Whereas Steve Cherundolo is hiding his age with aplomb, the same can’t be said for Bocanegra, whose performance may be suffering from his club choice, Racing Santander in Spain’s second division.
That early goal against Guatemala wasn’t all his fault – plenty of blame to go around on that disconcerting bit schoolboy business – but it’s on the wise old hand to set the line and keep the organization tidy in the rear.
Mostly, however, it’s the speed issue that will be an ongoing concern. Quickness was never Bocanegra’s forte, anyway. So any loss of pace (which is inevitable, of course) will be costly in the final round of qualifying. It certainly was in Tuesday’s opening minutes as Bocanegra futilely chased Carlos Ruiz from behind. As I said in another post, Ruiz is a lot of things, but “fast over distance” isn’t one of them.
We all knew that a World Cup at age 35 might be a stretch for the U.S. captain. So it’s fair to begin asking whether it’s time for Jurgen Klinsmann to begin making the center back transition now, to blood Omar Gonzalez or get more international experience for Tim Ream during the coming pressure cookers of final round qualifying?
His yellow card against Antigua was needless and potentially costly. How could a veteran with his level of experience possibly adjudge that blatantly swatting a ball out the air, in a spot where there was little impending danger, was a good idea? Can Jurgen Klinsmann really trust this guy in the coming final-round matches, where the margin for error will shrink significantly?
We’ll keep saying it: What Jones adds to the team, only Jurgen Klinsmann could say. (More on that one in this post from earlier in the week)
This is relative, of course; there is no real threat to the longtime No. 1 in U.S. goal. But if we’re honest, Howard wasn’t at his best Tuesday. His starting position on the early Guatemalan goal was surprisingly poor, and the hesitation in coming out to challenge Ruiz earlier was distinctly un-Howard-like. But clearly the man has earned plenty of benefit of the doubt. So, let’s call this one “stock falling, but with an asterisk.”