Road to 2014: The Brazil Board 2.0
A couple of things we learned from the national team's 4-0 loss to Spain that we're throwing into the latest edition of the Brazil Board (click here for version 1.0):
Maybe the U.S. midfield isn't that crowded after all, and maybe the back line is even thinner than we thought.
Spain carved up the starting central midfield of Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu, who despite their club pedigrees and playing time showed little resistance defensively and absolutely nothing offensively. When Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey stepped into the middle in the second half, the U.S. was a different team. If Stuart Holden comes back to anywhere near the level he showed at Bolton last season, there's no problem for the Yanks in the central midfield. If not ... well, let's not dwell on that for now.
Meanwhile, the fact that the Board (below) starts two back-line players who've never played a minute of a meaningful U.S. match ... well, we don't have to tell you what that says. Oguchi Onyewu had a chance to show whether he'd recaptured anything close to his 2009 Confederations Cup form. He didn't. And Eric Lichaj proved that a right-footed player running up the left wing and trying to cross is like a tennis player forced to run around his backhand.
That's why big, fast, skilled and left-footed Brek Shea, no matter how raw, is our 2014 starter this time around, usurping Jonathan Bornstein. Lichaj? He's a great prospect, but right now we like him a lot better as Steve Cherundolo's heir apparent than as a left back.
Speaking of Cherundolo, we figured at the start of this cycle that he and Carlos Bocanegra would be too old to make the U.S. roster in 2014. But with each passing U.S. match, we're starting to wonder about that.
Not everything the Spain match revealed was negative. Tim Ream and Lichaj both seem to have a future. So does Juan Agudelo. They got slapped around by the best team in the world but never stopped running and competing. In that sense, they looked more like U.S. national team veterans Saturday than some of the actual veterans.
Finally, Timmy Chandler's absence has inspired weeks of nail biting and hand wringing from fans worried he's heading to Germany. From what we're hearing, there's nothing to worry about. So the kid stays in the picture.
We'll update the Brazil Board again after the Gold Cup, as the future lineup should become a little clearer after multiple games in the next month. For now, here's what the 2014 lineup looks like from where we're standing.