2004 US Player and Position Review & 2005 Projections

Discussion in 'USA Men: News & Analysis' started by Nutmeg, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Member+

    Aug 24, 1999
    I've taken a little project upon myself that has proven to be pretty enlightening. I have a spreadsheet this year of every US game and every player who has played in those games, ordered by position. In this thread, I'll list what I think Arena's current depth chart is (important note - this isn't how I personally rate these players) and give a summary review. For each position, I'll predict what I think will happen in 2005.

    The parts of doing this that I found most enlightening were:
    1. How many players Arena has played, not to mention how many more have been to camp.
    2. What positions saw the most player variation, and what I think that means as far as Arena's satisfaction at that position.
    3. Overall trends for each player - when did they last play, have they been called up recently, did they play in friendlies or qualifiers, etc.
    So here goes, starting with goalkeepers. I'll post the rest of the positions over the coming days:


    Kasey Keller (@Holland, @Poland, Grenada, Grenada, jamaica, Panama, el Salvador, Panama, Jamaica)

    Kasey had a consistently strong year and solidified himself as Arena’s #1 keeper, playing all but one WCQ. His club situation is a question mark, but apparently that doesn’t concern Arena at all. I tend to agree with Arena here. Keller has always played big for the US team, and he’s so familiar with his teammates and the coaching staff that there’s no reason he shouldn’t be the top keeper until his play on the field proves otherwise.

    Johnny Walker (Denmark, Haiti, Mexico)

    Nothing wrong with Walker’s play on the US team, but his play with the Metros could have been better. Being in the US made him the de facto backup in 2004. Overall, his US stock is way up over any previous year, but with the talent available to Arena at the keeper position, his spot on the depth chart is a tenuous one at best. Walker has to be more consistent at the club level, or his stock will drop just as quickly.

    Tim Howard (Honduras, Poland, El Salvador)

    2004 has been a rough year on Tim. In two games for the US, he had almost nothing to do. In the one game he did need to make a play against Poland, he didn’t. The fact that he’s riding pine at Man U won’t help him get higher on Arena’s depth chart. At this stage in Howard’s career, nothing is more important than game experience. Unlike Keller, he doesn’t have hundreds of club games under his belt and a longstanding history of consistently great play for the US team. If Tim wants to move up the chart, he needs to be playing.

    Kevin Hartman (Haiti)

    A sub in the US’ worst game of the year, and then not called upon again. Never one of Arena’s top candidates, one substitution in a friendly early in the year is not a good trend for Hartman.

    2005 Projections

    I don’t see much movement here. Keller will continue to be Arena’s guy, even if Howard does get playing time. Apparently the feud between Keller and Friedel was bad enough that Arena has made his choice and moved on. I’d be surprised if Big Brad played for the US next year, unless for some reason Keller wasn’t available and Howard and Walker were both still struggling. Don’t be surprised if Matt Reis and Adin Brown both get friendly call ups at some point, but don’t count on either of them getting time in a game that matters.
  2. appoo

    appoo Member+

    Jul 30, 2001
    not sure I agree with your projection 'Meg. IMHO if Timmy can win the starting spopt back from Carroll and show well I think he'll have the confidence to beat out Keller.
  3. Delsocfan

    Delsocfan New Member

    Oct 23, 2004
    Wilmington, DE
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think Keller will continue to start in all of the WC qualifiers. I bet Cannon gets the start in the S. Korea/Sweeden? friendlies. I see Howard getting a shot in the Gold Cup (Hopefully Hahnemann will too).

    I don't think we will see Walker get a start, maybe makes the bench in a game or two.
  4. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Member+

    Aug 24, 1999
    Central Defenders:

    Eddie Pope (Denmark, Haiti, Mexico, Grenada, Poland, jamaica, Panama, el Salvador, Panama)

    Eddie was still the man in the middle for the US in 2004. Eddie had some outstanding games, especially against Mexico. Unfortunately, Eddie also had a couple of poor performances for the US, with his worst outing coming at Panama. Eddie struggled more than he has in the past at the club level, too, on occasion getting caught out of position or outpaced by MLS attackers. This is a major concern for Arena and the US team. In the past, Eddie was the rock we never questioned.

