In this playful piece, we pose a question or make a statement about something in soccer that will be opined about, agreed and disagreed on, by YOU, the reader. No more so-called experts giving safe, politically correct answers. Those days are over. Instead, we’ve opened the floor to everyone out there in Cyberland to throw in their two cents.
In May, we asked you this: Who will be the U.S. starting eleven for the Men’s National Team as they open CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying versus Grenada on June 13 in Columbus?
Always a subject of heated debate among fans across the country, this starting lineup selection process was no different, inciting the heaviest e-mail bag of responses that we’ve received. But surprisingly, of the hundreds of responses, less than five (Big Ups to Chris Ferris and Walter Burenin) nailed it on the head by picking the correct starters out of the final 19-player roster. Most everyone had the midfield and forwards right, but the back line picks were all over the map. Does that mean we might have some personnel problems down the road in qualifying with so many question marks in our starting defense? Nah. It means we’re loaded at those and every other position now more than ever before and you can slot any of those players in there and feel comfortable. Below are the best of the best Bruce-For-A-Day breakdowns:
"Goal : Keller will start. I think Walker is a great keeper, but Bruce will go with experience. Defense: Chrerundolo - Pope - Bocanegra - Vanney in the back. These were the hardest positions to fill, because Carlos can play on the left, while Sanneh could slide into the middle or right back slots. But Pope and Bocanegra have played together in the middle a lot, so I think that's what we'll see. I almost went with Convey out wide, but I imagine we'll see a more experienced defender there in Vanney. Midfield: Reyna and Armas as defensive/holding midfielders. These guys are both locks when healthy. Donovan and Beasley will line up in front of them in the box formation we've seen a lot of lately. Again, when healthy those two are a given. Forward: McBride up top is a no-brainer. I think Casey will pair-up with him, although I wouldn't be surprised to Kirovski instead."
--Chris Ferris / 35 / Bellaire, Texas
"Okay so here it is. Assuming the U.S. goes with the 4-4-2, you have to first start with Kasey Keller in the net. Jonny Walker has shown good form, but he’s not really tested to the point where I am comfortable with him in goal. Keller has been here before and this match should be a walk in the park for him. Though he should not be tested, he will be very solid against any challenge. At defense you have to go with Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Pope, Tony Sanneh, and Steve Cherundolo. Cherundolo was very impressive during the last match with his fitness and ability to join the attack, especially utilizing the long ball. The other three backs have experience, not to mention size and physicality. In the midfield, Reyna has to be in the line-up. His ability to control the game is a must no matter the other 10. Along with Reyna, Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley, and Landon Donovan make the midfield very exciting. With Donovan and Beasley on the wings, the U.S. can really speed up the pace and work in some dangerous crosses, which leads me to the forwards. Conor Casey and Brian McBride showed to be a deadly combination against Honduras. Both have skill and size, which neither is afraid to use. Since returning from England, McBride has improved his shot dramatically and has made him an even more potent offensive weapon. There you have it, my starting 11. No matter who is on the pitch for the match, the U.S. should come out with a good result.
--Evan Himes / 23 / Vienna, Ohio
"I think Bruce is going to field a very attack-minded lineup. The U.S. needs to come out strong and build an early lead in the home leg of the series. For that reason, Convey gets the start at left back over Vanney, and will start most of the attacks out of the back. It is also the reason Reyna will replace the more defensive Armas as the holding midfielder. Reyna has experience playing that position for some of his clubs sides and he will help provide a quick transition out of the back. Hejduk gets the start at right back due to his work rate and the injury to Sanneh. He will also be playing on his home field. Since Stewart will be doing double duty for club and country, Cherundolo gets the nod on the right wing where his pace and accurate crosses make him dangerous. Bocanegra gets the start at left center back where his ability in the air and offensive production give him the edge over Gibbs, who is coming back from injury. Casey gets the start up top over Kirovski, because of his recent form and budding chemistry with McBride. The speedy trifecta of Beasley, Donovan, and Cherundolo will fuel the attack, with the wing backs pushing up often. The duel playmakers in the midfield will add an extra creative spark with Convey and Cherundolo providing dangerous crosses. Reyna will orchestrate the attack and Donovan
will be the head of the spear, exploding out of the midfield. The U.S. will have four big targets on set pieces in McBride, Casey, Bocanegra, and Pope. The defense will be anchored by the skill and qualifying experience of Pope and Keller. If the goals don't come, look to see Stewart and Lewis as early subs. Go Yanks! See you at the game!"
