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U.S. soccer coach to field surprising lineup against Netherlands

With several of the team's stars injured, Bob Bradley will experiment with some lesser-known players when the Americans take on the Dutch in an international match in Amsterdam.

February 26, 2010|By Grahame L. Jones

U.S. Coach Bob Bradley, partly out of necessity and partly because he is still experimenting, has named an interesting roster for Wednesday night's international soccer match against the Netherlands in Amsterdam.

Bradley has been forced to do without the likes of Clint Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Ricardo Clark, Charlie Davies and Benny Feilhaber, all of whom are injured, but that has opened the door for others.

Surprisingly showing up in the frame are defender Frank Simek, unseen since 2007, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, unseen almost at all, and forwards Robbie Findley and -- drum roll here, please -- Eddie Johnson.

The Dutch will be a formidable opponent. They were World Cup finalists in 1974 and 1978 and semifinalists in 1998, and currently are ranked third in the world behind Spain and Brazil. They are one of the teams that very easily could win it all in South Africa in 2010. The Dutch, at home Wednesday in front of their boisterous orange-clad fans, will be a handful for the U.S.

All of which means the game (11:30 a.m. PST, ESPN2 and Galavision) will be a serious test to see which American players can step up and prove they belong on the U.S. World Cup roster, which Bradley will name in May.

The assumption must be that the starting lineup employed by Bradley last year against European champion Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals and against Brazil in the final is Bradley's preferred 11.

With the exception of Onyewu, Clark, Dempsey and Davies, the coach could field that same team against the Netherlands.

That means Tim Howard starts in goal, backed up by Brad Guzan and Marcus Hahnemann. They are the likely World Cup choices.

On defense, Bradley can play Jonathan Spector at right back, with Jay DeMerit in the middle and Carlos Bocanegra at left back, just as in the Confederations Cup. The gap left by Onyewu's absence could be filled by either Clarence Goodson or Simek, or Bradley could move Bocanegra back into the middle and start Jonathan Bornstein or Heath Pearce at left back.

The midfield will be notably weaker than at the Confederations Cup with Clark and Dempsey sidelined, and Bradley has to find the right players to play alongside his son, Michael Bradley, and Landon Donovan.

Chances are Maurice Edu will take over Clark's role, while the coach has given himself the option of using DaMarcus Beasley, Bedoya, Stuart Holden and Jose Torres on the flank in place of Dempsey.

That leaves the forward line, which at the Confederations Cup saw a successful pairing of Jozy Altidore and Davies.

Altidore is available against the Netherlands, but his potential partners include only the inexperienced Findley and the once-promising Johnson, neither of whom is likely to overly trouble the Dutch defense.

Twenty U.S. players will begin arriving in Amsterdam on Sunday. Just which of those 20 will be arriving in Johannesburg on May 31 is something Wednesday's game will help determine.

Absent from the roster named on Thursday, in part because they are known quantities, were forwards Brian Ching and Conor Casey and midfielder Sacha Kljestan.

The fact that Freddy Adu was excluded could well mean that his hopes of going to South Africa have ended, just as they have for a handful of players in MLS who thought they might have an outside chance.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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