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U.S. squad's strengths, weaknesses

Posted: Thursday May 30, 2002 6:14 PM
Updated: Thursday May 30, 2002 7:34 PM

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  • By Ridge Mahoney, Soccer America

    Goalkeepers

    Brad Friedel

    Pos.: Goalkeeper.
    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.

    Kasey Keller

    Pos.: Goalkeeper.
    Club: Tottenham (ENG).
    Age: 32.
    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.

    Tony Meola

    Pos.: Goalkeeper.
    Club: Kansas City Wizards.
    Age: 33.
    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.

    Defenders

    Jeff Agoos


    Pos.: Defender.
    Club: San Jose Earthquakes.
    Age: 34.
    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 Cup final.

    Gregg Berhalter

    Pos.: Defender.
    Club: Crystal Palace (ENG).
    Age: 28.
    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 better.

    Steve Cherundolo

    Position: Defender
    Club: Hannover 96 (GER).
    Age: 23
    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.

    Frankie Hejduk

    Pos.: Defender.
    Club: Bayer Leverkusen (GER).
    Age: 27.
    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.

    Carlos Llamosa

    Pos.: Defender.
    Club: New England Revolution.
    Age: 32.
    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.

    Pablo Mastroeni

    Pos.: Defender.
    Club: Colorado Rapids.
    Age: 25.
    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.

    Eddie Pope

    Pos.: Defender.
    Club: D.C. United.
    Age: 28.
    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.

    Davis Regis

    Pos.: Defender.
    Club: Metz (FRA).
    Age: 33.
    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 fight.

    Tony Sanneh

    Pos.: Defender.
    Club: Nuremberg (GER).
    Age: 31.
    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.

    Midfielders

    DaMarcus Beasley

    Pos.: Midfielder.
    Club: Chicago Fire.
    Age: 20.
    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 often.

    Landon Donovan

    Pos.: Midfielder.
    Club: San Jose Earthquakes.
    Age: 20.
    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.

    Cobi Jones

    Pos.: Midfielder.
    Club: Los Angeles Galaxy.
    Age: 31.
    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.

    Eddie Lewis

    Pos.: Midfielder.
    Club: Fulham (ENG).
    Age: 28.
    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 jumper.

    John O'Brien

    Pos.: Midfielder. Club: Ajax (NED).
    Age: 24.
    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.

    Claudio Reyna

    Pos.: Midfielder.
    Club: Sunderland (ENG).
    Age: 28.
    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 concern.

    Earnie Stewart

    Pos.: Midfielder.
    Club: NAC (NED).
    Age: 33.
    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.

    Fowards

    Clint Mathis

    Pos.: Forward.
    Club: MetroStars.
    Age: 25.
    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.

    Brian McBride

    Pos.: Forward.
    Club: Columbus Crew.
    Age: 29.
    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 unproven.

    Joe-Max Moore

    Pos.: Forward.
    Club: Everton (ENG).
    Age: 31.
    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 shooting.

    Josh Wolff

    Pos.: Forward.
    Club: Chicago Fire.
    Age: 25.
    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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