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Arena names USA squad

2 May 2006

United States head coach Bruce Arena raised a few eyebrows when he announced his final 23-man squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ in a live national television broadcast on Tuesday night.

Arena will take his US squad to Germany aiming to better, or at least equal, their run to the last eight four years ago and with 12 players who figured at the Korea/Japan 2002, he is convinced he has found the right blend of youth and experience.

"I can assure everyone that the team that steps on the field on 12 June against the Czech Republic will be a team that all Americans will be proud of," the US coach. "We look forward to preparing for an exciting and demanding challenge, and we appreciate the support of all Americans."

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Four up front
Leading the attack will be two-time FIFA World Cup veteran Brian McBride. The only player to score in successive finals for the States, Arena will be hoping the Fulham striker, second in the all-time US scoring chart, can maintain his high standards in Germany.

In addition to McBride's undoubted aerial threat, Arena has the pace and verve of teenage sensation Eddie Johnson, Korea/Japan 2002 veteran Josh Wolff and towering Houston Dynamo striker Brian Ching. "McBride is our second all-time top scorer, Wolff has experience as well and Johnson and Ching, as debutants, offer us a wealth of talent and youth," said Arena.

That said, Arena may be criticised in some quarters for his exclusion of 2005 MLS top scorer and MVP Taylor Twellman of New England Revolution. Twellman, alongside club colleagues Steve Ralston and Pat Noonan, was named in Arena’s 13-man 'alternate squad' of players available to deputise in case injuries force a change of plans.

Men in the middle
The American midfield will be anchored by Premiership-based team captain Claudio Reyna and LA Galaxy playmaker Landon Donovan. Both veterans of Korea/Japan 2002, they will be joined by Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey and Pablo Mastroeni.

Arena also decided to gamble on both Ben Olsen and John O'Brien in his midfield selection. Olsen, currently of DC United, is the only player in the final squad not to have played a single Germany 2006 qualifying match. And O'Brien, impressive at the 2002 finals in the Far East and the man whom team-mate Donovan calls the "best soccer player in the USA", is only just beginning to regain full fitness after an injury-hampered four-year stay in the Netherlands.

Arena said Donovan would have a crucial role to play, getting forward from the midfield. "Landon is now an experienced player heading into his second World Cup at the young age of 24. He was outstanding in qualifying and a player we look to to lead us and be an important figure in attack."

At the back
In defence, Arena will be counting on the savvy and experience of veteran Eddie Pope, hulking newcomer Oguchi Onyewu, Fulham man Carlos Bocanegra and Jimmy Conrad in the centre-back positions. The choices at full-back are Eddie Lewis, Frankie Hejduk, Steve Cherundolo and Cory Gibbs, all of whom will be aware of both their defensive and attacking responsibilities.

In goal, Arena has selected the ultra-experienced Borussia Monchengladbach man Kasey Keller as his unquestioned No1. Keller will be backed up by Reading's Marcus Hahnemann and Manchester United reserve Tim Howard. "This is an excellent group of keepers," said the coach, himself a former goalkeeper. "Keller is outstanding and he will be motivated by the fact that in his fourth World Cup he will finally be tipped as the No1 choice."

Before heading to their FIFA World Cup base in Hamburg, the American squad will convene in Cary, North Carolina for a training camp on 10 May. With three remaining friendlies (against Morocco, Venezuela and Latvia), Arena will be keen to iron out the kinks before his side open their Group E account against the Czech Republic in Gelsenkirchen on 12 June. The USA's other first-round opponents are Italy and African newcomers Ghana.

US squad for Germany:
Goalkeepers: Kasey Keller (Borussia Monchengladbach), Tim Howard (Manchester United), Marcus Hahnemann (Reading)
Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Cory Gibbs (ADO Den Haag), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Eddie Lewis (Leeds United), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake)
Midfielders: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution), Claudio Reyna (Manchester City), John O'Brien (Chivas USA), Ben Olsen (DC United), DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), Bobby Convey (Reading)
Forwards: Brian McBride (Fulham), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo).

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