MLS Start Might Have Affect On World Cup

30 03 2010

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MLS players who could fill out World Cup roster
By Julio Lara Daily Journal Staff
For weeks now, our countdown to South Africa 2010 has had an international flavor to it.

It’s been with good reason  — a lot of what will affect play only 72 days from today has been happening overseas where the cream of the soccer crop plays.

Today, we’re shifting our sights domestically. Last week Major League Soccer kicked off their 2010 season with a 2-0 Seattle Sounders win over the expansion Philadelphia Union.

It’s important for U.S National team fans to pay attention, especially in the next couple of weeks, to what’s happening on the MLS pitch. While there are your locks (see: Landon Donovan L.A Galaxy), there are also some players on the proverbial bubble who, with a good start for their MLS team, can punch a ticket to South Africa and represent the Stars and Stripes. Those on the list include:

Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo)

Ching has what the United States needs: the ability to find the back of net. His Dynamo tied FC Dallas 1-1 in their season opener and in their final exhibition game Ching has a pair of assists in a victory. There are those who believe that Ching is already a lock, but with Jozy Altidore playing well for Hull City, Clint Dempsey improving his form for Fulham and Charlie Davies beginning his track back to the international team, Ching might be the odd man out. The wild card in that equation is definitely Davies who might prove too irresistible for coach Bob Bradley not to bring along for South Africa 2010 with any kind of success with Sochaux. But with a couple of goals in some games with the Dynamo, the same can be said about Ching.

Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA)

Kljestan might have done just enough during international player earlier in 2010 to lock up a spot in the competition for a spot in the U.S midfield, especially if Bradley decides to move Dempsey up front as a striker in South Africa. That said, Bradley was on hand for Chivas USA’s 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids, most likely to further evaluate him and his teammate Bornstein. The status in the U.S midfield can change quickly — that’s because Jose Torres and Herculez Gomez are tearing it up in Mexico. Gomez is interesting as a striker and has come out of nowhere to add a little more suspense to the U.S team selection because the Star and Stripes are thin up front. According to the best soccer blog around, Soccer by Ives (soccerbyives.net), Bradley has already made contact with Gomez as he plays for Puebla.

If Gomez is chosen in the 11th hour to play up front for the U.S., that might slide Dempsey back to the midfield taking a spot away from someone on the bubble like Kljestan.

Bornstein and Chivas had their hands full Thursday night in trying to contain Omar Cummings and another U.S national team hopeful in Conor Casey. But overall, the reports out of Los Angeles are that Bornstein did well. Casey is another one of those MLS players who with a strong start to his season might make it difficult for Bradley to ignore.

Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)

I got to see Findley play first-hand while covering the San Jose Earthquakes season opener last Saturday. Watching him play, the reasons why you would want him in South Africa are obvious. He’s got great speed on a team that would absolutely need it. But the reasons why you see that he’s not ready for that level of competition were there as well. Talking a little about Findley with those who get to watch him play a lot in Salt Lake City, his lack of a true finishing touch is a concern even at the MLS level. There was a moment that sticks out late in that game where he had Joe Cannon on the ground and a wide open net but failed to score. For a world-class caliber striker that is simply unacceptable. I only see him landing on the U.S team if he somehow goes on an insane goal-scoring run thus proving he can combine that speed of his with an ability to score. But as mentioned, things are already very tight at the forward position for the United States and only getting tighter, so the task isn’t a small one.

***

Leander Schaerlaeckens of ESPN.com’s Soccernet had a great piece in their World Cup 101 feature yesterday about the MLS’ recent success in producing national team-caliber talent. He said of the 23 players on the current international roster, 16 have had some sort of MLS experience. His article is a definite read.

***

By the way, the search continues for great places to enjoy the World Cup on the Peninsula. I’m taking recommendations and planning to visit as many of these places as possible, so keep the suggestions coming.

Julio Lara can be reached by e-mail: julio@smdailyjournal.com or on twitter @julitolara

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