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United States

Population: 278,000,000
Area: 9,629,091 km²
Capital: Washington DC
Language: English

 
THE ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
Having progressed from a tight semifinal group and started well in the final hexagonal group, the US lost three consecutive matches, but qualified with one matchday to go anyway.
Click here for details

 
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Participations: (6) 1930, 1934, 1950, 1990, 1994 and 1998
Best placing: Semifinal 1930
Topscorer: Bert Patenaude, 4 goals
More detailed history information

 
FIRST ROUND MATCHES
Jun 05 - USA v POR  in Suwon
Jun 10 - USA v KOR  in Daegu
Jun 14 - USA v POL  in Daejeon

 
ONE TO WATCH
Clint Mathis, recently back from a serious injury, is the man US soccerfans count on when producing something on the attacking third of the field. He is a very creative player who might break through internationally during the World Cup. He also contributes with goals every now and then.

 
WCA VERDICT: First round exit
The US haven't taken part in a top competitive tournament since 1998 and are hard to predict. They are in with a chance, but the team has had problems scoring in qualifying matches especially without Mathis and will most likely find it hard to go through here. They should do better though than in 1998 when they lost all their games.



DETERMINED TO REVENGE FAILURE IN FRANCE


by Peter Goldstein


    The USA was unbeatable in the first half of the CONCACAF Hexagonal; with four wins and a draw they looked easily the dominant team in the region. Then the bottom dropped out, and the team wound up qualifying almost by accident, backing in on a late penalty against Jamaica and a shock loss by Honduras. Injuries played a part in the slide, but the overall level of play dropped suddenly and dramatically. The USA likes to think it's making progress in soccer -- and there are some good young players in the current pool -- but no one really knows whether this team can improve much on the disaster of France '98.

    A lot will depend on Clint Mathis and Landon Donovan. Mathis, who is best as an attacking midfielder but also plays striker, emerged as the heart of the attack during the first half of the Hexagonal. Big and very tough, he's technically sound and unafraid to go right at his man. He has a hard right-footed shot, and is especially dangerous on free kicks. He suffered a severe knee injury during the qualifiers, but appears to be most of the way back, and should be match fit by June. Donovan, only 20, is the golden boy of US soccer. He's small, dynamic, an extremely imaginative passer and scorer. Originally a striker, he was converted to attacking midfielder when Mathis was hurt, and playing behind the forwards gives his creativity more scope. The only question is whether he's ready for the big stage.

    Another important figure is Brian McBride, the oft-injured striker who scored the USA's only goal at France '98. When healthy, he's a natural target man: tall, excellent in the air, he plays well with his back to goal, distributing both with head and feet. Right now, the likely combination is McBride and Mathis up front, Donovan just behind. If coach Bruce Arena decides Donovan isn't ready (or if any of the attackers are injured), youngster Josh Wolff, fast and inventive, will probably play striker. Also available is veteran Joe Max-Moore, all hustle and no skill.

    The rest of midfield seems fairly set. In the middle is captain Claudio Reyna, at 28 still the most skilled player on the roster. He has vision, creativity, and knows how to conduct the transition from defense to attack. With the emergence of Mathis and Donovan, he can play deeper, where he's more comfortable. The defensive midfielder is Chris Armas, slow but rugged, a good ball winner who sometimes comes up in attack. If Arena starts three of the attackers, as seems likely, there's only one more spot. Earnie Stewart offers experience, solid all-around skills, and a goal-scorer's instinct; John O'Brien is quick, creative, and very good on the ball. The guess now is Stewart starting, with O'Brien a likely substitute. Cobi Jones, with an amazing 150+ caps, can still offer pace and intensity off the bench.

    Arena prefers an attacking 4-4-2 with the fullbacks pushing up in support, but the fullback cupboard is nearly bare. On the left, David Regis is probably too old; even at his best, he lacked imagination in attack, and now his defensive skills appear to be fading as well. But there's really no one to take his place. On the right, Steve Cherundolo gets forward well, but his crosses have been inconsistent; he's also small, and tends to get overpowered by the larger forwards. Other candidates for right back are Frankie Hejduk, fast and exciting but inconsistent, and Tony Sanneh, big and powerful, but probably better suited to midfield.

    The center backs are stronger. Jeff Agoos, with over 100 caps, is the heart of the defense, a bit slow but an intense competitor. He should be partnered by Eddie Pope, mobile, athletic, and good in the air, or Carlos Llamosa, the best man-marker, intelligent in positioning and a precise tackler. Both have had injury problems, which might open a spot for Gregg Berhalter, solid and strong.

    Keeper remains the great strength of the team. Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel are superb shot-stoppers: Keller is the smoother, Friedel the more spectacular. In the past, Keller's leadership and positioning made him the clear #1, but Friedel appears to have caught him in those areas, and they're neck and neck for the spot. Right now Friedel is the regular starter at Blackburn, whereas Keller is mostly on the bench at Tottenham; that may make the difference come June.

    Without Mathis and Donovan, this group looks a lot like the one four years ago: long on determination, short on imagination and technique. Americans are incurable optimists, but everyone remembers the fiasco in France, and there aren't many fans willing to predict a second round berth. A win over Costa Rica in the Gold Cup offers some cause for hope -- but the USA has a habit of playing its best when expectations are low. If that pattern holds, and the new boys are ready to go, a surprise or two might be in the cards.



A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY

by Jan Alsos


    The US was one of thirteen countries to participate in the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay 1930. They beat both Belgium and Paraguay in their preliminary group which set them up with Argentina in the semifinal. The South Americans won comfortably 6-1, but this semifinal appearance is still the greatest achievement positionwise in US soccer history.

    The US also participated in Italy four years later, but lost heavily 7-1 to the hosts in the opening round which was the last appearance the Americans made before the war. Major headlines were created around the world when the US sensationally beat mighty England in Brazil 1950 by a 1-0 scoreline. It was considered the greatest shock in the history of the sport at that time. It wasn’t enough though to progress because no points were picked up against Spain and Chile.

    It took forty years before a US team participated in the World Cup again. Three straight losses followed in Italy ‘90, but their brave performance against the hosts (0-1) was memorable. Four years later it was time for the US to host the World Cup and they managed to scrape through as one of the best third placed teams setting them up with Brazil in the second round played on 4th of July. It took a special Romario-Bebeto combination to end the American dream.

    France ‘98 was disappointing for US soccer as they copied their Italia ‘90 showing with three defeats in a row. The key match against Iran hurt the most leaving them bottom of the group.

 

 

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