April 14, 2006
U.S. coach Arena has some questions to answer before he names his World Cup roster on May 2
By Michael Lewis
U.S. national coach Bruce Arena has given himself a self-imposed deadline of May 2 to name his 23-man roster for the World Cup.
It wouldn't be surprising if Arena already had 20 players penciled in. The last three choices, which could include midfield, forward and the third goalkeeper, might take Arena the remaining 18 days to decide which ones to take.
Arena probably will ask himself some tough questions about players:
* Which of these three midfielders will he name -- Ben Olsen (D.C. United), who had a solid outing and scored the lone goal in Tuesday night's 1-1 draw with Jamaica, Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution), who has improved considerably over the past two years and can score, or MetroStars killer Pat Noonan (sorry -- he ain't a Red Bulls killer, at least not yet).
* Can forward Eddie Johnson regain his form and scoring touch?
* Is Noonan a better option because he can play midfield as well?
* Who is better suited for the No. 3 goalkeeping position: former Metro Tim Howard, who has hardly played for Manchester United, or Tony Meola, who has been solid for the Red Bulls (Arena recently indicated he was leaning toward taking keepers playing in Europe).
Arena's final decision will come down to which players he and the coaching staff thinks can help the U.S. against the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana.
Saying all of that, here is one writer's vision of the roster, three weeks early (subject to change via injuries or players' form):
Goalkeepers: Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany), Marcus Hahnemann (Reading, England), Tim Howard (Manchester United, England).
Defenders: Chris Albright (L.A. Galaxy), Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham, England), Gregg Berhalter (Energie Cottbus, Germany), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96, Germany), Cory Gibbs (ADO Den Haag, Netherlands), Frank Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Eddie Lewis (Leeds United, England), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege, Belgium), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake).
Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven, the Netherlands), Bobby Convey (Reading, England), Landon Donovan (L.A. Galaxy), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), John O'Brien (Chivas USA), Clint Dempsey (D.C. United), Claudio Reyna (Manchester City, England).
Forwards: Brian McBride (Fulham, England), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards).
Some bubble players who probably will be considered or could wind up as alternates: goalkeepers Matt Reis )New England), Kevin Hartman (L.A. Galaxy) and Meola (Red Bulls), defender Jim Conrad, defensive midfielder Kerry Zavagnin, in case there is a glut of injuries at that position. Chicago Fire defensive mid Chris Armas, returning from an ACL injury, hasn't played this season.
Arena said he learned some lessons from the 2002 World Cup, when he ran out of defenders in the second round and quarterfinals, due to injuries and suspensions. Which is why he is likely to select nine this time.
Arena also likes players who are versatile. The list includes Lewis, Hejduk and Convey, who can play midfield or defense.
Michael Lewis can be reached at BigAppleEdit@aol.com.