Doubts surround Charlie Davies
When American striker Charlie Davies was involved in a horrific car accident last year, his involvement in this summer's World Cup was immediately called into question.
Such were the extent of his injuries that it was felt that Davies would be lucky to ever take the field again, let alone in time to represent his country in South Africa.
Yet Davies has made tremendous strides in his recovery, and he is hopeful of playing again for his French club side, Sochaux, before the end of the season. If he were able to do so, it would provide his national team coach, Bob Bradley, a much-needed boost before he names his pre-World Cup training squad.
The United States is a bit lightweight up front, and if Davies were to recover, it would provide Bradley with another option going forward.
Or would it?
I wrote last week about Landon Donovan's comments regarding the status of his L.A. Galaxy teammate Edson Buddle. Buddle is tearing up Major League Soccer right now, having scored all seven of the Galaxy's goals this season, and Donovan feels that Buddle should be given a chance to impress at the national team level. I agree with Donovan, and I believe that players should be selected based on their current form, rather than their previous exploits.
If we apply that criterion to Charlie Davies, then regardless of his amazing recovery, he should not be included in Bob Bradley's squad.
Davies has not played competitive football since before his accident, and there are those who believe he won't play again this season. Even if he does manage to get some minutes before the end of the Ligue 1 season in France, they aren't likely to be significant enough for him to find the form necessary to compete against the best in the world.
There is precedent here, if Bob Bradley is looking for guidance. Consider two examples from the United States' first World Cup opponent in South Africa: England.
Both David Beckham, in 2002, and Wayne Rooney, in 2006, went into their respective World Cups after recovering from injury. While the expectations placed on their shoulders were great, their performances were not, and both failed to live up to their usual standards.
One could argue that Charlie Davies is not as integral to the fortunes of the United States as Beckham and Rooney were to England's, and as such, it is not as big a risk if he is not relied upon as their main striker. In that respect, one would probably be correct.
Taking a gamble
But the Americans do not have an assembly line of world-class talent at their disposal up front, and they would be wise to select the best players currently at their disposal, rather than taking a gamble on a player recovering from injury.
If you doubt that logic, look at how England struggled in 2006, when Sven Goran Eriksson selected four strikers to take to the tournament, two of whom were recovering from injury.
Both Rooney and Michael Owen were at less than 100 per cent going into the tournament - and it showed. Eriksson's other two strikers, Peter Crouch and Theo Walcott, had a combined eight caps under their belts going into the tournament, and neither provided the spark needed to be competitive against the world's elite.
Bob Bradley has to decide whether to make a sentimental decision (include Davies in the hopes that his recovery will be complete in time for the World Cup) or a clinical one (choose his strikers based on who is playing the best when the squad needs to be announced).
If the United States wants to be successful in South Africa, his choice should be the latter.