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Arena plans to call in full side for June 13 Argentina match.

By Robert Wagman

(Wednesday, May 5, 1999) -- United States menís coach Bruce Arena says that he expects the squad he assembles for the June 13 match in Washington, D.C., to be about half European-based and half Major League Soccer players.

He expects to call up both goalkeepers, Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel. He is also anxious to finally get a long look at John O'Brien, who has had a fine year for FC Utrecht in the Dutch Honor Division, and next season is expected to contend for a starting role at Ajax.

There has been a rumor floating around that since Glasgow Rangers have qualified for the European Champions League next season, Claudio Reyna might not be available for the Confederations Cup in Mexico at the end of July. Arena says he has no reason to believe this is true. "I have not spoken with Claudio specifically about the Cup yet," Arena said. "But I will be going over to see him and the people from Rangers soon."

While Arena was not specific about who he might call up for the Argentina match, an educated guess is that the European-based players will be Keller, Friedel, Reyna, O'Brien, Jovan Kirovski, Frankie Hejduk, David Regis, Tony Sanneh, Ernie Stewart, and Gregg Berhalter. Who he calls up from MLS, he says, depends upon who is fit, and who is playing well.

At the same time Arena says that Argentina, which is preparing for Copa America beginning on June 29, can be expected to bring its best squad to Washington. "I would expect we will see Batistuta, Simeone, Ortega, Almeyda, Zanetti, Chamot, Balbo, and Roa among others," he said. "This will be a big test for us, a year after France. It will show us where we are."

The U.S. will have another match before the Confederation Cups which begins on July 24. On July 14, Denverís Mile High Stadium will be the site for a match against a club team. Among the possible opponents are Derby County from the British Premier League, which will be touring in North America, or one of the teams playing in the Gotham Cup in the Meadowlands July 23-25. Among the four Gotham Cup participants is Portugal's Benfica, which is a possibility, as is the fourth yet unnamed participant, which could be Italy's Lazio or AC Milan.

"We want to get in a game at altitude before we go to Mexico," national team general manager Tom King said. "Who we will play is still to be determined."

Arena says that he hopes the national team will play perhaps three additional matches in 1999. They would likely be home matches in September and November after the MLS season, and one away match. That possibly could be against Argentina in Buenos Aires in December. The U.S. contract with Argentina is for a home-and-home series.

Friedel was in the nets today for Liverpool in its 2-2 draw at Anfield against Manchester United. The match was crucial to Man. United in its neck-and-neck fight with Arsenal for the Premiership championship. Friedel played well allowing only one goal in play, with the other on a penalty kick.

The fact that Friedel has been in the nets for Liverpool for the past three matches is certainly welcome news, after he sat on the bench for 25 straight matches behind David James. But close observers of Liverpool say no to read too much into Friedel's recent insertion into the starting side.

Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier has already told James that he does not figure in plans for next season. It's not that James has played badly this year. In fact James is said to be high on the shopping lists of both Bologna and Atletico Madrid, as well as Premiership side Aston Villa. James has no future at Liverpool because the team is close to signing hot young Dutch goalkeeper Sander Westerveld, who recently moved up to starting keeper on the Netherlands national side.

It appears that Houllier decided to start Friedel in an attempt to shake Liverpool out of its recent doldrums. The team is currently in eighth place in the Premiership. So the remaining few matches are far from life and death.

Where does this leave Friedel? He has shown he can play in the Premiership at the highest level. It is doubtful he will remain at Liverpool as a backup. The central question is whether he will be able to retain his British work permit.

Under a strict interpretation of the rules, he has not played in enough matches for Liverpool. But it is not clear if the Work Authority will apply the same rule to goalkeepers. Friedel has told U.S. Soccer officials he thinks he will be able to retain his work permit, and that he will find another home in the Premiership.

Meanwhile, in a related situation, Keller has told officials at Leicester City that he will wait until after the season to make a decision on his future.

Leicester has made it clear they want him to stay. He has said he would like to test himself on the continent, most likely in Italyís Serie A. He and Bologna might make a good fit.

Robert Wagman is a regular SoccerTimes correspondent and can be e-mailed at SoccerWag@aol.com.

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