Pearce, Cunningham keep focus on club with Bradley’s selections looming

HeathPearce (HowardCSmithISI) 

Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com

 

By AVI CREDITOR

With World Cup roster selections just days away, it would only seem natural for players on the bubble of Bob Bradley's pending roster to press a bit and play with individual needs in mind.

But for FC Dallas' two World Cup hopefuls, they're content to let things play out while maintaining focus on fixing a slow start to their team's Major League Soccer campaign.

Left back Heath Pearce and forward Jeff Cunningham have been in and out of the national team picture during the last calendar year, with Pearce likely having the more realistic shot at a summer trip to South Africa.

Pearce has proven to be a versatile piece for FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman, playing both outside back positions and also spending time in the midfield.

Cunningham, meanwhile, has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle of fringe national team strikers after his stellar finish to last year's MLS season in which he won the league's Golden Boot. He's struggled to find his form through Dallas' first four games, with his three goals all coming on penalty kicks.

"The thing that's difficult is having them focus their No. 1 priority to the team," Hyndman said. "They have dreams, they hope to be in South Africa, and they hope that an opportunity will come for them to play in the one event that they probably get to play in once in their life. Sometimes it's hard to balance that.

"They want to perform well, they want Coach Bradley to see that, 'I'm doing this,' but at the same time, my message to them is that if your team doesn't do well, and you don't do well with your team, then you're basically going to be out of the picture. The better we do, the better chance you have."

Therein lies a bit of the problem.

Dallas is off to an 0-1-3 start, though the team put forth a decent effort in its recent draw with Seattle.

Both players sound like they buy into Hyndman's club-first philosophy, but they'll need a series of strong performances over the next couple of weeks to draw positive attention their way.

"My focus is with FC Dallas right now," Pearce said following the Hoops' 4-2 U.S. Open Cup loss to D.C. United on Wednesday. "We've been playing well so far, but we haven't been getting the results we've needed. We've had more than one dominant performance and not come away with the three points. That's where my focus is right now. What happens after that, I'm not really sure about."

Added Cunningham: "For me, the focus is on my club team. My focus is to help this team be better, and that's it. I've been in the national team picture for a long time. If Coach (Bradley) decides to give me an opportunity, it'd be a dream come true, but my focus is on FC Dallas at the moment."

Pearce's ability to push forward into the attacking zone and his knack for delivering dangerous crosses into the box make him an attractive option for Bradley to provide depth at left back behind Carlos Bocanegra and Jonathan Bornstein.

The 25-year-old is experiencing his first full season in MLS after a club career that has had stops in Denmark and Germany.

"Coming off of a stint in Germany where it wasn't always going my way, it's nice to be back in the (United States) closer to my family, closer to friends and closer to more familiar territory," Pearce said. "I've enjoyed it quite a bit. We've got a good team, good guys and a good coaching staff. It's about opening up the floodgates and getting that first win of the season."

If the 33-year-old Cunningham, a notoriously streaky but potentially dynamic scorer, can find his top form, perhaps those floodgates will open.

"I accept a lot of that responsibility," Cunningham said. "The team created the opportunities, and I could've done better with them. That's why we're in the position we're in. The pressure is always there for me to perform and score goals, and the team depends on me to do my job well. I know I'll improve."

For Cunningham, who scored the only goal for the United States in a friendly against Denmark last November, improving immediately might not do much for his blade-of-grass thin World Cup hopes. He didn't make enough of his brief opportunity with the Yanks to lock down a roster spot, his slow start this MLS season hasn't helped and the on-fire likes of Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez figure to have passed him on the striker depth chart. 

Combine that with the fact that Charlie Davies is still in the picture due to his incredible recovery, and that leaves Pearce as the more-likely FC Dallas representative on the national team.

Either way, as long as Peace and Cunningham keep their efforts geared toward the rigors of the MLS and not the possibility of adding a stamp to their passports, Hyndman will be behind both players' quest for international recognition.

"It'd be fantastic," Hyndman said. "They're like family, and like every parent, you want the best for your children. I'm rooting for these guys. You wish them the best and support them, because you know they'll come back as better players."

