Will we be looking back at this photo in 20 years and thinking 'Two great Chicago and USMNT soccer legends...'?
Gonna start off with the best news of the day today (at least so far), and that news would definitely be the announcement of the USMNT call-ups for the January 22nd friendly vs. Chile at the Home Depot Center. 20 of the 24 call-ups are MLS players. Sean Johnson, our beloved Fire netminder, was called up as one of the 4 keepers for the friendly tilt. This is obviously a wonderful turnaround for fans from when Jon Busch was let go. It's nice to see a young goalkeeper step in and not only do a great job, but give us not just stability in goal but a bright outlook for the future. For those still complaining about the lose of Jon Busch, what about the flip side of possibly never discovering what we had in Sean? Yes, I know he's only effectively played half a season, so I should probably temper my outlook. However, it's not just overenthusiastic homers or kool-aid drinking Chicagoans who think he is great, it is USMNT fans from coast to coast. Congrats Sean, you have definitely earned this callup. Hopefully we will get to see you play in your first ever USMNT cap. Well done! Nothing like a little international warmup before shutting down Sporting KC in the season opener! Follow me after the break for more USMNT news...
As was duly reported by HTIOT's very own Tweed Thornton, Chicago has garnered a game for next year's Gold Cup. Apart from being an astounding city to host soccer in, at least fans won't have to worry about Soldier Field being invaded by Poland fans. I was able to attend the US/Poland match this summer, and it truly was what I would call an "experience". I would repeat my favorite chants from that match directed at Polish fans, but in respect for our younger readers, I will just say that the chants did not involve "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." Seriously folks, if you have never been to a game on the international stage, even if you know more about Gary Coleman than Jozy Altidore, do yourself a favor and chant for your U-S-of A. I guarantee you will not regret it. And you may even see Clint Dempsey get in a fight! Or get in a fight yourself with drunk fans from other countries.
Just to wrap-up the Sean Johnson story, the USMNT will get rolling back in action on Jan. 22nd in a friendly match at the Home Depot Center vs. Chile. Tickets are still available, and given the capacity of the Home Depot Center compared to a larger stadium, this game should be an easy sellout (kinda like the Galaxy fans).
The US will also play a friendly vs. Egypt in Cairo on Feb. 9th. If you didn't get a chance to see the previous match up in the '08 Confederations Cup, the US had their back against the wall, and pulled out an Algeria World Cup-like performance to get the huge win and advance. You can bet tensions will be running high as Egypt looks to revenge that loss. Egypt will also enter with a chip on their shoulder due to the fact that they are a highly regarded team that failed to even qualify for the World Cup in their home continent nevertheless. Although this is a friendly match, anything can happen. Just ask Stuart Holden, as Dutch butcher Nigel De Jong snapped his leg in a friendly shortly before the World Cup. This really hurt the US in my opinion. Even though Stuart made the team, he wasn't fit enough to make much of an impact. Considering the immense strides he is making for the Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League and how amazing he has looked for the post World Cup USMNT, I wouldn't be surprised to see Holden really take a hold of the game and score more than just one goal.
Oh, and one more important USMNT note, Charlie Davies has declared himself finally fit to play on the first team for his French club, Sochaux. Although Davies has stated a few times in the past few months he was ready to go, Sochaux has held him back, feeling he was not ready yet. For those that don't follow the USMNT scene closely, Davies was seriously injured in a horrific car accident last October. If you ask me, it's amazing he is even able to ever play soccer at a pro level again after those injuries. He was gifted with great speed and skill, and the US team would have been much more potent this past year if he had been in the lineup. Davies is only 24 so if he can regain even most of the promising form he showed pre-accident, it will be wondrous. He truly has been one of the brightest stars we have ever produced in my opinion, and it's sad that he had to go through the ordeal he has. I think, had he not been injured, many would consider him one of the greatest strikers we have ever produced already. That may not be saying much for the US (we are a bit weak producing strikers while we output quality goalies like a factory), but considering how young he was, I saw great things from him.
He was fit enough to make the first team in Sochaux's matchup vs. Bordeaux in a match that ended up a 1-1 draw. Davies did not see the field however, as he sat the entire match on the bench as a reserve. Rather than looking at this as a disappointment, I look at it as a very good thing. Previously, his club had said that he had been working tremendously hard, but they didn't feel like he was fit enough for a gameday roster. So that fact that he made the roster is very encouraging indeed. Only time will tell if he can ever get back to his former self, but if he can even get close, we will finally have a good striker duo that is sorely lacking in US soccer. Best of luck to Charlie, we should all be proud for the example he has set working his butt off to get to where he is today.