Looking Ahead Part 2 of 2: The US Player Pool

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Thanks to Michael Haley for his contributions

The results of the 2006 World Cup in Germany clearly demonstrated that while our national team remains talented, the player pool is not as deep nor as experienced as the pool was in the 2000-2003 time period. While this statement may make me unpopular with many of our most passionate fans, it is a reality that in my mind cannot be overlooked. This is best evidenced by our semifinal run at the 2000 Summer Olympics with an under 23 team, which was followed up with non-qualification for the 2004 Summer games. The glorious group that led the USA Youth World Championship team to glory in 1999 has graduated to the senior national team and the group that has followed has been less accomplished, but yet still has some talent.

Having recently watched the USA-Germany Quarterfinal game from the last World Cup again, it is amazing to compare the number of viable attacking options Bruce Arena had on the bench in Korea four years ago that he did not have in Germany this time around. The player pool particularly when it comes to attacking players needs to be replenished and re-energized and that is something that MLS, much to the chagrin of the new Bruce Arena will have a direct and active hand in.

Our Goalkeeping situation is in the air for qualifying and beyond. We have had a glorious run with three keepers about the same age. Tony Meola was fantastic in 1994 World Cup after learning on the job in 1990. Kasey Keller was solid throughout a rough qualifying campaign for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups and superb in the easy qualification for 2006. (with the exception of one very costly mistake versus Mexico in a qualifier held at Foxboro in 1997) Brad Friedel started all 5 USA games in the 2002 World Cup and was considered at the time to be one of the top 3 keepers in the world, and almost single handedly was responsible for the USA advancing beyond the group stage.

Tim Howard was widely assumed to be the USA keeper of the future many years ago, but due to his extensive club schedule in England with Manchester United, and now to his loan to Everton where he will be a full time starter as once was at Man U, his participation, much like Brad Friedel’s before him will be limited. Howard’s ability to fly stateside and participate in qualifiers and friendlies is unlikely except in the most rare, and critical circumstances. That leaves Chivas USA keeper Brad Guzan, now 21 and possibly some other MLS keepers such as New England’s Matt Reis and LA’s Kevin Hartman to carry the load during qualifying.

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