Five months before the United States makes their sixth consecutive World Cup appearance, coach Bob Bradley is still searching for starters.
Forward Charlie Davies is likely to miss the tournament because of injuries sustained in a car crash last October and defender Oguchi Onyewu is sidelined until spring following knee surgery. Bradley also is hoping to find players to provide consistency.
Bradley began the search last week with the start of the team’s annual training camp for players from Major League Soccer and Scandinavian clubs on winter break.
Bradley cited the competition between Chivas USA’s Jonathan Bornstein and FC Dallas’ Heath Pearce for a spot at left back as an example of the intensity he expects to see.
“Certainly, when you have Heath and Johnny Bornstein in the same camp, they understand,” Bradley said. “They’ve been battling each other for a few years, so I’m sure that’s going to continue.”
With most of the team’s regular starters – such as Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey – in Europe, Bradley invited 25 players from Major League Soccer and five from clubs in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
“There’s a solid nucleus; we’re trying to add the right depth,” Bradley said. “The hope is that we see some players who are making progress and are going to be in the mix as we make decisions later this year.”
The Columbus Crew’s Robbie Rogers hopes to be in Bradley’s mix for a place on the 23-man World Cup roster.
“I want to show that I have something to add to the team,” said Rogers, who has played nine games for the United States. “I know the team needs some players who are creative, who can attack with speed but also work hard.
“Whenever you’re in front of these coaches, you want to be sure you’re professional and you’re good for the team.”
Being good for the team means adapting to the style Bradley has brought since becoming the national coach in 2007.
“We know what kind of team we are and how we can win games,” midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “We’ve really got to depend on good defending and trying to take our opportunities when we have them.”
The camp will end with an exhibition against Honduras on 23 January. The US has been attempting to schedule a February home match against Mexico.
“There are a number of conversations going on with different teams,” Bradley said. “We’ll need to have something to make sure that the players who are here are kept in the right kind of form, the right kind of fitness.”
The United States plays the Netherlands in Amsterdam on 3 March, the only date before May that European clubs are required to release players to national teams.
The US also is trying to schedule May exhibitions to prepare for its World Cup games against England (12 June), Slovenia (18 June) and Algeria (23 June).