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U.S. World Cup Preview

Posted: Monday May 27, 2002 2:34 PM

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EARNIE STEWART
What are your earliest memories of the World Cup?
The World Cup of 1978, watching the Dutch national team (Stewart grew up in Holland), although I can't remember very much about it. World Cup 1982 in Spain brings back more memories, especially as a fan of the Brazilian national team.

Which of your teammates should people look out for?
That's a difficult question because our strength is our teamwork. But if I have to name one player, then it will be Claudio Reyna.

What stage do people back home expect you to reach?
They expect us to become world champions, but that isn't very realistic. Our goal is to do better than last time. That shouldn't be too difficult, knowing that we lost all our matches in France.

If you don't win the World Cup, who will?
Argentina have a very good chance to become world champions. They know what it's like to get the right result at the right moment. When it's necessary, they will be there. Besides, all of their players perform in Europe's strongest leagues.

Is there too much money in football?
No, I don't think so. Every company aims to make a profit. The same goes for professional football clubs. It isn't in their or anybody else's interest to face bankruptcy.

How they line up

Bruce Arena's favored formation is 4-4-2. In goal, there is nothing to choose between Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel -- both are excellent, reliable and experienced keepers, though both are suspect when playing the ball with their feet. Arena's one semi-surprise has been to name Tony Meola for the third keeper spot -- a veteran instead of a youngster.

The 34-year-old Jeff Agoos is the ideal no-frills, no-mistakes central defender, the linchpin and leader of the back four. His central partner, Eddie Pope, is less sure in the tackle but his speed can quickly repair errors. On the right, Tony Sanneh brings speed and physical intimidation, but his hit-and-miss tackling can be alarming. David Regis on the left marks and tackles well, and -- like Sanneh -- likes to get forward. Sanneh's speed allows him to get back -- Regis often seems to find the lure of a forward position too attractive to retreat from it.

Gregg Berhalter is considered the center-back to use when aerial play is a factor, but his lack of playing time with Crystal Palace is a drawback. Frankie Hejduk, a speedy attacking wing-back, has the same problem, having seen no action at all this season with Bayer Leverkusen. Carlos Llamosa's coolness under pressure stems from his impressive tactical sense. Pablo Mastroeni's versatility should ensure him some playing time -- he can play in any defensive position and in midfield, passes extremely well and has splendid ball skills.

Replacing injured Chris Armas in the midfield will be key. Armas is a non-stop runner in midfield whose job was to break up opposition plays, win the ball -- and give it to captain Claudio Reyna. Reyna's ball control allows the midfield to function smoothly as he makes his runs or carefully selects his passes.

The energy of Earnie Stewart is a good foil for Reyna's more thoughtful playmaking, and he has good scoring ability, too. John O'Brien, a regular with Ajax, brings the reliability, versatility and accurate passing of Dutch football.

Landon Donovan, the current golden boy of U.S. soccer, is set to get plenty of playing time. The 20-year-old has talent as a playmaker, scorer or even as a defender. Fulham's Eddie Lewis has speed and is an excellent crosser, but is another lacking first-team football.

The inclusion of veteran Cobi Jones is the most questionable of Arena's choices. Jones' game was always about speed and quicksilver moves, but both qualities have faded with the years. The player who has those moves in exciting abundance is DaMarcus Beasley, the baby of the squad. A speedy, tricky dribbler and a confident finisher.

The tall Brian McBride can dominate in the air, but his ground game is also a strength. In the past year Clint Mathis has developed into a highly dangerous forward with a magical scoring touch. The stocky Joe-Max Moore has always scored goals wherever he has played and is a powerful finisher who is never afraid to go for the ball in the penalty area. Josh Wolff's speed and superior dribbling skill make him the ideal counter-attacking forward.


 
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