Poland's Jakub Blaszczykowski kicks the ball past USA's Maurice Edu during the first half of their international friendly soccer match in Chicago, October 9, 2010. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Let's pretend.  You're the coach of a national team, which means your opportunities to run your charges through their paces are limited, and your pool of players is fluid and unpredictable.  Your team has issues with depth in central defense, and an overabundance (quite suddenly) of defensive-minded central midfielders.  You have friendlies on the schedule and the mandate to push the envelope.  What do you do?

If you're Bob Bradley, the answer is to play one of those midfielders out of position in one experiment, then put out trio of like-players in another.  The intent was fairly clear: find a way to put the best players on the field, even if it means doing things that seem counterintuitive.  The player pool only has so many quality options, so it's easy to see why there's an urge to shoehorn as many of the most talented individuals into the lineup as is possible.  If neither experiment works, someone is going to be left out.

We speak, of course, of Maurice Edu.  Whether Bradley's experiments were good ideas or not is a matter of opinion; the coach had the free roll, and he took it.  No harm, no foul in the grand scheme.  What matters is what Bradley learned from this two game set, and how he applies that knowledge in the future..

What he may have learned is that Edu's best position moving forward is on the bench.  For all of his athleticism, Edu simply isn't a centerback; through he made marginal improvements from the first half to the second against Poland, he does not appear to be comfortable there.  If Edu is to play in that spot again, especially in a meaningful match, it should only be in a "in case of emergency" capacity.  The Rangers midfielder simply doesn't get enough time in the defense, and won't at the club level, for him to ever be a trustworthy option.

Meanwhile, Jermaine Jones is on another level in the midfield, and already looks like a lock to hold down one of the spots there.  With Michael Bradley also entrenched, Edu is the odd-man out; as long as Bob Bradley isn't tempted to repeat last night's disastrous experiment, Edu has no position.  Less is more on the soccer field.

That doesn't mean that Edu won't get his chances.  Bradley will endeavor to get him time to keep him engaged in the national team setup, especially if he continues his solid play in Scotland.  In friendlies and matches against lesser opponents, Edu might slot in for either Jones or Bradley.  He won't, however, be a first choice starter.

Depth is important, because injuries happen.  At this point, it looks like "depth" is exactly the position Maurice Edu best fits.  


A few more thoughts on last night, all while I carefully avoid the issue of Bradley's approval rating and what I see as an irrational response to a friendly:

There was a night and day difference in possession and passing from the first half to the second.  As troubling as the first half was, it was encouraging to see adjustments work.

Brek Shea was damned nervous.  I can only imagine getting more comfortable with more time, and I suspect he'll be in South Africa next month if FC Dallas doesn't make a deep playoff run.

Lichaj was energetic and fearless.  This means he looked pretty good to most of us, though he did over-extend himself on a few occasions.  I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of him and really hope he gets a shot at more time at Villa under Gerrad Houllier.  

Jozy was killing me last night.  Despite his size he has trouble playing with his back goal; this is a function of poor close control, which also showed itself in the few one-on-one chances he had in the second half.  I honestly wish he wasn't US first choice yet, and that he was allowed time to develop without the scrutiny of national team fans.  I don't want to be angry with Jozy, particularly because I think he will get better.  But when he's out there I can't help myself.

Gooch will round into form, I'm almost certain.  He has to get on a field somewhere for a club, however, which either means breaking into the team at Milan (unlikely) or going out on loan.  Let's hope he sucks it up and finds somewhere else to play come January.

I'm one of the few that appears willing to keep giving Eddie Johnson a shot.  I still don't know if there are better options out there, though I won't have a problem with others getting a call.

Goodson and Parkhurst acquitted themselves fairly well.  Most of the defending in the second half was competent, an encouraging sign.  And hey, we got a clean sheet.

There is plenty to be excited about with this team, but we're unlikely to see anything resembling full-strength until sometime next year.  That makes it difficult to fully assess where we stand, and like I said, I'm not going down the Bradley path at the moment.  
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