Posted: Thursday June 22, 2006 4:27PM; Updated: Thursday June 22, 2006 9:12PM
The U.S. will have a difficult time replacing a group of quality veterans in 2010, including Brian McBride.
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NUREMBERG, Germany -- Now what?
The U.S. sent the most talented team in its history to the World Cup, and it barely managed a single point. We can sit here and argue that the Americans drew perhaps the toughest competition it has ever faced, but -- except for one match -- the simple fact is that the U.S. didn't come to play.
Talent means nothing if you can't put together a team effort.
So let's look to the future while the body is still warm. We've probably seen the last of veterans Kasey Keller, Eddie Lewis, Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride and Eddie Pope. Those are all big cleats to fill.
U.S. Soccer has a blueprint to be a legitimate contender by the next World Cup in South Africa, a plan called "Project 2010." Are the players at the U.S.' disposal good enough? Or is it all a pipe dream?
Here's what the future may hold...
Coach: U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said after Thursday's crushing 2-1 loss to Ghana that he isn't ready to make a decision on Bruce Arena. But in all likelihood, we may have seen the last of Bruce Almighty. Arena has already enjoyed a tenure longer than most national team coaches can even dream of. And after this letdown, a change is likely in order. There are rumors the U.S. could eventually snag German national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann, who is a full-time resident of Southern California. But don't be surprised if a bigger name enters the mix, such as Dutch legend Guus Hiddink (who will take over the Russian national team after his tenure at this year's World Cup with Australia).
Goalkeeper: Another question mark. Could Keller really play in his fifth World Cup at age 40, as he has suggested? Don't bet on it. That leaves No. 2 Marcus Hahnemann, who would be 37 and will still likely have some game left. He'll certainly be tested in the near future, as his club team, Reading, will play in the English Premier League next season for the first time in its history.
Behind "Red Bird" is Tim Howard, who will be 31 in 2010. Manchester United did Howard a huge favor by loaning him out to Everton for this coming season, which means he'll no longer be rotting on the bench and will have a huge opportunity to cement himself as a regular keeper in England. A young player to keep an eye on is Chivas USA's Brad Guzan, a 21-year-old who showed some promise in his rookie season last year.