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May 13, 2010
Lalas on the USNT roster

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

Former USA World Cup Team defender and ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas says coach Bob Bradley’s “A” roster can hold their own against any team in the world, but a lack of experienced substitutes could cause problems in South Africa.
Former USA World Cup Team defender and ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas says coach Bob Bradley’s “A” roster can hold their own against any team in the world, but a lack of experienced substitutes could cause problems in South Africa.
Photo courtesy ESPN
Former U.S. National Team defender Alexi Lalas was not surprised by any of USA coach Bob Bradley’s selections for the preliminary World Cup roster, but the ESPN analyst is concerned about the team’s lack of depth at almost every position.

Lalas, who played in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups for the US, and is now an in-studio analyst for ESPN, was not surprised that forward Charlie Davies did not make the team.

“That’s not necessarily surprising,” Lalas said from Boston, where he was making the keynote speech at the America Scores New England dinner, “but that’s something that still jumps out at people because there was this ‘what-if’ scenario.

“It’s disappointing for him from a personal standpoint,” Lalas said of Davies. “For the players because of what he meant to the team off the field and from a practical standpoint to not have what he is in terms of his unique abilities speedwise to play with this team, really hurts.”

Lalas said the Davies injury really underscores the lack of depth the U.S. has at the forward position.

“There’s no other players that have what he has in terms of that speed and can break open defenses and can stretch defenses,” Lalas said. “But, for the past six, seven months, we haven’t had Charlie Davies as part of the team, so we’re still in the same position that we were.”

Because the list of 30 players that was announced on Tuesday is a preliminary roster, Lalas says it’s still hard to tell what the team is going to look like in a month when they kick off against England. Several of the players, such as Oguchi Onyewu, Brian Ching and Stuart Holden, are coming off injuries and not match fit. Another two, strikers Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez, have only one cap apiece and were called into camp based on their recent performances in MLS and Mexico’s Primera Division.

“I think its important to note that there’s still seven guys that are going to be taken off this list,” said Lalas.” So ,while somebody’s name might be surprising, it’s not necessarily that they’ll be there at the end.”

With only a handful of forwards on hand, including the aforementioned Buddle, Gomez and Ching, along with Jozy Altidore, Robbie Findley and Eddie Johnson, Bradley doesn’t have a whole lot of international experience to choose from.

“I think the most interesting part of the whole process is how it’s going to shake out in terms of the strikers and who that strike force is going to be when all is said and done, both in terms of the players that are part of that group and who starts on June 12th.”

Lalas, who will be part of ESPN’s studio team for the World Cup, doesn’t think last year’s performance in the Confederations Cup, when the U.S. beat top ranked Spain and gave Brazil a run for the championship, was a fluke.

“The strength is when this team has got its full 11 healthy and playing well, I’ll put them up against anyone and take our chances.”

Unfortunately for Bradley and U.S. fans, that’s not the case right now.

“The biggest weakness, and we’re seeing some of it with this not knowing who is going to play where, is that there is not a whole lot of depth,” Lalas explained.” That’s just the reality of the situation. One or two of these players gets hurt, or isn’t in form or has a bad day and that machine starts to break down. And when you start to move some of those pieces its very, very difficult. So that’s a problem.”

While the team has players who can play different positions, such as Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey, both of whom can play forward, it then creates other problems, according to Lalas.

“Right now as it stands, a Clint Dempsey is going to have to move up top. That’s all fine and well, but now who’s going to play in his spot in the midfield, and all these different questions as you’re moving these puzzle pieces around for Bob Bradley.

“One of the best things that has happened over the past couple of years, there’s been a consistency of players and of blocks in terms of the midfield and the defense. So that’s the major weakness, the lack of depth.”

How significant that weakness turns out to be might not be known for about a month.

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