Why is Heath Pearce a National Team Option?

Bob Bradley announced his roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica (June 3rd) and Honduras (June 6th).  It is believed by some that this roster will also travel to South Africa for the Confederations Cup.  The team contains all of the usual suspects, including players that have been riding the bench for their club teams.  Among that group is Heath Pearce, a player that has recently been a starter at Left Back for the Stars and Stripes.  I ask, how in the world is this possible?

Pearce plays for Bundesliga 2 side Hansa Rostock.  I say plays loosely because he has basically been kicked off the squad.  He still plays for the reserve team, but has not dressed since early April.  To make matters worse, Pearce was the worst player on the field for the disaster that was the El Salvador qualifier.  Quite frankly, he embarrassed himself.  Pearce was so poor that Bradley chose to drop DaMarcus Beasley to Left Back and removed him from the lineup entirely against Trinidad and Tobago.  What could Bradley possibly be thinking?

I can think of a handful of players that are more deserving of Pearce’s spot on the new squad.  The first name that immediately comes to mind is Michael Parkhurst.  Parkhurst is considered one of the top American defenders, period, and yet he isn’t on this squad.  His most recent call-up was the Sweden friendly back in January.  Parkhurst has been starting regularly for FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark.  There’s absolutely no reason that a high quality player getting regular minutes is snubbed in favor of a guy that apparently isn’t fit to wear the first team jersey on the bench.

Parkhurst is just the first in the line of more deserving players.  Among the others, MLS standouts Chad Marshall and Bobby Boswell.  Recent call-up Chris Wingert is another option.  Michael Orozco is also done with his season at San Luis.  The reality is that any of these players would be an improvement over Pearce right now.  What makes this situation so strange is Freddy Adu is in a similar situation, and yet he’s left off the squad.

Now before I get anyone too riled up, I don’t think Pearce should be exiled from the Nats.  He simply needs a chance to regain his form.  World Cup qualifiers aren’t the place for experimentation, and the Confederations Cup certainly isn’t the place either.  The Gold Cup should provide Pearce with plenty of opportunities to play.  If he really is better than some of the MLS options, he’ll be able to prove it there.  If he struggles to stand out amongst the Gold Cup group, then Rostock was right to bench him.

If Bradley gives him the chance to play, the US could be in for a long, long stretch of matches.  If you thought Pearce was torched against El Salvador, just think about what better teams like Costa Rica and Brazil could do to him.  It could get ugly.

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2 responses to “Why is Heath Pearce a National Team Option?

  1. I too have been frustrated with Pearce. Had it not been for injuries, Arena may have seriously considered taking him to Germany in 2006 as cover for Eddie Lewis who was not a natural left back.

    Pearce looked outstanding in front of my own eyes in Chicago against Brazil back in Sep. 2007. But his troubles as Rostock caused a decline in his national team form.

    Last August he got away with a hand ball in the first qualifier of the semifinal round down at the Mateo Flores. Had that handball been called qualification would have been much tougher for us. Since then he’s continued to be shaky.

    The only problem is besides Orozco, the guys you mention aren’t really battle tested and don’t have nearly the upside of Pearce. We’ve learned throwing MLS players without any previous European or extensive international experience into matches on the road in CONCACAF is a recipe for disaster. We saw this in qualifying for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and again with Sacha Kljestan down in El Salvador.

    So basically you’re left with one real option besides moving Beasley to the back line- that’s to play Jonathan Spector at left back: that would be my recommendation to Bob Bradley.

    • soucieonsoccer

      I think Spector will get a serious look. Bradley seems to have lost confidence in Pearce (rightly so). I’d like to see some more MLS players get invites at least to camp to expose them to this environment. They have to get their experience somehow.

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