I have a friend who is as Nats-obssessed as I am, and he sent me an email that I was going to write a long reply to. I have a policy of posting sports stuff, whatever it is, so I thought I'd do it here.
So I've been mulling various solutions to the Bornstein Problem. The most obvious one is just to move Bocanegra left--he's back to spending 90 minutes a game at left back for Rennes, and even scored the game-winner over the weekend--but if Gooch isn't healthy, what then? I was thinking that Edu's got enough experience at CB that I'd much rather see Boca-Edu-Demerit-Spector than Bornstein-Demerit-Boca-Spector. That would mean taking Edu out of midfield--where I think he has to be the de facto starter after his performance Wednesday and Clark's injury--but Clark can at least deputize there if he has to.
Another possible solution would be to switch Spector to left back, where he played for West Ham, and start Cherundolo. It'd be a lot easier of Cherundolo wasn't ALSO injured, but at least he's got a shoulder injury instead of a leg injury and should be back any day now. Anything's got to be better than Bornstein.
Onyewu should be healthy. His injury prognosis never lasted into the World Cup and he is back in training now, in three months he should be ready to go. He will be rusty as hell and probably won't have any games for AC Milan whatsoever, but the US isn't in a position where they can think about not starting him. So the easy solution of sliding Bocanegra over is likely to be what happens.
Cherundolo is in a spot similar to Onyewu. He will be rusty as hell but the USA is going to bring him and since it's just a shoulder he should be ready to go. Given the positional flexibility the US's backline has I assume he's the first guy in the starting lineup no matter where a hypothetical injury or suspension occurs. If it's center back, Spector flips to left and Bocanegra is in the middle. If it's left back, Spector flips to left. If Edu is in at CB at any point, the US is down at least two first-choice players and probably more.
I'm not that concerned about health in the back. I'm more concerned with rust and possession. Jay Demerit is a fantastic defender but the reason he topped out as a very good Championship level CB is what happens when he gets the ball. He looks like me out there. He's a hoofer. Any pressure, or any thing he imagines could be pressure, and he boots it upfield. That makes it even more difficult to get possession against a team like Holland. If there was anything at left back I'd rather see him on the bench. There isn't, so the hoofing is far the lesser of the evils.
Loney brought up a good point in his recap: if there's no Davies, should Donovan just play forward? I think it's obvious either Dempsey or Donovan is going to have to start up top if Davies can't go, probably Dempsey, but Donovan might mesh better with Altidore. That would leave a midfield of Dempsey-Bradley-Clark-???. Seriously, god DAMN Holden's injury; I think Holden after a good couple of months with Bolton could make that midfield good enough to get service to the forwards. Now? Eh. I guess you could also go Dempsey-Bradley-Clark-Beasley, but I think the Beas is probably a sub at best at this point, good as he looked the other night.
Everyone who reads this is going to instantly discount my opinion but here goes: I am tentatively in favor of Brian Ching. I know Ching does not score, and that this is generally believed to be the point of a striker. But if you can point me to any US forward, including Altidore, that can actually score consistently at a World Cup level, I will give you a nickel. None of them can score.
So if they can't score, Ching's dogged work ethic, set piece usefulness, and ability to hold the ball seem attractive options. But most importantly: Ching works spectacularly well with Donovan. He is a passing forward who has time an again picked Donovan out on his frequent killer runs. I think a major reason Donovan was so invisible against Holland was Robbie Findley and, it must be said, Jozy totally failing to get him involved when the ball came to them. Ching is basically equivalent to the rest of the USA forwards when it comes to putting the ball in the net, but probably better in all the other things.
And then, um, is it crazy to think it might be worth giving Brian McBride a callup? He's internationally retired but wouldn't he come back for the WC & runup? He's still producing for Chicago, with 12 goals in 33 games. He just frickin' scored against Chivas (That Chivas) in a Friendly. All of his bones and joints are currently operational. He is probably the best forward in Nats history. He's 37, sure, but beggars can't be choosers.
I do agree that Holden's injury makes it very difficult to put Dempsey at forward unless Beasley goes nuts at Rangers the rest of the year and does not shatter any of his many atom-thick bones.
Edu also has the atom-thick bone issue and is far from proven, but at least he doesn't have a record of insane red cards, deserved or not, like Clark does. Rangers have basically won the Scottish League already so I hope they'll do DMB and Edu a solid and give them a lot of run over the last dozen or so games.
I looked it up--of the 13 field players the U.S. put on the field at the Azteca last summer, 8 of them have suffered some form of major injury since then. The only ones that haven't are Donovan, Bradley, Altidore, Bocanegra, and Spector. I know soccer's got a high injury rate and you can't expect to have your very first-choice 11-and-3-subs, but still--that's ridiculous.
Timmah agrees with you:
But we're hoping that Charlie [Davies] makes it, hoping that Jermaine Jones makes it. Gooch [Onyewu] should make it. So should Clint [Dempsey]. Stu should be OK, barring any setbacks. But it's been really weird. As long as I've been on the team, going back eight years, we haven't had injuries like that. Maybe one guy hurts his knee and comes back around, but not this close to a big major tournament.
So it sounds like everyone should be healthy except possibly Davies, though what kind of shape they're in we'll never know. Jones is the ultimate wild card at this point. It's easy to forget this guy is Schalke's captain and widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Bundesliga.
Hey, at least we're not fretting that Chris Armas isn't available.
OTHER THINGS. After the Holland game, in which the US played the standard 4-4-2 with an actual attacking midfielder in Torres, I have come around on the boring USA game of double defensive midfielders. Torres doesn't fit well with the rest of the team if Demerit is hoofing it from the back and no one has enough bite to get the ball back. His touch and ball retention were useless against Holland. Maybe the US can take a more aggressive tack against an Algeria or a Slovenia, but until such point as they can actually pass it through the midfield, a double destroyer setup is the way to compete with the best in the world. Suck 'em in, bite 'em, and counter. Too bad Findley was such a git.
If you put a gun to my head I'd peg my starting 11 against England like so:
FORWARD: Altidore, Ching
WINGER: Donovan, Dempsey
CENTRAL MID: Bradley, Edu
DEFENSE: Bocanegra, Demerit, Onyewu, Spector
MAN WE LOCK TO A TIM HORTON'S IN SASKATCHEWAN: Bornstein