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54 Responses to Pearce, Cunningham keep focus on club with Bradley’s selections looming

  1. strider says:

    Gotta agree. Cunningham has not done enough this year, or with his opportunities with the USMNT, to warrant substantive further consideration for the May camp. Pearce still has a chance, although probably only as a back-up now. I would guess he’ll get called in to the camp.

  2. Fred says:

    Pearce looks really crazy in this picture.

  3. john.q says:

    from now on he has a new name:
    HEATH “FIERCE” PEACE

  4. Josh D says:

    Cunningham was never good enough for the Nats.

    Pearce is ahead of Bornstein for me at the moment. He’s more confident on the ball, better in our opponents third, and doesn’t get caught on 1v1.

    Edu’s ability to play CB negates Bornstein’s versatility in that area.

  5. Josh D says:

    Looks cross eyed…

  6. Fred says:

    It’s too bad Pearce didn’t get to go to Turkey. That might have been a great chance to reestablish himself as a solid European-quality player after the Hansa Rostock rollercoaster.

  7. war says:

    Pearce is ahead of Bornstein to you, for me, for most here on this site, but not to BB. I think a move back to MLS has served Pearce well. He keeps improving. Hopefully he’ll be able to compete and beat Bornstein as the best LB in the league.

  8. Al_OC says:

    I briefly saw Bradley’s interview on ESPN yesterday. And on a question about Davies, I believe he said Davies will be evaluated in camp. If that’s true, then that’s a very good news.

  9. Fre says:

    It seems like he’s really headging on Davies — like he thinks Davies might not be ready but he wants to let everybody down easy. But, I agree it’s good he’s certainly not ruling it out.

  10. montana matt says:

    Thirds on Pearce being an upgrade over Bornstein. Sometime Bradley seems so thick.

  11. Rory says:

    You know what’s funny… we all talk about how you shouldn’t take a player to the World cup who isn’t playing for their team… yet, isn’t France going to start Thierry Henry up front? Has he seen the field for Barca lately (honestly, I don’t see the La Liga games–no Gol TV so I don’t know).

  12. montana matt says:

    I don’t understand why BB is so un-forthcoming in interviews. He rarely tips his hand, and never gives anything away. The way he handles the press, you’d think he was running for office or testifying before a grand jury. I’m not expecting him to be a Mourinho, but c’mon! The yanks are our team too. He really doesn’t need to hedge on every question he’s asked.

  13. Braden says:

    Based on their form this year in MLS I’d put them about even. Bornstein was excellent in Chivas’s win against San Jose, and Pearce has made some impressive crosses for Dallas, despite not really being a good midfielder.

    Which would be better? Bocanegra against England, because let’s face it, we’re probably not going to need a left back that can get forward.

    And I’d take Bornstein’s speed over Pearce’s defense/crosses in the other two games. So, I’d probably leave Heath at home…

  14. DC Josh says:

    It doesn’t matter. He’s France’s captain. A game changer. He should have played Wednesday night instead of Ibra. I don’t think Ibra fits into the Barca “dink dink” system. He’s too big and goofy. He reminds me of a Giraffe running in a herd of Antilope.

  15. DC Josh says:

    Pearce is a long shot to make the squad. Cunningham has no chance. You have to figure that Spector, Dolo, Gooch, DeMeritt, Boca, and Goodsen are all in. That’s 6 defenders. Then it becomes a matter of Bornstein or Pearce.

    Personally, I like Bornstein. He has impressed me more than Pearce while playing for the USMNT.

    It’s depressing to think about to be honest. I’m getting depressed just analyzing the two. Neither are that good, but we have to live with what we have.

  16. sread says:

    I think he reflects the sports culture here–like he should be this firm, tight-fisted guy who never shows his cards. Coaches are much more relaxed in foreign leagues, teams.

  17. Jermaine Jones says:

    You know anyone in the US player pool with Thierry Henri’s ability, his pedigree and his resume?….

    I’m waiting.

