Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Arena Springs Surprises in World Cup Squad

The American squad for the World Cup Finals has been announced, and includes a couple of selections that fooled most U.S. soccer watchers.

Coach Bruce Arena surprisingly omitted 2002 World Cup finals veteran Gregg Berhalter, the 32 year old former Crystal Palace centre back who currently plays in Germany and has 43 caps, in favour of the Kansas City Wizards' Jimmy Conrad, a 29 year old defender with 12 national team appearances. The two played alongside each other in the recent 4-1 defeat to Germany where Berhalter looked the more impressive.

The other eye-opener was Arena's selection of Houston Dynamo's Hawaiian target man Brian Ching ahead of New England's Taylor Twellman, author of 65 goals in 102 MLS matches and last year's MVP (Player of the Season).

Despite Twellman's superior CV, Ching's six goals in five games as opposed to Twellman's one in four start to the new MLS season appears to have twisted Arena's hand.

Overall, the American manager has gone for experience over youth and has included former Ajax man John O'Brien, who has spent much of the last two years injured. The Chivas USA midfielder has only played five minutes of this MLS season but was one of the US heroes in Korea four years ago, where he opened the US World Cup account by scoring against Portugal.

Another gamble is the inclusion of Ben Olsen, a former player of Arena's at DC United. Olsen was once the great white hope of US soccer but the ravages of injury put paid to his hopes of playing in 2002. The former Nottingham Forest midfielder, who turns 29 tomorrow, has completed a remarkable comeback by making the 2006 squad ahead of the more in-form Kerry Zavagnin but it remains to be seen if his best days are behind him.

The squad as a whole contains eleven players from MLS and twelve from overseas, seven of those from England and nineteen in total who have played in MLS. The usual suspects are all there, however, and the US should line up against the Czechs on June 12th thus: Keller, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Gibbs, Lewis, Dempsey, Reyna, Mastroeni, Beasley, Donovan, McBride.
USA World Cup Squad in full: Goalkeepers Marcus Hahnemann (Reading), Tim Howard (Manchester United), Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach) Defenders Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Cory Gibbs (ADO Den Haag), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake) Midfielders DaMarcus Beasley (PSV), Bobby Convey (Reading), Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Eddie Lewis (Leeds United), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), John O'Brien (Chivas USA), Ben Olsen (DC United), Claudio Reyna (Manchester City) Forwards Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Brian McBride (Fulham), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards)

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2 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

I think it's a solid squad all around .. Ching is definitely very deserving, but I would have loved to see Twellman get the call over Wolff .. also, as a DC supporter from day one, my heart is still with Eddie Pope so I'm thrilled he get another run at glory

Food Munchers said...

The choice of Ching over Twellman was certainly surprising but understandable citing Ching's play at Houston, but Twellman has been the better forward in friendlies. As for Twellman over Wolff, that doesn't work, they are different types of forwards, Rolfe or Casey would be the other options, so keeping Wolff makes some sense. Bringing in Conrad and Olsen will likely give them some good and much needed experience as the older begin stepping down, but I am surprised the Noonan didn't end up in Olsen's spot since Noonan is the only player with the team to have played LM, RM, CM, and striker with the natioanl team. I know he was injured, but he would have made a nice addition to the team.