Gold Cup Preview, Pt. 4 – The Strikers

The final installment of the Gold Cup previews, this time we will be taking a brief look  at each of the forwards that were called in for the Gold Cup.

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Freddy Adu

5’9″

AS Monaco

Certainly the most anticipated player on the entire roster, Freddy Adu will (hopefully) be given “the keys to the car” in this tournament. Almost everyone covering and watching the Gold Cup is expecting Adu to be the star of this USMNT side.

Unfortunately, his fate is determined by the coach, and it’s unclear just how much Bradley is actually going to play Adu. With Brian Ching likely to play 90 minutes every single game, no one is exactly sure what Bradley is going to expect from the small playmaker. While most of us expect him to be the playmaking second-striker, the fact is we don’t know how Bradley views him.

For now, I expect we’ll see Freddy start as a second-striker in behind Charlie Davies (and hopefully not Brian Ching).

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Charlie Davies

5’11”

Hammarby CF

Charlie Davies was the true revelation of the Confederations Cup, as it wasn’t a coincidence that his introduction to the squad changed the way the US team played. His speed and relentless work rate was infectious, and the US team showed a new verve on the pitch behind the electric striker.

The Gold Cup should be Davies’ tournament for the taking, but coaching decisions could get in his way. Bob Bradley has a clear preference for a single “target” striker, and even clearer preference for Brian Ching to fill that role. Davies performances at the Confederations Cup certainly merit all the starts he can get, well ahead of Ching, but it’s unclear whether Bradley sees that or not.

For now, I think Davies will start almost the entire tournament.

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Brian Ching

6’1″

Houston Dynamo

Now we come to one of the biggest points of contention in the US soccer world – “target” striker Brian Ching. One of Bob Bradley’s true “favorites”, Ching rarely gets left out of the USA squads and lineups (unless, of course, he’s injured).

Many, like myself, are quite frustrated with Bradley’s allegiance to a striker that fails to be a threat on goal. Bradley is convinced that Ching’s ability to “hold the ball” (which is as great as you will be told by others) and “post up” defenders around midfield is the most valuable asset we have outside of Landon Donovan.

The problem is that while Ching is good for some fouls in the attacking half, he’s not a threat on goal. Lacking in skill and finishing (with his feet, not his head), Ching has struggled to score in CONCACAF games, lodging only 9 goals in 5 years (36 caps). In fact, Ching has never lodged a goal against a non-CONCACAF opponent.

With more talented options like Freddy Adu and Charlie Davies available (and Jozy Altidore in the latter stages of the tournament), many hope Ching is used as a substitute. Unfortunately it isn’t something I’d bet much money on.

I would like to see Davies and Adu starting up top, but my head is telling me that I’m a fool for even hoping that Ching won’t start. Go ahead and pencil him in to the starting lineup.

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Kenny Cooper

6’3″

FC Dallas

Another strong point of contention in the American fanbase, as many think Kenny Cooper deserves more attention from the national team. Cooper was talented enough for Manchester United to bring him over as a transfer in 2003. His huge frame, good athleticism, and skill on the ball won admirers, but he was always a longshot to ever break into Red Devils’ first team.

Despite his rampant scoring in MLS – he’s scored 40 goals in 93 FC Dallas games – Coach Bradley has never seemed interested in the big frontman. Despite his lack of caps, Cooper has a good scoring record in international play – 2 goals in 4 games.

The biggest “hope” of the Gold Cup is that Cooper is chosen as a starter alongside Charlie Davies, while Freddy Adu gets pushed back just behind the two into the front portion of midfield.

Until we see something indicating otherwise, don’t expect Cooper to play much.

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Santino Quaranta

6’0″

DC United

Santino Quaranta’s inclusion in the US squad was a bit of a surprise to some, given his checkered past. But, Quaranta is back on the right path both on and off the field, and this pick looks to be a reward for his strong play this season.

It’s also pretty easy to forget that Quaranta is still a relatively young soccer player at 24. He’s a top-notch talent that has yet to put it all together on the field, but hopefully a call-up and some substitute minutes can give Santino’s career a bit of a spark.

Quaranta has the ability to play right wing quite well, so it’s not unreasonable to think he might impress enough to start there in the first game. Bradley isn’t his biggest fan though, and will likely elect to use someone else as a starter and bring Quaranta in from the bench.

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