Forum Spin Doctor
CARSON, Calif. - Humbled by a quick exit from last year's World Cup and using a young roster and an interim coach, the U.S. soccer team plays its first game looking ahead to the 2010 tournament in South Africa when it meets Denmark on Saturday.
"Clearly last summer was a disappointment," U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said. "The summer of 2002 was an extraordinary joy. Hopefully, the summer of 2010 will be another joy."
Bob Bradley, hired as interim coach last month after Juergen Klinsmann withdrew from talks, leads the Americans in their first match since they were eliminated by Ghana on June 22. It ends a seven-month layoff for United States, its biggest gap between games since a 16-month layoff from February 1986 to June 1987.
Bradley, who replaced Bruce Arena, was Major League Soccer's coach of the year last season with Chivas USA. He is a candidate to get the job permanently, but knows Gulati might pick a foreigner.
"He's knowledgeable about the game. He's extraordinarily hardworking. He communicates well with his players. There are not many people who put as much into what they do as Bob does," Gulati said.
Also under consideration are Lyon coach Gerard Houllier and Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz.
Bradley inherits a team that must rebuild following decisions by captain Claudio Reyna, forward Brian McBride and defender Eddie Pope to retire from international play.
Landon Donovan is coming off a poor performance at the World Cup and is scoreless in 18 consecutive international games since July 9, 2005, against Canada.
"It's a group of young players and it's really important to start to integrate some of these guys and get them experience," Bradley said. "It's a transition time. We know there are important guys retired. We've got to start the cycle by working in some young players."
One of those young players is Jonathan Bornstein, last season's MLS rookie of the year, who played for Bradley at Chivas USA. Bradley also figures to have young players for a Feb. 7 exhibition against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz., but some players may come from Europe - it is an international exhibition date, which means clubs must release players 48 hours in advance.
"Any time we play Mexico there's pressure," Gulati said. "There are friendlies and there are friendlies, and Mexico on February 7th is probably a more important friendly than some of the others."
More Europe-based regulars will be added to the mix for exhibitions against Ecuador on March 25 at Tampa, Fla., and Guatemala three days later at Frisco, Texas. Those games occur during a period in which clubs must release players to national teams.
Denmark coach Morten Olsen, preparing for a European Championship qualifier against Spain on March 24, is missing top forwards Dennis Rommedahl, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Martin Joergensen.