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Stock rising: the United States men whose standing improved during two World Cup qualifiers

Oct 18, 2012, 11:30 AM EST

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Eddie Johnson:

Two weeks ago, in most minds, he was just a curiosity at national team level, someone that manager Jurgen Klinsmann should maybe think about. Now? If Klinsmann chose 23 to get on the plane bound for Brazil, the Seattle Sounders’ striker and his big “ups” would definitely have a seat. Two goals against Antigua and Barbuda were massive in getting the United States into next year’s final round.

Johnson also showed he can be serviceable in a wide role. Not great, perhaps, but adequate. That knowledge gives Klinsmann just little more tactical versatility, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.

Michael Bradley:

How much better did the U.S. midfield look with the unquestioned general returning to the center of the park? It was measurable, with Bradley consistently available, almost always making the right choices, always adding composure and wits to the linking effort.

Outside of Johnson, Bradley was the one man who rose above the conditions to have a big match in Antigua. Tactically, he never missed a beat Tuesday while playing in a more advanced role before the break, then sliding back one level to work alongside Danny Williams after intermission.

Meanwhile, the buzz keeps growing that as Carlos Bocanegra moves on in age, Bradley will assume the captain’s armband – so long as he can tame those occasional outbursts, like the one Friday. His anger was justified, but he simply has to keep his cool there.

Clint Dempsey:

Like Bradley, we knew he was eminently valuable, and yet he found a way to earn even more esteem. After a quiet and wandering Friday, the Texan reached in to find a big match on Tuesday, providing two goals and an assist in the money match, the win over Guatemala. In the end, Dempsey scored in four of the six semifinal round qualifiers; File that under “flat out getting it done.”

Graham Zusi:

Watching him chase on defense, move wisely off the ball and busily work the passing angles, it’s hard to imagine that Sporting Kansas City’s technically gifted attacker has just six international appearances. He has quickly established himself as go-to for Klinsmann, and a versatile one at that. While Zusi is likely to lose his place in the lineup when Landon Donovan returns, it’s fair to ask if he already has lapped Brek Shea in the pecking order of wide attackers.

(MORE: Stock holding steady)

Stock down, still to come …

  1. dreadpirate82 - Oct 18, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    I’m afraid Sporting KC is going to have two huge midfield holes to fill in the offseason, assuming the Espinoza rumors are true and that Zusi will look at opportunities in Europe. If that’s the case, good for them. My friend suggested that SKC could be a good landing spot for up-and-coming USMNT prospects, since Vermes has them playing such a similar system to how Klinsmann wants his team playing. An interesting thought. We were trying to think of potential targets, but most we came up with were too established elsewhere.

  2. Steve Davis - Oct 18, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    again with the worry! man, get your team through this year … then start fretting over 2013! (But, yes, Espinoza is probably gone. I wouldn’t be shocked if Zusi remains through the winter window, at least.)

    • dreadpirate82 - Oct 18, 2012 at 2:07 PM

      No worrying, just thinking ahead. It’s a natural part of the game, and I love creating rumor mills inside my brain! Nothing but fun the rest of the season, especially if Roger gets healthy.

      I agree with manutebol (gotta love anyone with that name) that Gordon helped his cause on Friday. He isn’t going to be a fixture with the team or anything, but it’s nice to know he’s another option who can make a difference when asked. Quality depth has been lacking for USMNT through the years, but the gap between the starters and the next tier seems to be narrowing. At some positions, anyway. Hopefully a sign of things to come as more youngsters develop.

      I know everyone isn’t completely happy with the style of play and the lack of truly convincing wins, but this team gets more fun to watch and follow all the time. They are also being talked about by the non-traditional soccer fan more. Walking out in the warehouse at work today, a group of guys who are stereotypical American football fans were talking about Tuesday’s game. Not something that would have happened in the past. I love it.

  3. manutebol - Oct 18, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    and ALAN GORDON

  4. teamperkins11 - Oct 18, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    I agree that Alan Gordon improved his standing since he did not have much of a standing to begin with. Bradley just reaffirmed and cemented in how vital he is to this team. Dempsey had a great second game, but the A & B game was not his best effort by a long stretch. Eddie Johnson impressed me with his arieal display in A & B, but more it his ball skill in KC.

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