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April, 21, 2010

For the better part of three years, U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley has waited for someone, anyone, to step up and claim the vacant spot in the heart of the American midfield next to his son Michael.

It's not as if Bradley hasn't tried a multitude of options; after goalkeeper, center mid appears to be the deepest position in the U.S. player pool. Still, 50 days before the World Cup kicks off, who will man that spot in South Africa -- Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Torres or Ricardo Clark -- is anyone's guess. So, yeah, there's depth, but as the cliché goes about keepers, if you have two, it means you don't have one.

What makes that situation so frustrating for American fans is that the team could have that "one" if fortune had smiled differently on John O'Brien. Now 32 years old, O'Brien should be finishing off the prime of an illustrious national team career. After all, he's the man Landon Donovan once called the "best soccer player in the USA."

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.