The World Cup waits for no man, regardless how worthy the cause. And so Bob Bradley, coach of the U.S. national team, sounded somewhat pessimistic on Thursday when discussing the chances for a comeback to the roster by fleet forward Charlie Davies, who is recovering from severe injuries after an auto accident last November.
“Those final steps are the hardest,” Bradley warned, despite Davies’ return to training with his French club, Sochaux. “It’s a great story. He’s a popular guy… (But) if he’s at step 80 and we think he needs 85…”
The coach expects to announce on May 11 a roster of 26 to 28 players who will begin to report on May 15 to Princeton, Bradley’s alma mater, for training camp, After exhibitions in East Hartford and Philadelphia, that roster will be trimmed to 23 by the time the U.S. team heads for South Africa on May 30.
Bradley wouldn’t guarantee that Davies would be included among the pool of players at Princeton. He was more positive about the return of central defender Oguchi Onyewu, who is key to the back line.
Bradley also indicated he might very well use Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey as a forward, alongside Jozy Altidore. The Americans are deepest at midfield, while injuries to Davies and Brian Ching have significantly thinned their ranks up top.
“He’s still a player with flair and attacking ability, who offers really good options,” Bradley told a group of World Cup-bound reporters.
Nine of the 11 U.S. starters are virtually set, for when the Americans face England on June 12 in Rustenburg: Altidore at forward; Dempsey at forward or midfield; Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark at midfield; Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra and Onyewu on defense; Tim Howard in goal.
Bradley clearly was not thrilled with Altidore’s recent behavior at Hull City, where the American was suspended for head-butting an opponent. The coach dispatched an assistant, Pierre Barrieu, who also was a fitness coach with Altidore on the Red Bulls, to speak with the player.
“These are steps for a player,” Bradley said, comparing Altidore’s youthful exuberance to that of Wayne Rooney. “I saw him against Chelsea, you could tell he was motivated that day. There was an extra edge to everything he did.”
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