EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — If a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic in Tuesday’s World Cup warm-up was tough for the United States to take, now comes an even more difficult spell: Coach Bob Bradley will cut seven players to trim his roster to FIFA’s 23-man limit.
“We’re all nervous,” Las Vegas High School product Herculez Gomez said, “anxiously awaiting Bob’s decision.”
DaMarcus Beasley was a sharp bundle of energy, Gomez and Maurice Edu scored goals, and Edson Buddle was a strong man in front, blood dripping from his lip. Defender Oguchi Onyewu looked shaky in his first game since October knee surgery.
Evaluation time is over. Bradley will have one-on-one meetings this morning, then take the remaining 23 players over a few miles to ESPN’s campus in Bristol for the nationally televised announcement at about 10:20 a.m. PDT. Then, the team will fly to Washington for a White House meeting Thursday morning with President Obama.
“This was another chance for guys on the edge to prove they belong on that plane to go to South Africa,” said midfielder Stuart Holden, the best player on the field of a U.S. lineup that lacked stars Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. They were given the night off so Bradley could evaluate players on the bubble.
While Edu and Gomez scored their first international goals, Heath Pearce, Clarence Goodson and Steve Cherundolo struggled on defense along with Edu, who started in the midfield and moved back.
Before a crowd of 36,218 at Rentschler Field, Edu scored in the 17th minute, only to have the Czechs surge ahead on goals by Tomas Sivok in the 44th minute and Jan Polak in the 58th.
Making his third international appearance and first in three years, Gomez entered at the start of the second half and tied the score in the 65th when he beat goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Martin Fenin broke the tie against backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 78th after Pearce, Goodson and Cherundolo failed to clear a ball in front. Tomas Necid got the final goal in the 90th after Edu jumped and failed to clear a pass, giving Necid an open path to the goal.
“A lot of energy at times. A little bit crazy,” Bradley said. “In the process of trying to put so much into it, I think at times we left ourselves wide open.”
That was understandable given the pressure on players uncertain of World Cup trips. By time the Americans play Turkey in Philadelphia on Saturday, a day before the U.S. team leaves South Africa, the roster will have solidified.
“You can only imagine when they come off the field, the emotions,” Bradley said. “Guys know we’re now at a point where some tough decisions need to be made.”
Once in Africa, the U.S. has a final exhibition against Australia on June 5, one week before the big opener against England in a rematch of the famous American upset in the 1950 World Cup.