Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seriously... what the hell is he thinking?

I'm not in the mood to mince words or getting all wound up through great elaboration, so I'll cut right to the point.

Today, USMNT coach Bob Bradley called 23 players for a midweek friendly against Denmark in Aarhus, yet stunningly ignored AGF attacker Jeremiah White. This, my friends, is a bush league maneuver.

Now, nobody is suggesting White should be thrust into the World Cup frame suddenly - but to not even call the guy into camp for a game at his club's home park is an overt slap in the face.

Forget that White has largely been unfairly ignored for a long while now. Forget that 'Nats get a call, a dressing or even a cameo in their home parks all the time. Forget that some of the attacking midfield players brought to Denmark have just finished their MLS seasons, chocked full of additional international duty. Forget the added cold water fact that AGF teammate Benny Feilhaber (who, admittedly, is deeper in the frame than White) will be in Red, White & Blue for the game. Forget even that Bradley has his favorites, as any coach does.

I do not even want to hear how this is a "World Cup prep friendly". The tourney is seven months off and half the stars are unavailable due to injury or club commitments. It doesn't wash.

The simple truth is there is no excuse for not being able to find 5-10 minutes of pitch time for White at NRGi Park on Wednesday, much less excluding him altogether. And if there is a personal grudge angle to this, frankly, that makes it even worse to deny the rare opportunity for a (to date) career American abroad to wear his national shirt in front of his adoring home fans.

Seriously... what in THE hell is Bob Bradley thinking?

- Greg Seltzer


Denny said...

Wow, good pick up on this.

I definitely understand how this would happen though. Don't you get the feeling that old Bob just doesn't have the scope and depth of understanding to lead the nats? I feel like this is something any national team manager should be on top of, there's no excuse. Which makes me wonder if there is another side to all of this?

Greg Seltzer said...

I'm not going to pretend I know exactly what's going on here and I'm not going to assume things I do know are relevant. But as I said, any sort of personal angle to this automatically makes it much worse in my book. At the least, I am hoping that it is some other, less appalling type of oversight.

Denny said...

Complete oversight would be unacceptable, but from Bob I wouldn't put it past him. But if there is a personal angle, if not from him but from his staff who MUST know that White plays alongside Feilhaber, then that makes it so much worse.

So oddly enough, I am hoping Bob is just an incompetent and ignorant manager, instead of a heartless bastard who plays favorites. These are the only two sides I see out of this, regardless of whatever other issues played into this gaff.

jon said...

The only personal affront I can think of is the rumor that White turned down a Gold Cup invite. Any truth to that, Greg?

Adam said...

Implying a personal grudge without any shred of proof is poor journalism, and not the standard we've come to expect from you.

Greg Seltzer said...

I can't say for certain, but I'm somewhat sure that did not happen. White was on the provisional 30-man roster released to CONCACAF before the final squad was picked, but he has mostly just been flat ignored by Bradley over the last three years.

Perhaps some rift did happen before that, but I think this Gold Cup rejection rumour you've mentioned is exactly that.

Greg Seltzer said...

I don't believe I've implied any such thing, Adam.

I merely said that IF it was a factor, the episode would become even more annoying. These are people, after all - it's certainly in the realm of possibility for people to have a rift.

Greg Seltzer said...

Besides, I'm not one to go specifically airing player/manager or player/player problems.

I'd need more hands and feet to count the number of backroom snits between people in the game that I've kept quiet.

Jon E. said...

"The simple truth is there is no excuse for not being able to find 5-10 minutes of pitch time for White at NRGi Park on Wednesday, much less excluding him altogether."
The simple truth is that there are a lot of perfectly good excuses. Maybe White his a minor injury. Maybe White declined a call-up for some reason or requested not to be called up. Maybe Bradley is planning to call him into Camp Cupcake instead.

Or maybe Bradley just doesn't think the guy is good enough to contribute to the World Cup squad in 2010 and wants to use one of the two remaining FIFA dates between now and the World Cup to look at guys who have a more realistic chance to contribute.

I wouldn't have minded seeing White called up at all. If nothing else, it would have been a nice gesture.

But I also think that the job of a national team manager isn't to make nice gestures at the expense of building a team, especially not this close to the World Cup.

Greg Seltzer said...

I'll take these one at a time, Jon.


1 - If White has a minor injury, it's news to all three of us.

2 - If White declined, then yes, that's another thing and Bradley is clean. Without getting into specifics, simply by posting this I am saying that I have excluded that scenario from the equation.

Is it possible I am wrong? I suppose it is, but I still posted it. If it does turn out I was wrong, then be sure to come back and watch me eat humble pie. I'll have no problem admitting a mistake... I just don't think there is one here.