    Carlos Bocanegra (see Left Backs)

    Pablo Mastroeni (see Holding Midfielders)

    Cory Gibbs (@Holland, Haiti, Honduras, Grenada, El Salvador, el Salvador, Jamaica)

    Also on the left back depth chart, Cory had a strong year for the US, most notably with a standout game in Holland. His club play in Dallas was inconsistent. Sometimes he was a brick wall, sometimes he lost his focus and his play suffered. He has all the physical qualities loved by Arena in a defender, and he hasn’t had what could be termed a bad performance for the US.

    Greg Berhalter (@Holland, @Poland, el Salvador, Panama)

    A pretty quiet year for Berhalter, as he played only in the European friendlies and then as WCQ wrapped up. Coming off some big-time injuries, just getting healthy and back onto the field for both Cottbus and the US was important for Greg.

    Oguchi Onyewu (Panama, Jamaica)

    Obviously a player Bruce feels is worth investing in. It’s not often your first caps under Arena come in WCQ games. Onyewu has also played very well according to reports at Standard Liege. With more first team professional experience under his belt, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the top 3 on next year’s depth chart.

    Tony Sanneh (Haiti, @Poland, Honduras, Jamaica)

    Also somewhere on the right backs depth chart, Sanneh had a subpar year for the US, but a very good year for Columbus. Like Berhalter, the fact that he is healthy and playing again was Tony’s biggest win. If he can regain 100% fitness and form, Sanneh may move up the central defense chart very quickly.

    Danny Califf (Haiti), Nick Garcia (Denmark)

    Barring a catastrophic rash of injuries to the US backline, I don’t think either of these guys will ever see a US jersey again.

    2005 Projections

    I see some openings on this depth chart. There is a history of injury for a lot of these players, and a few of them, to be blunt, are old. Chad Marshall will be a factor in 2005, and I predict he’ll get caps in friendlies, Gold Cup matches, and in later qualifiers. Also keep an eye out for Jonathan Spector and Frank Simek. If they get long-term loans and perform well, don’t be surprised if they both get calls in the second half of 2005 as central defenders.

    Obviously the biggest concern is Pope. If his form continues to trend downward, that’s bad news for Arena. The other concern is that the US still hasn’t found a replacement for Jeff Agoos. What I mean by that is Arena wants one vocal leader in the back to organize the defense. Mastroeni and Berhalter have taken on that role successfully in the past, but Mastroeni looks to have moved back into the midfield and Berhalter hasn’t been a reliable option this year.

    I think that we’ll see much more movement in central defense in 2005 than we’ve seen in a long time as Arena looks to find his best combination for the World Cup.
  5. Roel

    Roel Member

    Jan 15, 2000
    Santa Cruz mountains
    Liverpool FC
    Nat'l Team:
    In 2005, hopefully Conrad gets a try as the "Agoos" replacement. Sanneh, still one of my favorites, is probably better suited at RB. Gooch was very good, and hopefully gets plenty of chances in 2005. The one time I saw Spector play for ManU, he was a left back and was very skilled. He should get more chances, too. A central D, I'd go with Pope and Gibbs, with Bocanegra and Gooch as understudies.
  6. striker

    striker Member+

    Aug 4, 1999
    In addition, without Agoos, we really don't have any central defender who is half decent at playing the ball out of the back.
  7. appoo

    appoo Member+

    Jul 30, 2001
    Bocanegra. I think he does this well. He's bot Franz Beckenbauer but he'll do.
  8. SoulflyTribeFC

    SoulflyTribeFC New Member

    Mar 24, 2002
    I think central defender is our deepest position. I hope Pope can regain his form but if he doesn't, we've still got -- as was posted above -- Gibbs, Berhalter and Sanneh with Gooch and Marshall looming. Right now, I don't see Gooch and Marshall as big of factors as the others but all that could change with one great game from either one of the two: just look at EJ.

    But overall, I must say this is the spot where I feel most comfortable with. Ruiz ain't gonna be pushing any of these guys out of the way the way he did Fraser in 2000.
  9. Shaster

    Shaster Member+

    Apr 13, 1999
    El Cerrito, CA, USA
    About center defender:

    Pope is on decline. Don't know if he can last next WC. We are better to find out before the WC than find out during the WC.

