Another match is in the books for Bob Bradley and his United States squad and once again, there is movement in his squad after a match. As has been discussed ad nauseam, there is only so much to take from a January friendly where the U.S. plays a match without its best players against another team without its best players.
The 1-1 draw against Chile on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California is a good enough result for the U.S., but the result doesn't matter much in these January friendlies. The friendly is a chance to take a look at individual players and their development. Most of all, because Bob Bradley tried to employ a similar style and tactics to what he uses with the full team, the match provided an opportunity to see how some players fit in certain roles. With that, players can show that they may or may not be able to fill a specific role with the full team.
So the first match of 2011 for the U.S. is in the past. Where do players stand now? Let's take a look at whose stock went up and whose went down on Saturday night.
Teal Bunbury: We get this started off with a gimme considering he was the lone goal scorer, but the Kansas City striker showed a lot more than the ability to put away a penalty. After a promising rookie year in MLS, Bunbury has had a fantastic offseason, showing promise in his first international appearance for the U.S. against South Africa in November, going to Spain to play with MLS' Generation adidas team and training with Stoke City, where he scored in a reserve match.
The calm finish on the penalty aside, Bunbury showed physicality in holding off defenders, but more than anything sky-high confidence. One time, Bunbury flicked the ball over a defender to himself down the sideline, the kind of flair rarely seen from an American. As of now, it appears that only Jozy Altidore has a lock on a forward spot for the Gold Cup so if Bunbury can keep playing with the type of confidence and calm he showed on Saturday, the next spot can be his.
Tim Ream: All of the questions about whether or not Ream can play at the international level are not answered, but two caps into his U.S. career, he's successfully chipped away at many of them. Ream got caught behind the play a couple of times against Chile, but recovered well to answer questions about his speed. He's not an international quality defender yet, but he has only one professional season under his belt. Asking him to read the game well enough to be one is a little unreasonable.
As Ream continues to show he has the tools to defend at a higher speed, his distribution continues to be stellar. For a team that has long struggled to string passes together, having a defender like Ream who not only passes the ball well on the ground but also through the air goes a long way. The New York defender was spot on with most of his passes and while he had a couple giveaways, they were ones that could be chalked up to a lack of international and professional experience. Ream isn't ready to start for the full team quite yet, but he's jumped atop the list of central defenders for the future. Now the question is when that future becomes the present.
Oguchi Onyewu: In the same week that Gooch made his Twente debut and made his first start for a club in over a year and a half, his biggest competition for the right central defender spot with the U.S. put in a poor shift. Omar Gonzalez didn't have a terrible go of it against Chile, but he entered the match with questions and answered zero of them. He won some balls in the air, but we knew he could do that. His reading of the game was questionable with the game seemingly moving too quickly for him and he didn't have the recovery speed to make up for it. Gonzalez will never have quick feet, but he can make up for it with good game reading, something that's not there yet.
While Gonzalez was struggling in California, Onyewu was getting more and more comfortable in the Netherlands. With his loan to Twente off to a strong start, Onyewu has the chance to once again make his case as the top central defender in the U.S. pool. The next best central defenders are all better on the left side of the central defense. Not only is Gooch playing again, but his top competition on the right struggled. It was a good week for the Onyewu stock.
Starting Wingers: Both Alejandro Bedoya and Brek Shea were expected to be leaders of the U.S. attack. Both had made appearances with the full team prior to the Chile. Neither's a lucky domestic player who would never put on the shirt without Camp Cupcake. With only one striker starting, the wingers were going to have to be crucial in the U.S. attack, so going with the quality and relative experience of Bedoya and Shea made sense, but neither stepped up and took control.
It may be unfair to peg both as disappointments. Neither was poor, but they were being relied upon as special. Both were average. Bedoya was starved of the ball for long stretches and couldn't really get into the match and he did have a decent run to almost get a chance on goal before the keeper came out to collect the ball, but when you're being relied upon you cannot fall out of a match. Shea did some nice things but didn't have that explosiveness or burst to create something special. Shea has positive qualities, but once again the question is whether or not he's a winger. Might he be better served as a defender, where he opened eyes with the Generation adidas team a month ago. Both Bedoya and Shea could have made strong cases to be an important part of the full team, but both are right where they were before the match.
Kyle Beckerman: To the surprise of many, Beckerman was left off of the roster for the January training camp and friendly. Another strong season for Real Salt Lake was supposed to get him another look at making the national team a bit more regularly, but it didn't. Now the logical assumption is that Bob Bradley just doesn't rate him very highly, which may not be true, but he's certainly not getting the chance to prove himself. Unfortunately for Beckerman, that's not his biggest issue right now.
Central midfield is a position of extreme depth by U.S. standards with Michael Bradley, Jermain Jones, Maurice Edu, Stuart Holden, Jose Francisco Torres and Benny Feilhaber all options at the position. Well, after the Chile match you can throw Dax McCarty into the mix as well. It is unlikely that McCarty will pass up any of the more established central midfielders any time soon so he won't get a ton of chances with the national team, but if one spot does open up for a match that would have previously gone to Beckerman, it might be McCarty's now.
Marvell Wynne: The worst is saved for last. Everyone who watched the match saw Wynne have himself a shocker and his U.S. career may be at an end after Chile made him look like a fool. The former U.S. youth teamer and MLS number one draft pick as once touted at the team's future at right back, but his lack of technique and ability to cross the ball ended that. He had himself a bit of a career revival this season when Colorado moved him to center back though and he worked himself back into the national team picture at that position, but he had himself a terrible match on Saturday.
People love to watch Wynne run because he's amazingly fast, but he has to show it off as often as he does because he's regularly beaten. In the horror of a match, many overlooked that Wynne was actually strong defending in one-on-one situations. Unfortunately, there were only a handful of those instances and many more where he had to read the game and maintain some sort of positional awareness. He failed at that many times over and Chile's goal was more his fault that anyone else's as he drifted away from the scorer. Wynne better have kept his jersey from the match and not traded it with a Chilean because it might have been his last U.S. shirt.
* Since publication, we received word that Beckerman did in fact receive an invitation to join the team, but had to decline as he recovered from an injury. Even so, his stock definitely took a hit this month.