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Jerry's World

Rebuilding begins for U.S. men.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Wednesday, January 27, 1999) -- The United States menís national team rebuilding job is under way, and while the 0-0 result in Bolivia was in itself meaningless, the way the Americans performed wasn't.

Of particular significance were at least three individual positive efforts:

* Chris Armas is going to be tough to dislodge at defensive midfield. He wins balls, distributes well, and pairs effectively with the other midfielders.
* Jovan Kirovski, 22, on the verge of stardom for years, appears ready to assume a regular role in the lineup. Now it's at attacking midfielder. Forward is not out of the question.
* Eddie Lewis continues to be a revelation at the left back slot. He is an exciting offensive player. Can he be consistent on defense? That's the big question.

A makeshift squad debuted for Arena last month, a 0-0 draw against Australia. Lack of scoring (not opportunities, though) continues to bedevil the Americans.

The trio of forwards used against Bolivia was a decent one -- Brian McBride, Joe-Max Moore, Roy Lassiter. And lurking in the background is Eric Wynalda, the all-time career goal-scoring leader.

But someone has to start converting chances. Much more of a test is expected in a match February 6 against Germany in Jacksonville, Fla. This is a nation that overwhelmed the United States 2-0 in the World Cup.

It will be interesting if this new American team -- with just a smattering of holdovers from the ill-fated '98 squad -- will display the poise and confidence needed to be competitive against such a respected rival. These two elements were missing in Paris, especially in a horrible start against the Germans.

The outcome isn't important because Coach Bruce Arena is devoting most of the year to examining new players, but how they pressure the ball (on defense) and react to pressure (on offense) is important. No one is expecting miracles. But the national team going to Bolivia, outplaying the hosts and gaining a tie, is a positive achievement.

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

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