    Bradley would probably start Jones if he has a miraculuous recovery and I would be fine with that even if Jones gets one or less league games under his belt. Every player is different and needs to evaluated on a case by case basis.

  18. KEVIN says:

    What about Simek?? yeah Sheffield Wednsday is in a relegation Battle battle, but i think Simek will be more usefull to the NATS comparwed to Pearce. Dont get me wrong i like Pearce, i jusat think Simek deserves a shoot.

  19. Beltway Ben says:

    Bornstein is such a popular whipping boy I think everyone forgets Pearce was Bornstein before Bornstein was Bornstein. If a golden boy like Holden, Torres or Benny had pulled down Snejlder in the penalty area instead of JB you wouldn’t hear anything about it.

    After the World Cup I’ll be curious to see who inherits the Ching, Pearce, Bornstein, Casey and Sacha whipping boy mantle.

    You’d think these guys ( and Bradley) were axe murdering child molesters ( or NFL wide receivers), instead of dedicated athletes trying to their best to do their best for their country.

  20. war says:

    I would too but he doesn’t play. Kenny is got more minutes last month.

  21. Josh D says:

    Ha – Bornstein’s speed does him more harm then good. His speed enables him to track back once he’s been beat 1v1, just in time to tackle the opponent in the box, from behind, getting nothing of the ball…

    Be better playing with his legs tied together. And there isn’t much difference in speed between the two.

  22. bryan says:

    he hasn’t played at all.

  23. Chicago - Scott says:

    Heath Pearce is TERRIBLE, this is exactly why he should definitely not be considered for our World Cup team… link to youtube.com

  24. Chicago - Scott says:

    skip forward to 20 seconds in

  25. jig says:

    what is wrong with the way he goes about his business? All you did was whine, you didnt give any reasons why it would be a good idea if he were more liberal with his words.

  26. Warren says:

    fourths for Pearce over Bornstein

  27. Warren says:

    It’s not about MLS. Bornstein may do great in MLS, but it doesn’t matter if he looks lost at international level.

    Or how would you characterize Bornsetin being directly responsible for the other team’s 3 goals against the Dutch? England is no easier.

    BB’s plan was to have Bornstein be his starting LB at Cup, but Bornstein himself has proven that is a terrible plan, and presumably BB has in his usual fashion belatedly gotten the message. So Pearce gets my nod over JB, though i would take either Spector or boca over either of our MLS guys as starters at LB, with Pearce as 1st off bench; JB should be confined to doghouse for duration of Cup.

  28. Felix says:

    That’s a good call, Eljero Elia was running circles around Spector during that friendly against the Dutch, but you didn’t hear anything about it because Spector is on everyone’s good side. Torres gave the ball away constantly and was chasing play the whole half, but he got all these plaudits cause he got one shot off that wasn’t on frame. Again, a fan favorite.

    Yet if its someone who is on everyone’s s*%t list (Bornstein, Kljestan, etc) that cannot do ANYTHING right. I’m not saying these guys should be starters or on the squad. But people here can be incredibly uneven-handed of their critiques of our players.

  29. Warren says:

    It wasn’t just Snejder, it was all 3 dutch goals. Maybe Pearce was terrible before, but it doesn’t matter – based on recent USMNT form Pearce should be on the bus and Bornstein under it.

  30. Warren says:

    There’s terrible (Pearce) and there’s disaster (Bornstein).

    Bornstein is the disaster who already happened against the Dutch – you think he can’t do it again against England? I’m sure Rooney is praying BB sticks with your man.

  31. Isaac says:

    Dude, I’m sorry but don’t be thick. That’s frickin’ Jay Heaps. Get it right.

  32. Beltway Ben says:

    Warren,

    You prove my point so well I love it!

    The score was Holland 2, USA 1.

    You hate JB so much you blame him for a third Dutch goal that wasn’t even scored!

    God love you man! You are a perfect poster child for the “I hate Bradley and his boys no matter what they do, wrong or wronger!

    Peace dude!

