Alright U.S. Soccer, do us all a favor. Cancel the remaining friendlies leading up to the World Cup. Pull the entire roster from club play, send them to a beach resort where lovely women will massage them daily. Provide them with hyperbaric chambers to sleep in.
We’re less than 100 days away from South Africa and the U.S. team resembles more of a MASH unit than soccer team.
Heating pads and crutches are more prevalent at the U.S. training facility than Gatorade and orange slices.
During Wednesday’s “friendly” versus Holland, ESPN’s Bottom Line ran the list of current injuries to the U.S. team.
There is Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Charlie Davies, Clint Dempsey, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber…you get the point.
At this rate the team bus will be attacked by lions on the way to its first game in the World Cup. And no, not the Three Lions (a.k.a. England). I’m talking about Mufasa and Scar.
It seems with every passing week, another American goes down with an injury. And Wednesday’s match versus Holland was no different as up-and-coming midfielder Stuart Holden was taken out with a brutal challenge that left him with a fractured fibula and out for most likely six weeks.
It’s a tough break (literally) for Holden because he was getting an extended audition because of injuries to other U.S. players. Now, he’s one of the injured himself.
Holden signed with Bolton Jan. 25. It took him a month to break into Bolton’s squad finally making an appearance in the FA Cup. Bolton were thrashed by Tottenham 4-0, but I watched the match and noted that Holden looked the only decent Bolton player on the pitch. Apparently, Bolton manager Owen Coyle agreed and handed Holden his Premier League debut the following match. Against Wolves he was billed as Bolton’s top threat and key reason for victory, helping set up the team’s first goal in six games. The British media took note of the Scottish-born, Texas-raised midfielder because of his impressive displays and the knowledge the English would face him in South Africa.
Then came Wednesday’s “friendly” with Holland where Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong decided to break Holden’s leg. It was an ugly tackle, there’s no getting around it. It was dirty and for it to happen in a match that was as important to Holden as any other U.S. player is just awful. I was waiting for Michael Bradley to exact some retribution. If anyone on the U.S. team would return the favor, it was Bradley. Yet, as Americans, apparently we have more class than to break someone’s leg in a FRIENDLY! De Jong was pulled in the second half before he got his.
But Holden’s injury is just the latest in a long list of awfully-timed American casualties.
It seems the moment an American player is about to break out, he goes down. Follow me:
Starting centerback Oguchi Onyewu signed with Italian giants AC Milan July 7. He played in three of Milan’s preseason games in the States to mixed reviews and took some heat from Rossaneri media and fans. But you’ll forgive Milan fans who were used to the steady Paolo Maldini for 25 years (and no that’s not a typo). Onyewu came on as a substitute in a Champions League loss to FC Zurich Sept. 30. Two weeks later, he suffered a patellar tendon rupture in the U.S.’ final World Cup qualifier, ruling him out for four months. In all, he has one competitive appearance for Milan.
Blistering forward Charlie Davies used a spirited display in the Confederations Cup to make the jump from Sweden to France. He signed with Ligue 1 side Sochaux July 10. In just his second appearance for the team, Davies came on as a second half substitute Aug. 15 against defending French champions Bordeaux. He scored twice in a 3-2 defeat, but earned himself a starting role in Sochaux’s next six games. Then came the Oct. 13 car crash that left one passenger dead and Davies in intensive care battling for his life.
Defensive midfielder Ricardo Clark signed with Eintracht Frankfurt Jan. 21. The club’s manager had warned Clark would be brought along slowly while he got acclimated to life in Germany. Within two weeks he had injured himself in training. He still hasn’t played with his new team. And for anyone who says, “Who cares, it’s only Ricardo Clark,” re-watch the U.S.’ victory over Spain in the Confederations Cup. Clark was an absolute beast. Sure he might not be a starter, but he was on the plane to South Africa.
Then there’s Clint Dempsey, arguably Fulham’s best player this season. A fan favorite, Deuce scared English fans. They respected his effort, occasional display of skill and nose for goal (six in the Premier League this year). In the game he got injured, Dempsey almost scored twice, including putting a bicycle-kick off the crossbar. He then tore his PCL on an innocuous challenge.
You don’t even have to be American to get hurt. Just stating your intention that you’d like to be American is apparently enough to land you on the sidelines. Since Jermaine Jones, a German with an American serviceman father, declared his desire to play for the U.S., the combative midfielder hasn’t played a single minute for Bundelisga side Schalke 04. And that was eight months ago.
Jones is considered one of the premier defensive midfielders in the league, and would have been an absolute terror breaking up opposing attacks. In fact, he would have been more than happy to break De Jong’s leg on Wednesday.
Now all but Davies and Jones should be back in time for the World Cup. Though Davies is adamant he’ll be ready come June. He’s back in France after his final surgery (one to remove screws and plates from his elbow) and will begin training with the team within a few weeks.
Jones, who knows? He made the trip from Germany to Amsterdam to meet up with the U.S. squad and was seen sporting U.S. gear. But he still hasn’t played a game in nearly a year and it would be hard to imagine he’d be ready to go in time for South Africa.
But you never know with injuries. Even if Dempsey, Holden and Onyewu’s knocks heal up in time for the World Cup, they’re bound to have considerable rust with a lack of match fitness. And while we can only hope the injured American players can return to training and then the pitch, there are no guarantees they’ll escape training unscathed.
That’s where Cherundolo broke a bone in his shoulder. That’s where Feilhaber suffered ligament damage to his ankle. That’s where Clark picked up his calf injury.
At this rate, we might be sending a B Team to South Africa. Just hope Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore can remain healthy while plugging away in England.
And if they go down?
Every team heading to the World Cup has issues. The U.S.’ first opponent is no different. England may be without star left back Ashley Cole, who was injured by Donovan in a 50-50 challenge last month. And even if Cole heals, he’s still not sure he wants to play after a highly-publicized split from his ridiculously hot wife has him re-evaluating life priorities. Then of course, there’s the whole John Terry-Wayne Bridge melodrama.
But when it rains it pours. And right now Stateside, it’s coming down pretty heavy.