    #1 Issue--Young defenders. Sanneh, Berhalter are both too old and not good enough to play in the level we want. Bocanegra and Gibbs proved to be good so far, but don't have the kind of experience yet. We may have no chooce but playing them and gave them as much as international games we can. Think about when Pope stepped into WC 1998 without problem. Califf, Garcia, etc. are not good enough as the older generation defenders--Cullen, McCarthy and Dunseth. Gooch is in border line now, but wish two more seasons of Europe, especially if he can move to a better league, can help him out. Spector looks a nice addition, but don't know which position he would play in EPL and likely will end up at the left back for US. Other young defenders--Marshall, Cochrane, Whitbread, Simak are all depending what kind of development they will have within these two years.

    #2 Issue--Team leader. Beside Agoos, we only have Berhalter. Don't know who will step up.

    But we still can get away with a good team defense against most of teams. The problem only arise when we face the first rate team, but that is how you end up in semifinals. :p
  10. Squash

    Squash Member

    Mar 8, 2003
    If i have to see Agoos on D again, I'd rather flip the channel and not bare the agony. He's contributed tons in the past, but for the sake of my sanity. We absolutely have to have someone better, his play last WCup was average at best. I'm sorry if others disagree, i've lost my respect for his play each time i see him in a US uniform. I truly hope he isn't on the roster. I'd rather see a blind, one legged, little boy leading the D :(
  11. Craig P

    Craig P BigSoccer Supporter

    Mar 26, 1999
    Eastern MA
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I don't think anybody is seriously suggesting that Agoos make another appearance in a game that means anything :eek:, just that none of his replacements seem to have quite measured up as far as his better qualities were concerned (although they still more than make up for it in the basics).
  12. SamsArmySam

    SamsArmySam Member+

    Apr 13, 2001
    Minneapolis, MN
    I can't see Bocanegra as anything but a starter. He has been the most consistently good US defender over the past two years.

    And here's to hoping Bocanegra can come back into central defense because one of Spector-Convey-O'Brien has stepped up and locked down left back. (Hey, a guy can always hope.)
  13. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Member+

    Aug 24, 1999
    Outside Defenders:

    Left Backs

    Carlos Bocanegra (@Holland, Haiti, @Poland, Honduras, Grenada, Poland, jamaica, El Salvador, Panama, Panama)
    When it comes to not getting to play in his best position (central defender), Boca is a victim of both his own versatility and a lack of quality options for the US at left back. On top of that, he plies his trade as a left back for Fulham so until a better option steps up and grabs the spot, he’s the man. Against weaker opponents like Panama, that was more than OK. He had a monster game when the US wrapped up qualification in RFK.

    Bobby Convey (Denmark, holland, Haiti, @Poland, Mexico, Honduras, Grenada, Poland, El Salvador)
    At the beginning of 2004, the left back position was Bobby’s to lose. By far his best game of the year was against Mexico, where his overlapping runs and skill on the ball caused Mexico all kinds of problems. Early in 2004, if the US was playing, Bobby was too. Then he was transferred to England Championship League club Reading. Since then, his playing time for both club and country have gone south, and it remains to be seen when Convey will resurface for either team.

    Greg Vanney (@Poland, Honduras, Grenada, Grenada, jamaica, Panama)
    After basically falling off the radar screen, Vanney reemerged with a respectable performance in Poland. He then locked himself into Arena’s lineup with a good performance against Grenada as WCQ kicked off. He faded just as suddenly with two horrendous gaffes that led to goals against the US in Jamaica and Panama. He hasn’t been seen with the US since, although he is playing regularly for French side Bastia.

    Jonathan Spector (Jamaica)
    Spector showed big promise for Manchester United early in the Premiership season when other players were injured. When they returned, Spector returned to the reserve side, in spite of his good play. Rumors have him on a long-term loan in January to West Brom. If that goes through and Spector gets big minutes in the back, he’ll be more of an option to Arena in the hex.

    Right Backs

    Frankie Hejduk (Denmark, holland, Mexico, Grenada, jamaica, Panama, el Salvador, Panama)
    Frankie has emerged as Bruce’s trusted option at right back. His best game was against Mexico. His worst game was at Panama. He was left to fend for himself against Robben in Holland, an Arena mistake that ended up costing the US a goal. Played all over the field for C-bus, and had an unspectacular season for the Crew. Arena has flatly stated that he thinks Frankie is a better defender than other current options.

    Steve Cherundolo (@Holland, @Poland, Honduras, Grenada, Poland, El Salvador)
    Cherundolo played very well in Poland, and then was used by Arena in home games as an offensive weapon coming out of the back. Steve has said that this season has been by far his best professional campaign, a locked-in starter for Hannover who is getting looks from bigger clubs all over Europe, but especially Germany.