  33. Sheffield Thursday says:

    Simek hurt his ankle in 2008 and spent most of 2009 rehabbing.

    Meanwhile his mentor Brain Laws left for Burnley and Frankie is having a hard time getting a game. I don’t know if its more the injury or that his coach has left but his career may be over.

  34. inkedAG says:

    Wow, and here I thought Fringe was just a TV show on Fox.

    ;)

  35. Dangerous Dan says:

    What’s in it for him to be what you call forthcoming?

    Would it mean the Bradley haters would back off? Not likely. Bradley is the kind of guy who seems mostly interested in getting his job right, not playing politics with the media snd the fans, a game he will never win.

    If the team does well everyone will love him; the hell with the rest. You’re just mad because he didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. But that isn’t his job. His job is to put out the best team possible and that goal is not aided if he says, for example, “Well we’ve already decided that there is no way Charlie can be ready so we’re not going to invite him to camp.” or

    “Adu is a punk and until he cleans up his act he ain’t getting near us” or ” Arizona has the right idea about those people ( for all you “Bradley hates hispanics” fans ) “.

    The guy can’t win those battles and he isn’t really interested in trying

  36. soccerroo says:

    This is the best coverage that FC Dallas has gotten this season. I am of the thought that niether of them get to the WC and maybe pearce gets invited to camp but not even sure about that.

  37. d-bar says:

    Wow, way to come strong, Dan!

  38. Brett says:

    I’d rather take Castillo than Pearce. And Cunningham shouldn’t be anywhere close to Bradley’s radar.

  39. Warren says:

    I never said I hate BB or boys, and don’t. Peace to you too.

    I got scores of US v Denmark with US v Netherlands, so sue me.

    (Actually I will grant you that NYT rated my guy Spector even lower than your man Bornstein (coincidentally 1 v 3 again) in the Denmark game.)

  40. Brian says:

    Yeahhhh…that’s recently retired Jay Heaps

  41. Vik says:

    I think a lot of the time Bradley is answering questions about or related to players, and he’s not alone in thinking all coach-player interactions need to happen in house. It helps insulate the team from all press, and it only works if the coach doesn’t break out and go into depth positive or negative about players to the media.

    Some coaches balance what they say to the press with what goes on at camps well, but it’s just different management styles.

  42. ericJ says:

    Nothing competes with 3rddegree.net :)

  43. MadKingGeorge says:

    Prediction Time: At least one player that Bob Bradley does not take to South Africa will tear it up in the league back home and have the form of his life and one player he takes will just be awful . So in some ways BB is in a no win situation. He will be Criticized for not prediction the future.

    What a thankless job. For the amount they pay the USMNT Coach who would really want it? All the top European Coaches just laugh when the Americans come calling.

  44. Beltway Ben says:

    Bornstein is not my man.

    I don’t think either Pearce or Bornstein should go to the World Cup.

    I see both as potentially good international left halves but both are far too inconsistent at this point. Both are capable of losing you a game at some point.

    The best option is Boca as Spector has proven below average as a left back. Castillo does not seem like a very smart player and now he is hurt. I’d give Edu a shot at it.

    My original thought, after watching him in the Gold Cup was to move Robbie Rogers to left back. Not a bad defender and much better crosser and shooter than most of the rest. But it’s probably too late for this cycle.

    I just feel the criticism of Bornstein is unfair and unwarranted. In my view he plays because there is no one other than Boca who is better. And until, Gooch and Demerit come back, Boca is needed in the middle. Bornstein has been exposed in my view because the entire back 4 is in transition. They have all mostly played like crap lately. The defense is a mess and improving it is #1 and #1A in terms of Bradley’s priorities. That is why he is holding out hope for Jones. A guy like Jones would instantly solve a lot of defensive problems by stabilizing the midfield and shielding the vulnerable center backs, who were never very mobile in any case.

    But Bornstein draws the brunt of the criticism because of this perception that he is Bob’s boy. Because most of think y’all are smarter than him. Hell, I’m surprised you don’t blame him for the state of the economy or Heidi Montag’s botched plastic surgeries.

