Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sportszilla's Projected United States Starting XI for the 2006 World Cup
By Imtiaz Mussa

Keep it here at Sportszilla as in the coming months, we will get you prepared for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The first match takes place on June 9th.

The clock is ticking. For the players in Europe, their chance to make one final case for why they should be representing their respective countries in the World Cup is nearly upon us. United States boss Bruce Arena will be having camp in February and there will be notable absentees but what can one do? This is more for the MLS based guys who Arena has been watching. Have a great camp and a solid start to the MLS season and you may be one of the chosen 23. Nevertheless, this is the starting XI that I think Arena should go with when he gets to Germany.

In Goal: Kasey Keller - Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany)
The man is in Germany right now and with the retirement of Brad Friedel, he is the best we have. But don’t worry, it shouldn’t be much of a downgrade. Keller is the reason why Borussia Mönchengladbach are going to be playing European football next season.

Left Back: Eddie Lewis - Leeds United (English Championship)
Call this more of a Left Wing Back. Lewis is a natural midfield player but Arena loves playing him on the backline because of his ability to do some damage when he charges forward. When you play against the Czech Republic and Italy, you have to stretch them and that is what Lewis can do from the backline.

Center Half: Carlos Bocanegra – Fulham (English Premiership)
He has been a success at Craven Cottage but his role with Arena has been a bit unclear. He will start for the team but will not play in his usual spot at left back. Nevertheless, playing in the Premiership has made Bocanegra into a solid defender and one who knows how to handle world class defenders.

Center Half: Oguchi Onyewu - Standard Liege (Belgium)
Meet the United States’ secret weapon on the backline. At 6' 3" and 205 lbs, he is a big man who can close strikers out at will. Just ask Jared Borgetti of Mexico who was closed out by the big guy on September 3, 2005 when the United States beat Mexico to clinch their ticket to Germany. No one will have more to gain from a solid performance in Germany than Oguchi Onyewu.

Right Back: Steve Cherundolo - Hannover 96 (Germany)
I’m not sure how good I feel about having Cherundolo at right back but then again, the United States doesn’t have a great alternative. What helps him is the fact that he has played the position for the German club for a number of years.

Defensive Midfielder: Pablo Mastroeni – Colorado Rapids (MLS)
Since I want my forward players to really have the green light to go attack, you need to have a defensive presence in the midfield and that is exactly what Mastroeni brings. His strong technical skills and ability to close out attacks have made his a favorite of Arena.

Central Midfield: Claudio Reyna – Manchester City (English Premiership)
He may be 32 years old but he is the still the leader and the driving force in the center of midfield. Manchester City fans can attest to that as well. After all in September, Reyna was named the top player in the Premiership according to the Actim Index which measures a player’s official rating by making four calculations. Calculation 1 - Assesses a player's contribution to a winning team, based on points won by the team when he appeared. Calculation 2 - Assesses a player's performance in each game, by allocating points for actions that positively contribute to a winning performance such as shots, tackles, clearances and saves. It also takes points away from players for negative actions such as yellow/red cards and shots off target. Calculation 3 - Allocates points based on time of the pitch. Calculation 4 - Allocates points for goal scorers. Captain America, we still need you.

Left Midfielder: Bobby Convey – Reading (English Championship)
Want to know one of the key reasons why Reading are getting ready for their promotion to the Premiership? Bobby Convey has picked it up this season after a very disappointing debut last year. Line him up with Eddie Lewis behind him and look out. The runs they will make should lead to some good crosses for Brian McBride to put in.

Right Midfielder: DaMarcus Beasley - PSV Eindhoven (Holland)
Don’t blink or else you may miss him. Run DMB is the fastest player on the pitch for the Americans and will cause plenty of problems due to that. He has not been in Holland very long but is already a hit. He opened the eyes of many across Europe with a scintillating performance in the Champions League. And he will score an occasional goal.

Attacking Midfielder/Center Forward: Landon Donovan – Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)
The “golden boy” of American soccer couldn’t hack it in Germany and came back into the open arms of MLS and Bruce Arena where he can play where Arena practically sees fit. Club career aside, Donovan lives for international action. He made his mark in Japan and Korea in the 2002 World Cup as he played a tireless game against Germany. While his efforts did not lead to an American triumph, you could see the potential of the playmaker. Along with Beasley, his job is to use his speed to attack and provide some service to McBride.

Striker: Brian McBride – Fulham (English Premiership)
There is no one else Arena would consider turning to up top. If you are going to have Convey and Lewis sending crosses in, you need to have a solid target man and that is exactly what the veteran is. He has shown he can score goals on the international level and will have to do it again. There is simply no one else.

Since Zach asked about reserves, I'll list some guys to keep an eye on...
Keeper: Marcus Hahnemann - Reading (English Championship)
Should something happen to Keller, Marcus would take over in goal. He is one of the other reasons why Reading will be in the Premiership next year. He is simply having a sensational year and with Tim Howard riding the bench at Old Trafford, he is the new primary backup.

Defender: Frankie Hejduk - Columbus Crew (MLS)
Well known for having a tremendous World Cup four years ago, Hejduk should be a lock to make the squad and may challenge for the starting right back spot. He is getting on in years so he may be best served to play for 20 - 30 minutes in a game.

Midfielder: John O'Brien - Den Haag (Holland)
O'Brien has always been considered special because he was recruited by and came up through Ajax's famous Academy of Football. When he's healthy, he's a tremendous talent making things happen in the midfield. Just look at how well he played in 2002. But that's just the problem, he can't seem to stay on the pitch. Right now, it looks like he's having hamstring problems.

Attacking Midfielder: Clint Dempsey - New England Revolution (MLS)
The MLS Rookie of the Year for the 2004 season is a darkhorse. He has the potential to be a spark plug coming off the bench. Things happen when he is on the pitch. He is most likely to be Bruce Arena's super-sub.

Striker: Eddie Johnson - FC Dallas 96 (MLS)
Johnson should really be in Europe right now. When he is healthy, he is the best young pure goalgetter the United States has. He is strong and fast which spells bad news for the opposition.


Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

T, not to get too caught up in the hype, but is there a chance Freddy Adu gets named to the squad? Either way, which reserve players do you see being key for the US team?

10:39 PM  
Blogger Imtiaz Mussa said...

I can't see a scenario where Adu gets named to the squad. He just doesn't have enough games under his belt. It was considered to be a nice gesture by Bruce Arena just to invite him to camp. But he will make his presence felt when the United States makes their run for South Africa 2010.

12:45 AM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

So there's no way that the potential marketing bonanza has anything to do with Arena's selection, especially if he's putting Adu on the squad instead of another guy who would basically never play?

3:23 AM  
Blogger Imtiaz Mussa said...

What marketing bonanza is there? If Adu ever did get named to the squad, he would never play. Right now, there is a feeling that the United States has 25-27 players who are capable of making a good contribution. Adu is not one of those players. Arena has been known to change things up from game to game so it's not completely crazy to think that a good number of the 23 who will go to Germany, will see action.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Adu is all hype at this point. He's not developed enough as a player at this point. A part of me says that Arena played him against Canada to get him a senior cap and tie him in perpetuity to the US internationally instead of Ghana.

7:05 PM  

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