The United States opened their 2009 schedule with a 3-2 victory over Sweden but the result really matters little. Sure, it helps to start the year off on the right foot but ultimately this particular team won't be playing together much.
Instead, the most meaningful impact will be the individual performances, how the players fared and what that means for the U.S. in terms of building up their depth pool.
Here's some of the players I thought helped or hurt their stock.
Sacha Kljestan. We knew this kid could play, but we didn't know he could dominate a match at the international level. Kljestan was in control throughout the game and was clearly the best player on the field for either side. Perhaps his week in Scotland helped him gain confidence or maybe his stellar performance was just the result of the work he put in during training camp. Whatever the case, Kljestan might become a regular starter if he isn't already.
Brian Ching. No, he didn't score a goal and he made a mess of one breakaway. But Ching did a lot of the little things that are necessary during games. He's grown into a leadership role and showed that during the game. After Sweden scored their first goal, Ching had the presence of mind to make a long run into Sweden's box, deftly collected the long ball and fed Kljestan for the eventual match-winner.
Danny Califf. Central defense is actually a position of need for the U.S. After Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra, the dropoff is a bit steep. But Califf has shown that he can play in the back at this level. His time in MLS helped him for a move abroad and now years of playing in Europe have benefited the national team. Califf was strong in the back and had several good passes, including the one to Ching on the third goal.
Kenny Cooper. We were all waiting for Cooper's moment to shine, and that happened in November. But with another opportunity to show what Cooper could do at the international level, we saw 45 minutes of futility. Cooper never seemed to settle in and was not a factor in the game. He could have salvaged his performance with a late breakaway but he could not convert what would have been the fourth goal.
Charlie Davies. Another forward who showed he has a long way to go. Davies was a little active but overall he was not a dangerous player. With forward depth always an area of need, Davies could have states his own case for further call-ups but yet another fruitless match gives reason to doubt if he'll ever take the next step.
Eddie Gaven. Few notices him when he stepped onto the field, and few noticed him when he was on the field. One person in the press box wondered when Gaven had entered the game - and he'd already been in the game for more than five minutes. He's a decent MLS player but a guy with his years of service should be more than just a late-game substitute, especially in a game like Saturday's.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Troy Perkins and Robbie Rogers made their international debuts. None of them particularly distinguished themselves but Perkins is in line to become the number three option behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Rogers is young and Bradley indicated afterward that the team is "just scratching the surface" with him, so he's definitely a player that Bradley and the U.S. will keep their eye on. It just may take a while for him to fully develop, and Saturday was an important step in his development.