By Casey Ward
When Bob Bradley announced his provisional roster for the 2010 World Cup, few followers of the Men’s National Team (Possible nicknames: Stars and Bars, Golden Eagles, White Stars?) could have expected both Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall to be included. Plagued by injuries and inconsistent form over the past eight months, Marshall was the least surprising choice, ironically. He endured a particularly disgraceful outing with the national team during the Gold Cup, but somehow saved face with the coaching staff by putting in much better performances for his club. Anyone who has cheered for the Crew or for a team that has played against the Crew already understands his almost innate positional sense and collectedness on the ball. He is also better than anyone in the MLS in the air, and has been for the past two years.
Rogers, however, is perhaps the most shocking inclusion in a squad selected by a relatively conservative coach. His statistics for his
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club were certainly not the basis for his call-up: 1 goal and 0 assists in 2010; 1 goal and 5 assists in 2009. In addition to the paucity of goals, Rogers has struggled to maintain possession long enough to draw fouls this season, a quality that helped the Crew secure the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup in 2008. His struggles must have gone unnoticed by Bradley, or perhaps the lack of a true winger in the US player pool necessitated his inclusion. Either way, I expect Rogers will be home in time to hand the Los Angeles Galaxy their first loss on Saturday. Marshall, due to the hamstring injury which has prevented him from fully participating in the camp, will need a very good performance against the Czech Republic to rise above Clarence Goodson in the pecking order (assuming he sees the field). While neither of our boys is likely to make the final cut, their inclusion in the provisional squad rewards two integral parts of a very successful domestic team. Plus, the ambition and passion present in a national team training camp is likely to make Marshall and Rogers hungrier.
In my last article, I criticized Robert Warzycha’s decision to leave Jed Zayner, Emmanuel Ekpo and Emilio Renteria on the bench. Apparently someone told him that a Crew fan was upset and, hoping to quickly bolster my spirits, he inserted all three into the Crew lineup against the New York Red Bulls. This is always how a solipsistic critic imagines the lives and decisions of others. My self-deprecation may not be so deserved, as the Crew cruised to a 3-1 victory in New York. Zayner, Ekpo and Renteria, in particular, all contributed well to the win. Renteria squelched any hope of a Red Bull comeback by plucking the ball from two decidedly confused New York defenders and beating Boula Coundoul one-on-one to tally the Crew’s third goal. It capped off a superb substitute appearance from the Venezuelan, who showed not only his massive strength when holding off defenders, but also his silky samba skills when celebrating his first goal of the season. More was to come on Sunday afternoon in Kansas City. Renteria, again used as a substitute, rose between a confused Jimmy Nielson and Jimmy Conrad, who combined are nine inches taller than Renteria, to head a corner kick into the roof of the net for the game’s sole decider. With Rogers away and Moffat looking ever-unready for professional competition, “The Deer,” as he is inexplicably called in Venezuela, should get the nod on Saturday against the toughest defense in the country. That gives Crew personnel ample time to prep the samba music.
Casey Ward is an unabashed fan of Major League Soccer. He has a BA from Michigan State University and an MFA from Ohio State University. He can be reached at email@example.com