his name. With Bradley moving more to a five-man midfield and single striker, Agudelo will have a hard time getting onto the full team because to this point, he hasn't proven capable of playing alone up top. Against Chile, it is possible that Agudelo gets to show that he can play as a single striker, but he might also get the chance to show that he can play as an attack-minded winger. A strong match against Chile along with impressive performances for the Red Bulls this season might give him a shot at a spot on the Gold Cup roster, but Bradley has shown a propensity to take things slowly with very young players.
  • Alejandro Bedoya- The most experienced player on the U.S. roster for the match at the Home Depot Center, Bedoya has six caps to his name, but he's come on strong in the last 18 months and some felt he should have been on the World Cup roster. Bedoya has shown the versatility to play both outside midfield spots and his work tracking back and defending is noticeably improved. The test for Bedoya against Chile will be to prove that he can be dynamic in the attack so he can start working on carving out a spot with the full team as a useful substitute. Against a Chile team that throws attackers forward in waves, Bedoya should have the chance to get into space, but he'll need to take advantage of it to make a strong push for a hold on a full team spot.
  • Teal Bunbury- Like Agudelo, Bunbury made his first senior team appearance against South Africa in November, but the Canadian-born striker didn't score like Agudelo did. Nonetheless, Bunbury was effective and dangerous, giving supporters hope that his switch from the Canadian national team to the U.S. national team could be a major coup. At just 20-years-old, Bunbury is a youngster, but he is 6'2'' and strong, making him a better fit for the Yanks if Bradley pushes forward with his single striker formation. With Edson Buddle in flux now that he's made a move to Germany and Herculez Gomez riding the pine for Pachuca, Jozy Altidore is the only U.S. striker that can be written in for the Gold Cup. After that, there are plenty of opportunities and Bunbury has the chance to capitalize on it by showing he can lead the line by himself against Chile before taking on more of the scoring load for Kansas City when MLS play gets going again.
  • Omar Gonzalez- As the 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year, Gonzalez is hardly an unknown name in American soccer circles. The big central defender is dominant in the air and has taken gigantic steps forward in his ability to read the game. Even so, questions about his pace and movement remain and against an attacking team like Chile, Gonzalez is sure to be tested. Gonzalez had an uneven match in his only senior team cap against Brazil so now he needs to put in a steady match and prove he can at least handle the pace of the international game. With so many of the best U.S. central defenders aging and injured (Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra all fit the bill), the Yanks are in search of a young defender or three to step forward. Gonzalez can take a step or two forward against Chile, but only if he can move quickly and fluidly.
  • Tim Ream- You can throw Ream into the same situation as Gonzalez. Like the Galaxy defender, Ream is a central defender hoping to take over for the aging bunch ahead of him, but unlike Gonzalez, he showed well in his first cap. The comparison between national team debuts may not be fair considering Gonzalez played Brazil and Ream played South Africa, but Ream showed off the skills that made him a 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year finalist for the Red Bulls. An excellent passer, Ream fits in with the stylistic change that Bradley is trying to implement with an emphasis on passing, especially out of the back. That said, Ream is a question mark defending with his movement in question, just as it is with Gonzalez, but Ream doesn't have the commanding aerial presence that Gonzalez does. Ream finds himself in the same boat as Gonzalez for the Chile match. Prove you can move and handle the speed of the international game, thumbs up. Struggle with it, thumbs down.
  • Brek Shea- A forward, a winger, maybe a central defender? No, a winger. For now. We think. Shea has played in a variety of positions since turning professional with an impressive stint as a central defender on the Generation adidas tour of Spain that reportedly caused Atletico Madrid to inquire about his availability the latest in his seemingly ever-changing position. Despite the impressive stint at center back, Shea is back at winger, where he plays for his club FC Dallas. Pacy for a big man, Shea took several steps forward in his ability to cross the ball and run at defenders last season and was rewarded for his improvement with his first senior team cap in October against Colombia. Bradley has shown a preference for big and physical wingers, a profile Shea fits to T. With the U.S. short on winger depth, the opportunity to find a spot with the full team is there for the taking, but he needs to be more assertive and dangerous than he was in his first cap when he seemed to get lost and drift out of the match for stretches.

Of course, the six players above aren't the only ones who can make the Gold Cup roster. With six months to go until the tournament there is plenty of time for anyone to take a dramatic step forward, but the six above are the only ones who appears to have a somewhat realistic path to a roster spot in June. The entire roster for the match is as follows:

  • Juan Agudelo, F, New York Red Bulls
  • Eric Alexander, M, FC Dallas
  • Alejandro Bedoya, M, Orebro
  • Teal Bunbury, F, Kansas City Wizards
  • Dominic Cervi, GK, Celtic
  • Sam Cronin, M, San Jose Earthquakes
  • A.J. DeLaGarza, D, Los Angeles Galaxy
  • Mikkel Diskerud, M, Stabaek
  • Sean Franklin, D, Los Angeles Galaxy
  • Omar Gonzalez, D, Los Angeles Galaxy
  • Sean Johnson, GK, Chicago Fire
  • Jeff Larentowicz, M, Colorado Rapids
  • Zach Lloyd, D, FC Dallas
  • Dax McCarty, M, DC United
  • Ryan Miller, D, Halmstads BK
  • Matt Pickens, GK, Colorado Rapids
  • Tim Ream, D, New York Red Bulls
  • Nick Rimando, GK, Real Salt Lake
  • Brek Shea, M, FC Dallas
  • Eugene Starikov, M, Zenit St. Petersburg
  • Anthony Wallace, D, Colorado Rapids
  • Chris Wondolowski, F, San Jose Earthquakes
  • Marvell Wynne, D, Colorado Rapids