By Alex Labidou,
There is a disturbing similarity between most of the players who are on the presumed bubble for the final 23 spots of the United States Men’s National Team World Cup roster.
Robbie Rodgers, Sacha Kljestan, Edson Buddle, Hercules Gomez, Brian Ching, Robbie Findley, Heath Pearce, Chad Marshall, Eddie Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley are competing for the last five or six spots on the team. With the exception of Beasley, Gomez and Johnson, the rest currently play for the MLS. After having double digit representatives for the past two World Cups, there is a shocking possibility that there might only be a little as five players from the country’s domestic league playing in South Africa this year.
Aside from Landon Donovan and Jonathan Bornstein, there are no consistent international contributors from the MLS currently featured on Coach Bob Bradley’s roster. While it is positive to see so many Americans finding roles on European club teams, a legitimate question is whether or not the MLS is suffering due to its inability to retain its top players. After all, how can the domestic league strengthen its national team if the level of solid talent continues to be inconsistent?
Buddle is a perfect example of the current dilemma facing MLS players. The 28-year old has been a solid contributor in the MLS for a decade and has had a magnificent season so far with the Los Angeles Galaxy. As good as his form has been, in the eyes of most pundits, fellow World Cup hopeful Gomez has had a better season because he put up nearly identical numbers in the superior Mexican Liga.
Buddle believes that he will prove that his season so far is legitimate in the World Cup training camp.
“There is a bit of little pressure to fit in,” said Buddle. “It’s based on what you show in training and in the upcoming games. When you get a chance to go in, you want to come out and show that you’re hungry to win.”
Chivas USA midfielder Kljestan actually agrees with the perceived overseas bias. While the 24-year old acknowledges that he has had a great season in the MLS, he admits that most teams in the league don’t have the level of training or facilities that that their European counterparts can offer.
“Guys that play overseas at bigger clubs and bigger leagues around the world have a better day in and out training schedule,” said Kljestan. “They are challenged at a much higher level everyday and their training is much better than what we have here in the MLS. It maybe gives them a little advantage.”
As a still developing league, the MLS doesn’t have the resources to currently compete with most of Europe’s top leagues. The Generation Adidas program has greatly assisted the league in keeping the country’s top prospects from avoiding the league all together. Yet, in order for the league to continue to develop better talent, it has to find better incentives to retain some of its better players. It might be impossible to keep them all but even keeping a few will help the league in gaining credibility.
In the end, both Buddle and Kljestan are happy to be enjoying their first World Cup training camp. Buddle said that the biggest surprise of training camp was just being invited to compete for the final 23 spots and after a rough period of international play for Kljestan, the 24-year old feels like he is putting things together at the right time.
“I didn’t have the best [Confederations Cup] tournament and after the qualifiers, I didn’t play with the team for almost five months,” said Kljestan. “Since January, I’ve worked my way back into the team with good form. I feel very consistent and very confident, so right now I feel I am playing very good football and I am in a strong point of my career. “
Five guys who are in the MLS who could be in the 2014 US World Cup roster:
- Tim Ream-NY Red Bulls-a defender who is playing like a poised veteran in his first season.
- Bill Hamid-DC United-the fact that Celtic wanted to sign the 19-year old as the eventual replacement for Artur Boruc should tell you something.
- Tony Tchani-NY Red Bulls-even though he wants to play for Cameroon, I have a feeling the next US coach is going to be persistent in trying to give him his first international cap.
- Omar Gonzalez-Los Angeles Galaxy-a big bruising defender at 6-5 that should remind a few of a young Oguchi Onyewu
- Danny Mwanga-Philadelphia Union-eventually a coach is going to realize how to use the 19-year old’s massive talents at forward. Will it be Peter Nowak? The verdict is still out on that one.
A smart tactical decision by Coach Bob Bradley and US Soccer might be…to make sure that Ricardo Clark and Oguchi Onyewu aren’t roommates. “Gooch Onyewu definitely is the person I’d least like to room with,” said Clark kiddingly. “We both always think that we’re right, so we argue about everything. I’m always right but he just doesn’t understand that.”
A man on a mission is…DaMarcus Beasley. Believe it or not, the 27-year old left midfielder is competing for an opportunity to make a third consecutive World Cup roster. Under Bradley, Beasley has often been erratic but his pace and dribbling ability on the left side of the pitch still make him a threat. Bradley has challenged the former Rangers and PSV player to be a leader and so far many of teammates as well as the coach agree that he has taken an enthusiastic approach to the role.