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Opinion: The Missing Magnificent Seven

Is Bob Bradley the poorest planner in history?

When I first learned that Bob Bradley was being given seven additional players from which he could set his game-day rosters, I argued on this blog that Bradley should select seven ‘men’, i.e., seven A-team players who could be used to help secure victories and, ultimately, a championship for the U.S.  After all, what better way to help the U.S. build momentum than to win two championships in a row.

Other commentators suggested Bradley should add seven new players, to further expand the pool of talent that he could evaluate.  But it was my belief that he already had more than enough players to fill in the remaining spots on the World Cup roster.  With all of the players on the original roster, it seemed clear that there would be enough talent that seven new players would never see the field.

And when Bradley named his roster, he named five of the seven players that we identified as well as Conor Casey and Brad Guzan.  It was a signal to fans that Bradley wanted the U.S. to seriously challenge for the Gold Cup.

But now, we must seriously question what Bob Bradley was doing.  In hindsight, it appears that Bob Bradley knew that Freddy Adu would not be with the team past the second match, that Steve Cherundolo and Michael Parkhurst would not stay past the group stage, and that Charlie Davies would not remain throughout the tournament.  (And today, word that Luis Robles has been released back to his club with Jon Busch taking his place on the gameday roster.)  In short, Bradley knew (or should have known) that four starters would not be with the team if it advanced out of the group stage.

It is hard to understand why Bradley would use his seven-player allowance to name only one player he had any intention of using in the tournament.  It costs the team depth — assuming Conrad is out of the tournament, the U.S. now has only 17 men to name to its 18-man match roster.  We were the only team with 30 men named to our tournament roster and yet we are the only team that cannot name a full roster for our next match.

And let’s face facts:  the teams that remain in the Confederations Cup are either capable of controlling our ‘A’ squad (Costa Rica) or licking their chops for the chance to beat the U.S. on American soil (Honduras and Mexico).

If Bradley sticks with the pledge that the remaining players will be the roster for the rest of the tournament, I see second-place to Costa Rica as our best-case scenario.  In that scenario, both Honduras and Mexico miss out on the chance to beat us at home, which could be particularly important with that WCQ at Azteca coming up in August.  And Costa Rica beating the MNT is nothing new.

Bob Bradley could be forgiven for naming at least four starters to a 23-man roster who he knew would not make it through the tournament.  Better to have Adu, Cherundolo, Parkhurst, and Davies for a little than not at all.  But when CONCACAF gave him an additional seven roster spots, Bradley had an opportunity to add depth that only he knew we needed.  And instead, he named players only one of which he appears to have had any interest in bringing in for matches.  (And he was brought in for a group-stage match.)

Bradley’s match tactics haven’t always been warmly received, but we can often provide at least arguable defenses for many of them.  But I cannot fathom a legitimate basis for the decision to use his gift from CONCACAF solely for the purpose of ensuring advancement out of a group stage that included Grenada and Haiti in a tournament that advanced the top 2 of 3 third-place teams.

If the U.S. can defeat a motivated Honduras squad and advance to the final, I think Bradley has an obligation to bring in at least one of those seven men.  If he does not, U.S. fans will have a legitimate basis for questioning his ability to handle the job.  As bad as other coaches are, can you name one who would name 30 players for a tournament and yet be unable to put a full 18 on a match roster?

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