3 - A call to January's camp has utterly no bearing on being excluded on Wednesday. Less than none.

4 - Quick question: do you feel that Bradley views Dax McCarty as a viable World Cup 2010 option right now?

I don't either.

5 - How would this gesture work against team building? And what team are we building Wednesday? Most of the stars aren't there for this game.


Sorry, I just don't like it one damn bit. As I said, if I am wrong, I will publicly eat my crow like a good boy.

Greg Seltzer said...

By the way, a quick check showed that Bradley has used 51 players in 2009 alone. Therefore, he has probably used some number in the 80-90-100 range during his three years as USMNT boss.

Jeremiah White has played nine USMNT minutes in that span. Nine.

GMC said...

Sorry, this isn't senior day for the varsity soccer team. The fact that the game is being played in Aarhus rightfully has no bearing on who is or isnt called in for the game. Why waste time calling someone up that you dont rate? White has not "right" to be on this roster. This is the big leagues. Leave your sentimentality out of it.

Connor Walsh said...

he does this for underwhelming MLS players all the time but when this one rolls around only one player from Denmark gets the call (Feilhaber). Jeremiah White, Danny Califf, and Michael Parkhurst are all better players than Conrad, Heydude, and Rogers...its pathetic from Bradley.

Greg Seltzer said...

Other players receive such gestures, GMC. It's not about sentimental, it;s about right. If no one else received them, fine. But it happens plenty for others.

GMC said...

Happens for who, exactly?

Kurt said...

What an idiot. That is horrible.

Jesse said...

I am projecting that Bob is planning on starting Torres at left mid, and needs the bench role at that position to evaluate Rogers or Castillo. So there really isn't room for White on this roster if Torres is being considered as Donovan's primary backup by this coaching staff rather than as a central midfielder.

Worm said...

Personally, I think White should have been on that roster too, but in fairness to Bradley (I'm not his biggest fan either), White has started in 6 of 15 games this season and been subbed off in all of them. He has been subbed on in another 5 for a total of 526 minutes. Home field or not, the guy has definitely been in better match form than he is now.

As for the Gold Cup call-up, AGF GM Brian Steen Nielsen wrote to the USSF requesting that both White and Feilhaber be excluded from the final roster.

Brian said...

I would like to give Bob the benefit of the doubt. But then I see three (3!) left backs called in and now I'm confused.

Worm said...

Just an edit to my above comment: He has been subbed off in 5 of 6 starts and subbed on in another 6 games.

Greg Seltzer said...

@ Jesse: White is a natural right-sider. That's also where he's back to starting for AGF.

@ Worm: Thanks for the Gold Cup clarification. I should have thought to ask you.

However, while you are correct that White's season as a whole to date has been less impressive than last season, his very most recent form has been good.

Greg Seltzer said...

@ Brian: I've said it before, and I'll probably repeat it again: Bornstein (and a couple others like Clark, Holden and Kljestan) should be getting a breather right now. We have enough injuries, there's no need to push guys just ending a long, busy year for these friendlies.

Evan said...

i cant believe greg is catching so much crap on this. plain and simple: white should have been called in. clearly bradley knows him and rates him (on the provisional gold cup roster). giving the guy a seat on the bench would have been the proper thing to do. lets not forget that bob has a history of giving sentimental call ups to people who dont deserve it. anyone remember that jesse marsch got a call up (and mins)?

beyond that, winger is a position that we are truly thin at. we all saw how injuries made us thin at center back when six months ago we all thought it was one of our strongest areas. god forbid, but what happens if dempsey and holden (or any two or three wingers) go down before the wc? i would have liked to have tried people out than have to have someone like sacha out there.

we will see, and if there is a legit reason behind it, then sure greg will admit he is wrong, but i think there is something else going on here. the guy should have been called in.

Greg Seltzer said...

Thanks Evan. Now we can both catch crap and I get my workload cut in half. :D

You made an excellent point about the right wing situation that I skipped over in the interest of rant control.

Greg Seltzer said...

@ GMC: I'm not ignoring you, by the way. I will gather up a few examples for you once I finish this Player Ratings column you guys keep tearing me away from for discussion.

Greg Seltzer said...

Just off the very top of my head, though, I recall not long ago when many people were complaining how Bradley served up some home cooking WCQ minutes to Beckerman at Rio Tinto (just to clarify: their complaint, not mine).

Greg Seltzer said...

Okay, GMC. I grabbed a few home cookin' moments from the Bradley era, but really this is a very normal thing for all national team coaches to do, adding local flavor to a squad.

