CHESTER, Pa. – When Bob Bradley called Schellas Hyndman to request the presence of Heath Pearce as part of the US camp for Tuesday's friendly against Colombia at PPL Park, the FC Dallas manager wanted to have a heart-to-heart with his right back.
He wasn't fully sure Pearce was emotionally ready to return to the US national team. After all, the wound was still relatively fresh.
Pearce was on the preliminary World Cup roster but missed out on the final cut for South Africa 2010. With 32 appearances, including a team high for minutes played in 2008, Pearce was among the top 20 most capped players in the running for a spot. It didn’t help him book his ticket to the World Cup.
“I wanted to fly away to some island somewhere with no TV,” Pearce said of the days after he was cut last spring. “I wanted to go surfing every morning and relax on the beach and clear my mind. I said, ‘I’m not going to watch any games.’ That was obviously the initial reaction that was harsh in my head.”
He spoke of being at the airport bar on the day of the final cuts, watching the final roster unveiling on ESPN as 200 people gathered around the television. It sunk in that he would not be a part of the event that would capture the imagination of the nation.
“Part of me was devastated, part of me was hurt and part of me was jealous,” Pearce said. “The competitive side of me wanted to be there.”
It is understandable that the Modesto, Calif., native was in the doldrums. He had already missed the Under-17 World Cup with a broken leg, was unable to play well enough to make the Under-20 World Cup in Spain after developing shingles and mono and a move to current UEFA Champions League side Buraspor fell through at the last minute due to a transfer technicality.
[inline_node:320699]“At first it was an ‘I hate soccer' thing,” said Pearce. “But then you get over your ego quick and you realize this is your country. I was part of the big picture and part of something special and the success they had at the tournament, I felt that I was part of it.”
For the first time, Bradley spoke about the rationale for his decision to take Jonathan Bornstein ahead of Pearce in South Africa.
“If you look at the last three to four years, there have been times when maybe Heath seemed to be in a little bit better form and was getting more playing time maybe because of form or because of an injury," Bradley told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. "In other moments, Jonny has been a little bit ahead of Heath. It’s a tight race always.”
Pearce eventually overcame the disappointment, aided by the support of friends and family. No need for a trip to an island. He watched every minute of every US game and even participated in viewing parties with friends, families and fans.
Although Bradley and Pearce had not spoken since the final World Cup cuts, the FC Dallas defender was in consideration for the camp against Brazil in August despite not making the final list.
When Bradley wanted him back in the squad against Colombia, there was never any real hesitation in Pearce, despite Hyndman’s reservations.
“Playing for your country is an honor and you never turn down a call-up,” Pearce said. “I have another opportunity to build more experience at the international level and prove myself. This is the next cycle that has begun now and I’m happy to be part of it.”
US captain and left back Carlos Bocanegra returned to his French club Saint-Étienne on Sunday. Bornstein was not called up. Although Jonathan Spector could play at left back, it’s Pearce who will likely get the nod. He will continue to play at left back for the US despite playing at right back for FC Dallas.
“I know that the dream is not over by any means,” Pearce said. “I’m 26 and I’ll be 29 come the next World Cup."
“As much as [being cut] was devastating, I’ve accomplished some fantastic things with the national team in my career so far and I’d like to continue that.”