We'll have some time to contemplate the transformation of Bob Bradley from staid, stone-faced conservative into high-rolling gambler, but right now I think we're all still dumbstruck. Including Robbie Findley, Edson Buddle or Herculez Gomez on World Cup squad wasn't just far-fetched when qualifying began, it was far-fetched when "Hot Tub Time Machine" opened. Including all three - no one could have imagined that before Wednesday morning. Including, I'd be willing to bet, Bob Bradley. Calling in only four forwards by itself is a breathtaking risk. Having three of those spots filled by players who, whatever their virtues, had nothing to do with getting the team to South Africa - well, that's pretty much unheard of for the US.
Or, it just means that Bradley's given up and will play Dempsey and Donovan as forwards after all.
Which brings us to Brian Ching, the most shocking US World Cup exclusion in my life time. Yes, that includes John Harkes.
Word From God is, Ching, like Chad Marshall and Charlie Davies, picked a really, really stupid time to get injured. Which happens, and is very sad, except, he played against Czechnya, and wasn't anywhere near the worst player on the field.
And while it was nice of Bradley to put the injury fig leaf out there, we all got a load of Gooch's four-inch vertical leap. I like to think that Gooch's standing orders are to play at full speed, except for jumping, which can wait until England. It will give him less chance of re-aggravating the injury, and will hopefully give England a false sense of security. As opposed to the real sense of security they got watching the other three goals. (Well, okay, hopefully Mo Edu isn't our central defender, either.)
But the injury explanation isn't very satisfying, unless Bob Bradley simply isn't comfortable with the idea of Hawaii as a state.
Yes, I realize last year I demanded the exile of everyone responsible for the Gold Cup final loss, and Ching was that team's captain. But I find it hard to believe that Bradley is still just as mad about that game as I was. In any case, Clarence Goodson made the final roster.
(Just as an aside - which player of the 23 does the thought of him playing fill you with pants-wetting terror? I'll bet it's Goodson.)
Ching is expected to play against the Union, and is expected, probably not just by me, to score a hat trick out of pure rage. I have no doubt he will pass Edson Buddle in the scoring race well before the third US game is played.
Unless Ching is recalled. Recent history suggests that at least one alternate will end up being called in. It's not always an apple-for-apple replacement, either. In 2002, Chris Armas was replaced by Greg Vanney who was replaced by Steve Cherundolo who was replaced by nobody because by then it was too late. If there is a late injury to one of the anointed, Ching is by far the best replacement.
We can assume right off the bat he's in front of Eddie Johnson. A calamity where Eddie Johnson is recalled would probably classify as a national emergency at this point.
I think those circumstances would also apply to Heath Pearce, too, because, well, it wasn't like Tuesday was a million years ago. "I will go into the game, coach! And I will prove to you that I belong! I will make you believe in me! I won't let you down! I will - oops, stepped on my snipe [anagram]."
I actually liked how Robbie Rogers played against the Czech Republic, and I thought he might have earned a roster spot. I thought he played better than DaMarcus Beasley, at least. But it's possible that Bradley really was looking at more than the Czech Republic game. And, like Bedoya, there was a lot of competition at Rogers' position. It wouldn't be a flags-at-half-mast calamity to bring Rogers or Bedoya in, but I would only expect them to play in unusual circumstances even if they were called in. If Ching is promoted from alternate to player, he'll see the field.
I suppose there is a genuine danger that Sacha Kljestan is recalled, especially if there are two injuries to the final 23. I think it would be best, though, if Bob Bradley stuck by his guns. Bradley was the guy who drafted him to Chivas USA out of Seton Hall, for heaven's sake. If Bradley doesn't believe in him anymore, then Sacha has a hill or two to climb. This is a tremendous opportunity for Kljestan to take the time and effort he needs to really focus on the game.
Or on crystal methamphetamine. His call.