I didn't pick every possible one, just a handful where it seems pretty obvious the site of game altered player usage slightly. I avoided all tourney proper matches. Naturally, there are varying degrees of gesture here. In some cases, I'm not even suggesting the player wasn't at all worthy of inclusion, just that the home factor played some part in usage.

- Beckerman at Rio Tinto in November.

- Evans in Seattle on July 4th... at right back, no less.

- Nov '08, Clark and Mastroeni start a WCQ in Colorado. I include Mastro because he did not appear for four games prior or three after that one.

- Guzan starts WCQ against Barbados at the HDC.

- August '07, Wolff starts v. Brazil in Chicago.

And, finally one of Charlie Davies' first caps (no. 4? 5?) came in Göteburg while he was with Hammarby.

So yeah, this is no odd bird we're talking about. When it happens, one has to wonder what's going on.

Sean Heffernan said...

In defense of Dax I thought he looked pretty good against Slovakia. I don't know why Bob really needed to call Holden and Clark who've played so much already for the US this year and are just coming off a long MLS season. That's two spots that Bob could've used for players like White or Mix or Pontius whose national team potential are largely unknown.

DM said...

@ Sean Heffernan:

Good point. White, Diskeruud, and Pontius are unknown quantities on the national stage. But I think it's more Bradley's style to call up unknowns to the January camp to evaluate them in private before he throws them into the bigtime.

In my opinion, the most plausible explanation for Denmark's roster is that Bob's trying to breed some team fraternity and player-coach loyalty with a core group of young players before the World Cup. I think he wants to use the rosters of these two friendlies to demonstrate his commitment to his young regulars("favorites") before the January camp, where he can call in some new boys without perturbing some of the other young guys who have performed solidly for him in the past (i.e., Feilhaber, Clark, Holden, Altidore, Rogers, and Torres).

Basically, I think he's sending the message that, hey, these are guys that have capitalized on the minutes I've given them, and that kind of effort and spirit means something on my team. And if this is this case, well then, so much the better, in my book. I want a guy like that at the helm for WC2010--look at what that kind of ethic and ethos did to turn around the Confed Cup when we had all written ourselves off.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% You call up Dax fucking McCarty but can't give the hometown kid a run out? Complete BS.

Jon E. said...

First, I want to repeat that I wouldn’t have minded seeing White called up. Especially since we’re not exactly deep when it comes to true wingers. I guess I’m just not as upset as you are since I feel that, at this point in the cycle, Bradley’s job is to do whatever he feels will help him begin to select a World Cup squad. If calling up White would help him do that, great. If it wouldn’t, well, I’m not too bothered.

“1 - If White has a minor injury, it's news to all three of us."
Yeah, I'm not saying he does. But I seem to remember a half-dozen or so occasions during this cycle when people have been surprised (or infuriated) that Bradley didn’t call somebody up only for us to discover that the player had a knock of some kind. You may well have better info, though.

“2 - If White declined, then yes, that's another thing and Bradley is clean. Without getting into specifics, simply by posting this I am saying that I have excluded that scenario from the equation.”
Fair enough. I was just remembering that over the summer White’s coach negotiated him (and mostly Feilhaber) out of the Gold Cup, and I wondered if somebody—White or manager—might have said no for similar reasons, especially since Feilhaber is already getting called up. Again, you’d almost surely have better info.

"3 - A call to January's camp has utterly no bearing on being excluded on Wednesday. Less than none."
Unless you see this friendly’s camp as one about match-time talent evaluation and general team integration. It’s possible that, at this point in the cycle, Bradley feels that White is far enough down on the depth chart that he can't afford to call White for an important friendly only as a gesture of respect. In which case, a Camp Cupcake call-up would let Bradley evaluate White without using a valuable roster spot for one of the rare full-strength friendlies between now and South Africa. (If there were no Camp Cupcake, Bradley might have been more tempted to call up White.)

“4 - Quick question: do you feel that Bradley views Dax McCarty as a viable World Cup 2010 option right now?”
Probably not. But, unlike White, McCarthy has become a crucial regular starter for his team. And at least for the Slovakia game, McCarthy plays a spot where all the guys clearly ahead of him (Clark, Edu, and Jones) were unavailable or on the field first.

“5 - How would this gesture work against team building? And what team are we building Wednesday? Most of the stars aren't there for this game.”
I mean team-building in the sense of starting to get the guys who have a real shot to play in South Africa familiar with each other. I’m not saying it would’ve hurt morale or anything along those lines.

Jon E. said...

Looks like Torres has asked to be excused from the camp. Maybe White will get his shot after all.

Will Lytle said...

Not sure why so many are coming to Bob's defence here.