    Chris Albright (Denmark, Haiti, Poland, Jamaica)
    His first season as a professional right back was a success with the Galaxy. Skilled on the ball, great speed, strength, and fitness, size, and a strong passer and crosser from the right back position. Still improving in the tactical aspects of the position, Arena may lean on Albright more as he gets more experience with the Galaxy. His play against both as a sub against Poland and a starter against Jamaica was good, and he was possibly the Man of the Match against Jamaica.

    2005 Projections
    Keep an eye out for one kid – Danny Karbassiyoon. It’s now or never for Danny, who has played regularly for the Arsenal reserve team at left back as well as on the Arsenal Carling Cup team that has disposed of full-blown Premiership teams. There is close to zero chance Danny gets any PT on Arsenal’s first team while Cole and Glichy are ahead of him, so the Carling Cup is Danny’s showcase. Should he get a January loan and regular PT starting early next year, he could become part of Arena’s plans late in 2005.

    Also watch for Albright. Arena likes everything about him as far as his physical attributes and his skill goes. If he improves tactically, he could move up to number one on the right back depth chart.
  14. Martin Fischer

    Martin Fischer Member+

    Feb 23, 1999
    Kampala. Uganda
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think this one is even more accurate than the others.

    I think Albright is a real possiblity, with tactical acuman his biggest problem. I actually expect Hejduk to fade from the picture in favor of a combination of Albright and Dolo depending on tactics, form and availability. Of course, people have been expecting Hejduk to be playing his last Nats game for a long-time now.

    On the left, Boca is the only real option with Convey's failure (temporary perphaps) at Reading. I note that Boca did play a few games in the center for Fullham, but was not tremendously successful so I am not sure that those who think that Boca is better in the middle are correct. As to DannyK, I think it is unlikely he gets loaned out this year, so I think he is a much longer term possiblity than the others mentioned.

    The backline that intrigues me has Albright on one side and Boca on the other, with Pope, Gooch, Berhalter and Gibbs competing for center positions depending on the opponent [if you want more offense put in Berhalter for better central distribution if you can afford to sacrifice speed]. This lineup might allow Arena the confidence to team Donovan in the middle with a sole dmid.
  15. Sachsen

    Sachsen Member+

    Aug 8, 2003
    Broken Arrow, Okla.
    Sporting Kansas City
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Great posts as always, Nutmeg.

    Three points/observations:

    1. When evaluating the goalkeepers, you forgot Big Brad's one game @ Poland. Although you did mention him in the wrapup.

    2. I second the hope that Jimmy Conrad gets a look in January's SuperCamp for central defense. Several years younger than Pope and a lot more experienced than Gooch, he's a definite option. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a Kansas City homer. Oh wait, yes, I probably am. :)

    3. You mention Mastro and say "see holding midfielders." While I agree that is his most likely position, we can't ignore him as a possibility in central defense. Along with Zavagnin at d-mid, if Reyna and [ack] Armas [/ack] come back at full health, Mastro and Pope are an excellent central defense pairing with Boca on the left.
  16. Karl K

    Karl K Member

    Oct 25, 1999
    Suburban Chicago
    I think the only thing that is going to keep Frankie Hejduk off the world cup roster is a serious injury. His fitness and speed will continue to make him a useful player.

    If Jonathan Spector gets 1800 minutes in the EPL next year, I think his odds of making the final roster are close to 100%.
  17. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Member+

    Aug 24, 1999
    On equal ground, if Howard were able to get the starting spot at MU back, he may have a shot at Keller's job, too. But Howard and Keller aren't on equal ground. Keller has a long history with the US team, and a consistently excellent one at that. Bruce is loyal. As long as Kasey is playing well for the US, I don't think it matters what other keepers in the pool are doing.

    Tim can probably book his spot to 2010, and is very probable even for 2014. But 2006 is for Kasey.
  18. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Member+

    Aug 24, 1999
    In one respect, I agree with you. We have excellent depth. The concern I have, though, is that nobody on that depth chart is as dominating as Eddie Pope was at the top of his game.

    Is it better to have one world class - and yes, at his best, Eddie would compete for a spot on any roster - defender and a few pretty good partners?

