U.S. squad's strengths, weaknesses
Posted: Thursday May 30, 2002 6:14 PM
Updated: Thursday May 30, 2002 7:34 PM
By Ridge Mahoney, Soccer America
Club: Blackburn (ENG). Age: 31.
GP: 76. G: 0.
Size (6-foot-4, 202 pounds) and incredible wing span enable him to
reach shots and crosses many keepers miss. Excellent with feet and
has a powerful throw. Tough on breakaways and has a good history of
saving penalties. Has a tendency to concede rebounds on low shots.
Club: Tottenham (ENG).
GP: 60. G: 0.
Best shot-stopper of the American keepers. Especially tough on balls
driven on or near the ground. Judgment and decision-making are rarely
questioned. Has improved his kicking off the ground appreciably in
the past few years. Punts the ball nearly every time. Must be a
factor on set plays.
Club: Kansas City Wizards.
GP: 99. G: 0.
Playing in MLS has added experience and maturity to his remarkable
athletic ability. Extremely quick and strong. Has great feet and
plays his angles well if not impeccably. Excellent arm. Accepts his
role and collaborated with Keller during the Gold Cup. Third keeper
going to his third World Cup.
Club: San Jose Earthquakes.
GP: 130. G: 4.
Strong tackler reads the game well and attempts to pass the ball.
Fiercely competitive and leader of the back. Won't win many footraces
or aerial duels; sometimes can compensate by positioning, sometimes
not. Usually serves ball on free kicks but netted one goal in Gold
Club: Crystal Palace (ENG).
GP: 27. G: 0.
Like Agoos, is left-footed and plays with ferocity. English
experience and height (6-foot-1) make him tough in the air. Can't
always hold his ground. Looks to pass but sometimes dwells on the
ball when thumping it is needed. Timing of tackles could be
Club: Hannover 96 (GER).
GP: 10. Goals: 0.
Central defender in college has matured into quick, clever player at
home in midfield or at outside back. Right-footed but has played
several positions in Germany. Fast with clean touch although passing
for U.S. has been inconsistent. At 5-foot-6, 145 pounds must resist
stronger, taller foes.
Club: Bayer Leverkusen (GER).
GP: 40. G: 5.
Once a race car without a steering wheel, now a more sophisticated
model with good wheels. Covers vast amounts of ground. Can get to the
byline but rarely delivers a threatening cross. Anticipation and
reading of situations have improved yet are average at best.
Infectious enthusiasm and attitude.
Club: New England Revolution.
GP: 27. G: 0.
Calm and experienced with an excellent sense of timing. Moves and
reads the game well. Rarely caught out of position. Can adapt to
attackers of different strengths and styles. Heading has improved
although not his strongest suit. Speed and agility are adequate.
Passing can improve.
Club: Colorado Rapids.
GP: 10. G: 0.
Well-bred Argentine stock: Tough tackler, smooth on the ball.
Moreover, he plays with his head up and is an incisive passer. Nifty
enough to get out of tight spaces, strong enough to withstand
challenges. Positioning needs to improve as do his decisions of when
to step in.
Club: D.C. United.
GP: 50. G: 5.
Increased upper-body strength has made him harder to knock off the
ball but still needs to tackle harder and more decisively. Not always
tough enough defensively. Fast over distance and reasonably quick
with first few steps. Dangerous in the air on set plays. Passes must
be crisper and delivered earlier.
Club: Metz (FRA).
GP: 27. G: 0.
Years of playing in France and Germany have imbued him with skill. Is
fluid on the ball and has a good touch yet often passes aimlessly.
Decent speed. Gets confused too easily and freezes, thus making no
play despite being in position to make one. Finesse player needs more
Club: Nuremberg (GER).
GP: 32. G: 1.
Strongest and tallest (6-foot-2) U.S. field player. Overpowers and
intimidates opponents. Not an overlapper but can serve decent
mid-range balls to the middle or up the flanks. Average crosser.
Vulnerable against quick, tricky attackers if help is not nearby.
Tracks players well but concentration sometimes wavers.
Club: Chicago Fire.
GP: 12. G: 3.
Once more of a winger. Now is maturing into a two-way midfielder or
emergency left back. Recovers and closes down players quickly. First
U.S. goal was a stoppage-time volley that downed South Korea in Gold
Cup. Good work rate and great attitude. Needs to take players on more
Club: San Jose Earthquakes.
GP: 23. G: 5.
Speed, acceleration, touch, vision, creativity, audacity, courage ...
it's all there. Melds physical gifts and guile. Can score or set up
goals by swooping into the goalmouth, floating out wide and cutting
inside, or racing away down the middle. Only question mark is doing
well at the highest level.
Club: Los Angeles Galaxy.
GP: 155. G: 14.
Only squad member to play in each 1994 and 1998 World Cup game will
be a catalyst off the bench. Not the flank speedster he once was but
still covers a lot of ground. Better suited to veering inside to play
short balls or go for goal than crossing from the corner.
Club: Fulham (ENG).
GP: 40. G: 3.
Scraped the rust off of his passing and crossing game in 2002 to win
a roster spot on the left flank. Bends ball beautifully when given
time and space; must do better at speed and under pressure. Has
grafted work rate and defending onto his offensive skills. Good
Club: Ajax (NED).
GP: 15. G: 1.
Left-footed yet not necessarily left-sided. Quick, tough, shrewd
midfield dynamo. Not afraid to mix it up but not always big enough
(5-foot-8, 150 pounds) to win duels. Adds bite, desire and
determination. Good first-touch passer. Can deliver over middle
distances. Has been dinged up often last few years.
Club: Sunderland (ENG).
GP: 88. G: 8.
One of the few Americans capable of holding the ball and passing it
accurately under pressure. Can hit balls of any distance and has the
vision to spot open teammates anywhere. Reliable defensively and good
tackler. Service on dead balls can be inconsistent. Health is a
Club: NAC (NED).
GP: 80. G: 15.
Top scorer in qualifying (eight goals in 15 games) prefers to play
centrally. Willing to attack the box and can also shoot from
distance. Vast experience essential in turbulent midfield situations.
Speed has been dulled by age yet must be respected. Training camp
should revive lackluster U.S. showings in 2002.
GP: 22. G: 9.
Sniper extraordinaire. Punctures defenses with sharp first steps.
Will try anything to burst through defenders or bamboozle them.
Accurate with either foot and can shoot in stride. Keeper night-mare
on free kicks. Not fast. Prickly temperament will be tested by kicks
and elbows. Sometimes betrayed by lazy first touch.
Club: Columbus Crew.
GP: 60. G: 18.
Can hold his ground and the ball with his back to goal. Flicks balls
with head or feet and is always moving to support the attack or latch
onto the return pass. Good volleyer with either foot. Resolute worker
defensively. Prone to injuries. Effectiveness against top teams still
Club: Everton (ENG).
GP: 98. G: 24.
The scrapper of the front line, a tenacious chaser. Works endlessly
to close down opponents or drag them along on his runs. Good header
and effective at near post on flicks. Not intimidated but sometimes
overpowered. Lack of club time has dulled his touch and blunted his
Club: Chicago Fire.
GP: 18. G: 6.
Speedy slasher can get behind defenders or wriggle through them. Legitimate breakaway threat. Moves well to find seams. Can collect ball out wide and slant into goalmouth on the dribble. Decent passer. Finishing can be sloppy or superb. Hesitation at critical moments has been costly.
Ridge Mahoney is a senior editor at Soccer America magazine.
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