U.S. team healthy and focused for Mexico
A brief look at the U.S. team's training camp last week:
The entire squad is fit and raring to go. While there were the inevitable small bumps and knocks incurred as expected at the end of a long month of training, as Ivan Pierra the trainer said, "everyone is playable."
The coaching staff has taken the approach all week that this is just another game in the beginning of the next World Cup cycle. Coach Bob Bradley hasn't spent much time this week even talking about Mexico and won't do so until the U.S. team arrives in Arizona. Based on postgame film review, Bradley has watched the Denmark match half a dozen times and is happy with the team's performance thus far.
The U.S. team had a closed-door friendly against a Swedish first division team last week and the first unit performed very well. Ricardo Clark scored off a long-range shot and Nate Jaqua (although not making the trip to Arizona) netted impressively as well.
In camp, a group has emerged over the last month as the preferred first team: Jonathan Bornstein, Bobby Boswell, Jimmy Conrad and Chris Albright in defense, Clark, Pablo Mastroeni, Justin Mapp in midfield, with Chris Rolfe and Landon Donovan up top.
Bradley spent the last couple of days last week training the defense, specifically the back six (as opposed to four) working with Bornstein, Boswell, Conrad, Albright with Clark and Mastroeni in front. The staff emphasized getting out of the back quickly and not playing so deep when Mexico has the ball. The center back pairing of Conrad and Boswell looks as if it is beginning to gel.
According to the team, expect the players called over from Europe to start or play significant minutes. Expect Tim Howard in goal, along with Clint Dempsey and Bobby Convey in midfield. The question is the in-form Bornstein. Does Fulham's Carlos Bocanegra play his customary left back spot and push Bornstein into midfield, where many players think Bornstein will eventually play at this level? Convey and Bocanegra could be the left-sided pairing.
Joshua Gros and Brian Carroll have come on strong in training camp as of late and have earned a spot on the roster for the Mexico match. Bornstein has still been very good, remaining grounded and not reading his press clippings yet.
Allen Hopkins is an ESPN reporter covering U.S. Soccer, MLS and NCAA College Basketball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Allen.X.Hopkins.-ND@espn.com.