--Lindsay McLennan / 31 / Ann Arbor, Mich.
"Keller has to be in Goal, although I respect a name like Johnnie (sic) Walker. Sanneh and Hejduk on the right and left respectively pressing the attack with crosses from the sides (man, they're good at that).
Pope and Bocanegra marking the guys in the middle, they can probably switch off and take naps during the game. Armas is the best defensive midfielder born in the United States, ever. Reyna holding and Beasley and Donovan combining with him in the middle is as beautiful as any midfield in the world.
McBride takes a beating in the air like no other and Kirovski can team up and clean up the trash very effectively. Bruce, are you getting this?"
--Alex Fordney / 21 / Rome, Ga.
"The U.S. National Team starting eleven will be: Kasey Keller: He brings world-class talent and decades of national-team experience in a position that Americans dominate. Eddie Pope: He's simply the U.S.'s best central defender. Tony Sanneh: He'll partner with Pope in central defense. His size, experience and skill will make him an ideal partner to clog the middle and restart the attack. His recent performances for the national team have been strong --especially coming back from a long back injury. A lack of match fitness could keep him out. Steve Cherundolo -- His time has come. He has played exceedingly well in recent friendlies both as an attacking right back and a superb defender and man marker. Carlos Bocanegra -- His strong play for Fulham at left back and his consistently strong performance on the U.S. Nat's makes him a shoe-in on the left side. Chris Armas: His hustle and ball-winning skills and other intangibles such as immense desire to win make him an obvious candidate for defensive mid-- especially since Pablo Mastroeni was not called up. DaMarcus Beasley -- There's nobody faster or tougher on the left wing than Beasley. Landon Donovan -- Speed. Skill. Vision. Talent. He's got it all. Donovan will play on the right but will pinch inside, giving him the ability to take on defenders with his quickness and touch. That will open Cherundolo to make overlapping runs down the right sideline to stretch the defense and drop crosses into the middle. Claudia Reyna -- Capt. America is simply America's best soccer player and one of the world's most talented and underrated midfielders. He is the engine that drives the Nat's forward, and like Keller in goal, Reyna is calm under pressure and clinical in his play. Brian McBride -- If there were any doubts about his fitness, then he dispelled them against Honduras. His two-goal effort proves the move to Fulham paid off and shows that America's preeminent target man still has the firepower. Conor Casey -- Let the experiment continue. Casey proved against Honduras that two big men up front complement rather than cancel each other. Individually, Casey's play has been outstanding for club and country. He's ready to rock."
--Stanley Holmes / Seattle, Wash.
"Goalkeeper: You almost want to start Johnny Walker just to give him some WCQ experience
against a weak opponent, but to keep players sharp you have to make every starting position a competition. Only the best player available starts in a qualifier, and unless he's been slacking off in camp, that's Keller. Defense: Bocanegra on pedigree, Pope on experience, Sanneh on attacking
abiliy, and Hejduk (yes, surfer dude) to contain the only weapon Grenada may have, speedy forwards. They don't have the technical passing to warrant Cherundolo. Convey can sub to help pile on the goals in the second half. Midfield: 1st three are easy: Donovan, Reyna, and Armas. The fourth spot is more difficult but I think you continue with Beasely who'll disrupt any Grenadan flow with his hustle. It'll also give him a chance to link up with Donovan offensively. Forwards: Honduras speaks for itself, Casey and McBride. They look like a good combo and should only get better."
Stay tuned for the July question in the coming weeks and then e-mail your BRIEF, but well-crafted rant to firstname.lastname@example.org. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME, AGE AND CITY OF RESIDENCE. Feel free to submit responses for as many months as you wish, but in the interest of sharing the spotlight, we will be giving space to different respondents from month to month.
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