    Other than keepers,by international standards, the US has two above average players, Donovan and Dempsey.

    Everyone else is okay to mediocre to crappy. Bornstein is somewhere in the lower third of that pile.

    As far as I’m concerned its a miracle Bradley has kept this load of crap (by international standards ) afloat for so long. And he may actually get them out of the group.

    The US will be better after this World Cup, regardless of whether Bob stays or goes, you know why? Because in two years they will have a much better group of young players and the present younger ones may actually get better. They are pretty young after all.

    The name of the game is players.

  45. Barberie says:

    Castillo is hurt and currently not playing. So if you take him you’ll have to explain why you took someone who can’t run.

    I think this is a bad idea.

  46. Warren says:

    They laugh because Sunil + USSF can’t be taken seriously as soccer bosses.

    And yeah they’d have to pay more/get out of the way to get a top coaching talent to take the gig.

  47. Warren says:

    Totally agreed re young players being the US’s hope – for next Cup. For this one, if we make it out of 1st round as projected I’ll give BB credit; and still hope he moves along.

    And I still prefer Spector at LB over Bornstein, even though yes Jonathan’s managed to screw up too many times oo at that position during the EPL season.

    At least Spector has weekly experience going up against World Cup quality wingers in EPL.

  48. visat says:

    Bornstein is the Agoos of 2002. I remember the chant “Jeff Agoos scored more goals than all of France”

  49. Beltway Ben says:

    “At least Spector has weekly experience going up against World Cup quality wingers in EPL.”

    Yes, but it’s experience in having your butt handed to you on a platter. I’m not sure that is all that helpful.

    Spector has played LB for the US before and there is a reason they keep him at right back. The difference between Spector at left back versus right back is like the difference between being on the highway in 3rd gear and then shifting to 5th gear. It’s that pronounced.

  50. Beltway Ben says:

    Sunil and the USSF have their problems but they are somewhere in the middle of the pack to just above average compared to the football governing bodies of other countries.

    At least they didn’t hire football’s version of the post-Thirller era Michael Jackson in Diego Maradona as the manager. Just wait till that freakshow hits South Africa. They’ll probably win the whole thing just to spite everyone.

    The English FA were an oversexed, sick, pathetic joke until it got so bad they were forced to hire Capello who finally seems to have them on the right path. On the other hand, once he leaves, just watch how quickly they descend into chaos.

    The USSF could be a lot better but don’t think for second they couldn’t be a whole lot worse. Be careful what you wish for. How’s that for a cliche?

  51. Bill says:

    Earlier this year I was hoping Frank Simek would get a shot at making the WC team. After going to Sheff Wednesday’s page (link to swfc.co.uk,,10304,00.html), it appears Frank hasn’t played for the Owls since early March. However, given our lack of depth at outside defender, I hope he’s invited to Princeton for a chance to compete for a spot on the WC roster.

    I’ve never been a real fan of Pierce. Decent player but not WC material IMHO. And I’m baffled what BBradley sees in JBornstein…obviously he sees something I don’t. Not WC material either IMO.

    From the games I’ve watched, I like Goodson, Marshall, Boca, Spector (most of the time), DeMerit, Cherundolo, and Onyewu. I hope DeMerit really comes alive this WC.

  52. Dollar says:

    One reason Simek hasn’t played for so long is there is some real question as to whether he is fully recovered from his ankle injury.

    I like Frankie but if he was in any shape to play he would have had a shot by now. They called him into the camp for the Holland game but he didn’t play so it doesn’t look he is ready to go.

  53. Warren says:

    ok good point, I guess we need to remind ourselves things could always be worse

  54. Warren says:

    And still I’m hoping USSF can take step up and get out of way of national team, post-South Africa.

    Only bright side of soccer being minor league in US compared to other sports is we don’t have half the circus atmosphere of the others, and not even a fraction of the insanity – of France sticking with Domenech, or Argentina hiring Maradona – what did they expect??? – or…Ghana announcing hirings which are news to current coach and supposed new coach…or..insert your favorite example here.