Unless White turned down the offer, this was a clear low blow on Bob's part. White has played well enough from the times I've seen him to get a local call up. Whether you think locals should be called in and played or not is not the point. The fact is that Bob does this for players he gets on with, and White is certainly a good enough player to merit the call.

I'm hoping that Torres exclusion now leads to White getting called up, but I doubt it will.

Charley said...

i think this is just a reason to complain about bradley. haters will attack him, and lovers will defend.

it's just like so many other debates and useless arguing about the state of the national team.

it is not a big deal.

Greg Seltzer said...

@ Sean: I had no problem with the Dax call-up. In fact, I suggested he be called up before the Slovakia roster came out.

@ DM: A few quick bits on your reply...

#3 - This really is not an important friendly. It is, however, certainly the only time the USMNT will play at NRGi Park in the foreseeable future.

#4 - White fits both of these criteria as well.

#5 - As I said, most of the stars aren't even available. Thus, this won't qualify as "World Cup squad building" with or without White.

@ Jon E: I sure hope so.

@ Charley: I don;t and haven;t in three years simply looked for reasons to criticize Bradley. When he does well, I compliment him - enough so that some readers find fault with my compliments of him.

Right or wrong, this genuinely ticked me off.

Denny said...

I was there when Brad Evans came on late in the Gold Cup in front of his home crowd. I can tell you, it really is something special for the supporters and team to have some hometown talent and support out there in colors. Even if it's away, it's a show of support for the entire US program and American players everywhere. White has been called up before. He has paid his dues, playing solidly overseas for some time now. He more than deserves it.

This isn't about sentimentality, it's a credit to the viability of the USMNT and the strength of the program to show this sort of accountability, to remind players that it means something to wear the red, white, and blue.

Anonymous said...

Merely adding here that Jeremiah White was in the January 2008 camp that Bradley ran and that Bradley used him in as a sub against Sweden that same January.

Coach Bob has an impeccable record at getting players run in front of their home squad or even just selecting them.

In WCQfing he got Findley in the roster at least at Rio Tinto and T&T--classy.

My guess--and only a guess--is that especially with BF on the team if there was an opportunity to get White involved as a legitimate candidate for a roster spot it was probably investigated. This is just a guess.

Also, and I'm not calling out the authors of this blog I'm merely making a point, we should commend Bradley on continuing serious trials with the World Cup shortly around the corner.

Finally, no shame in Coach Bob getting run to MLS players who are in shape now and seeing how they perform.

Since J-White was in the 2008 camp and not the 2009 camp, it would seem that he's outside of the plans at this point.

Anonymous said...

Love the blog by the way.

Greg Seltzer said...

Thanks for the kind words ShinG. A couple of reply notes to your remarks:

- Coach Bob haD an impeccable record of this til now - which is precisely why it ticked me off so badly.

Well, that and the fact that his teammate Benny will be in U.S. uniform and he won't. Everyone in Aarhus is noticing this, let me assure you. And they can't for the life of them figure out why. People there are upset about this, too.

- I can now report (via multiple close sources) that there was no effort made to call in White for this game.

- Those MLS players that just finished the season last weekend need a breather like anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Disagree that the MLS folks need a breather -- they get one after Wednesday for at least a month. :>

On the multiple reports on not being invited, good info. I would defer to my last statement that if the JW is probably outside BB's plans right now in that case.

I would have also expected Johann Smith to get a cup of coffee in Bratislava as he plays 4 hours away -- not home fans, but still good opp there for a player who hasn't been in the mix in awhile either.

Seems solely a "WC Selection Process" situation in that regard as we used and probably will use on Wednesday all our mid/str players.

Greg Seltzer said...

Yes, they get a breather after toying with increased injury risk in a meaningless friendly with the B+ team. I do not see the point.

As for Smith, he is not a capped USMNT international and he has not been a standout in his league for the better part of the last three seasons.

Finally, like I said, this can't be treated like some strict World Cup squad prep week. It just isn't one.

What's more, with Dempsey and Torres now gone, BB has exactly one natural wide player in camp.

For me, it just gets weirder and more irksome.

Greg Seltzer said...

Obviously, by "wide player" I mean wide attacker.

Patrick said...

Maybe Michael Bradley doesn't get along with him?

American USMNT coaches have a history of starting to go insane between qualifiers and World Cups. Maybe Bradley is considering cutting the team captain and going to a 3-6-1 formation? ;)

I like Bradley, but there is no good reason not to invite Wright.

Greg Seltzer said...

A quick added note for those who scoffed at my suggestion that the MLS guys needed physical rest: Chad Marshall was dropped from the roster for aggravating a knee injury.

Like I said, human beings need rest. And when they don't properly get it, bad things occur.