Gooch Article

USA: What We Learned

The U.S. national team may have posted an encouraging 3-1 victory over fellow World Cup entrants Australia in their final tourney tune-up, but some questions surrounding the squad remain unanswered less than a week before the opener.

Ironically enough, the most settling answers came from a green strike stable going without top gun Jozy Altidore. Edson BuddleRobbie Findley and Herculez Gomez had combined for all of six caps before the Send-Off Series began, but each showed some mettle against Australia.

There wasn't much Buddle didn't offer on Saturday. He held up the ball beautifully, emphatically finished each of his chances using different methods and even got back to make a big defensive corner kick play. It was all so Diego Milito.

Findley managed to miss a yawning net twice, but provided plenty of international-level industry. Late sub Gomez allowed the carrot patch pitch to gobble him up on one chance, but he made no mistake on his second, burying a Landon Donovan set-up.

There were a few other certainties revealed on Saturday. Donovan and right back Steve Cherundolo are on timely top form, for two. We also saw that Marcus Hahnemann is ready to step in with a few big saves if needed—even if they come after a couple of cross flaps.

Beyond that, several questions are nagging Bradley merely days before the U.S. take on England. Chief among those is the fitness capability of defender Oguchi Onyewu, a factor that affects the back line make-up.

Given a half hour on Saturday, Gooch looked to be moving a bit gingerly. With Jay DeMerit struggling and Clarence Goodson new to this level, the need for Carlos Bocanegra at left back complicates matters.

If Onyewu still can't go 90, Bradley may at some point want to sliding the captain back inside and running Jonathan Spector at left back. It's only a shame the West Ham defender wasn't given any minutes there in the final two friendlies.

Moving into midfield, where three of four places appear set in stone, it is still unclear who should partner Michael Bradley in the middle. Ricardo Clark seems to be Bradley's pick, but he's not played so well in the Send-Off Series.

Does the boss turn to Maurice Edu? Does he pull a surprise and start Benny Feilhaber or Jose Torres? Or even a shock by going with Stuart Holden? The Bolton man, who mysteriously worked just nine minutes in the final two friendlies and has been given only fleeting chances in central midfield, has the goods for it in his locker.

Perhaps this is the lineup slot where Bradley can unveil his sleeve trick, the move we aren't aware is coming. For that answer and more, we must wait those five days and learn to enjoy the belly butterflies.