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Wynalda makes his pitch for No. 1.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Thursday, May 14, 1998) -- Eric Wynalda says he likes the new 3-6-1 formation Coach Steve Sampson is planning for the World Cup -- and put in a pitch for a starting role.

"I'm excited about it," the recuperating veteran forward said yesterday in a teleconference from San Diego, where the U.S. national team is training in preparation for a match Saturday night against Macedonia in San Jose (Calif.). We have the speed at the flanks to get behind defenses. (World Cup opening foe Germany) is not ready for that kind of speed.

"The question is who is the 'one' (in the 3-6-1) . . . Whether it's me or someone else, the responsibility is to score goals. I'm ready to take on that challenge. . . With all respect to the guys . . . I'm the most experienced for the job. I have no problem with people expecting me to score."

Wynalda, the national team career leader with 32 goals, has been out since April 5 when he suffered a sprained left knee ligament. He said he expects to resume full-scale training next week in Portland (Ore.) and be available for duty in the match there May 24 against Kuwait. "I could play this weekend but I want to be 100 percent."

He said he has played the 3-6-1 while in Germany, but not at the "one" slot occupied by the striker. He played at the central midfield/attacking roles now filled by Ernie Stewart and playmaker Claudio Reyna.

Other items discussed:

  • Competition appears strong within training camp. "Everybody is fighting for starting positions," Wynalda said. "It's very competitive."
  • The final 22-player U.S. roster could include eight players with professional experience in Germany, including three who are in the Bundesliga now -- midfielders Claudio Reyna and Chad Deering, both Wolfsburg, and defender David Regis, Karlsruhe.

    "There's not a revenge feeling," Wynalda said about the Germany game June 15. It "really is about things that players like myself had to go through playing and living in Germany . . . There is a sense of something to prove (that U.S. players can play)."

    He said he missed not having midfielder John Harkes on the team. The team captain was dismissed by Sampson last month.

    "It's a strange feeling not having him around. I do speak with him quite often . . . There are a lot of unfortunate rumors going around . . . It's sad that some people have attacked his character. John is a great friend, perhaps my best friend. I respect him a great deal."

    "It was a coaching decision based on a lot of principles . . . Some of the reasons have been misconstrued (by the public). We as professionals have to respect the decision . . . and move on . . . I miss him."

    Harkes, whose No. 6 jersey has been given to newcomer Regis, was dropped by Sampson, who said he was upset at his failure to embrace suggested position moves and other private considerations the coach has not discussed.

    Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.