    Or, is it better to have a deep pool of pretty good players?
  19. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Member+

    Aug 24, 1999
    What makes you think this, Martin?
  20. Rob Base

    Rob Base Member

    Apr 30, 2003
    'Burque, NM
    Surely Russell will at least get consideration at right back. Bruce's continued reliance on Hejduk's patented two-footed lunge at the national team level has baffled me (and I've always liked Frankie), particularly with Cherundolo sharing the captain's band on occassion with a B1 team that is in fifth place.

    Those issues aside, reports (and two matches I've seen) show Russell doing well. But for injury, wouldn't he have gotten a go against the Reggae Boyz last month?
  21. Talion

    Talion New Member

    May 24, 2004
    I don't know if you can, say, win a World Cup without having some transcendent players who are just absolutely world class. However, the nice thing about a deep pool of pretty good players is the consistency it gives you. The reason why the US was able to get to the quarters and has a chance to do more in 2006 is we can be reasonably sure of getting a solid, near-world class performance out of them. A team like, oh just picking a name out of the blue here, Portugal, has more talent than our team but if its superstars have a bad day they are very vulnerable. And if the superstars are not in form, typically they play anyway. The flip side is if they happen to be playing at their best they can beat Brazil and win the WC.

    The other benefit to a broad player pool is the players are hungry and must really push to get on the field. I was reading the England board here after their poor performance against Spain in that friendly and was amazed to read that most of their fans feel their 2006 starting XI is pretty much set except maybe one spot. Compare that to the US where the consensus is there are at most 3 definite starters, and one of those (Landon) people aren't even sure which position he should be playing.

    As for Pope, having any dominating player is nice, but I think defender is the least helpful position to having a dominating player. Maybe D-mid would be not quite as important, but forward, attacking mid, and GK (probably in that order) would be better if you had to choose. And while you are probably right that Pope is our only field player to dominate, I think Friedel in 2002 was close if not dominating.
  22. QuakeAttack

    QuakeAttack Member+

    Apr 10, 2002
    California - Bay Area
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    Conrad should be option. He has played for two different championship teams, has consistantly improved, and has the size and speed to compete at the International level. I don't agree with Mastro being an option at central defender. He doesn't have the size to play the position at International level, hasn't been great at the position, and even worse, he doesn't want to play the position.

    Boca is not a leftback. He doesn't shut down crosses, can get beaten by pace, and just doesn't appear comfortable in the position. He is fine in this position for WCQ, but not for the World Cup.

    At this moment, I believe Gooch is overrate by many on BS. Of course, I have only seen one full game (horrible performance against Jamiaca).

    Albright will be the starting rightback in WC2006 for the US.


    After an average year last year, there are signs that Keeler is starting to get his form back. Freidal has given up a lot of goals in the EPL, but it's hard to tell with the Blackburn defense. Everybody know about Howard. He needs to get action in 2005 or 2006 won't be an option. Walker shouldn't be called back anytime soon based upon his play in the MLS (even with the Metros defense).
  23. Martin Fischer

    Martin Fischer Member+

    Feb 23, 1999
    Kampala. Uganda
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    1. There have been no rumours about DannyK being loaned out.

    2. DannyK is basically at the same level that Simek was last year -- and Arsenal's "pattern" was to give Simek a year as a full-time reserve, part-time Carling Cup player and then loan him out the following year.

    3. If anything, DannyK is behind where Simek was last year as he is still learning the position and didn't even start the Carling Cup game where his goal was the winner. I think Arsenal is likely to want to keep him close to home to watch him as he is still adjusting to his new position.
  24. Martin Fischer

    Martin Fischer Member+

    Feb 23, 1999
    Kampala. Uganda
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    He sure looked like one last night.
  25. goussoccer

    goussoccer Member+

    May 23, 2001
    Avon, CT
    Nutmeg, thanks for the research and analysis. Great stuff.

    One question: Though currently injured, JOB plays left defense for Ajax. While I know we tend to want him to play left midfield or even centrally, do you think he is not an option at left back? I know there are only so many permutations of players and positions that can be accomodated in your analysis.

    What is interesting to me is that if you add JOB to the left defenders pool you have Bocanegra, JOB, Spector, Vanney and Convey. This then appears (assuming that Spector lives up to his current level of play) to be a very DEEP position for us, freeing up Bocanegra for Central Defense which appears pretty thin (assuming that Pope will be two years older in 2006). While I certainly hope that Pope maintains his level of play, I am concerned.

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