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Donovan scratched for game against Germany with calf ailment.

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U.S. men

Reyna, Keller are each named to their fourth World Cup team.

Giuseppe Rossi
Bruce Arena named his 23-man World Cup team, along with 13 alternates.
-- File photo --
By Robert Wagman

(Tuesday, May 2, 2006) -- Striker Brian Ching is a member of the United States World Cup team, the biggest surprise on the 23-man roster announced today by manager Bruce Arena.

Midfielder Claudio Reyna, the team captain, and goalkeeper Kasey Keller will represent the U.S. for a fourth World Cup, while forward Brian McBride and defenders Frankie Hejduk and Eddie Pope will wear the Red, White and Blue at a third Cup. Twelve players have previous Cup experience.

Since the 2002 World Cup, 85 players made at least one international appearance for the U.S. which compiled a 36-9-14 (.729) record in that period. Forty-six players appeared in at least one of the 18 World Cup qualifiers in 2004 and 2005.

Twelve players play for teams in Europe, with the other 11 are based in MLS.

"I'm comfortable in saying that over these 59 games, I've been able to observe and evaluate a pool of very talented players," Arena said. "It is unfortunate that I am not able to bring all these players to Germany.

"With the right mental approach, our team will be one that challenges any team."

Ching was not effective playing for the U.S. in friendlies this year, has six goals in five games this season for the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer. His main competition to be one of four strikers on the team was Taylor Twellman, who was listed as one of 13 alternates on the squad.

Twellman, who did well, at times, in international competition earlier this year, led MLS in scoring with 17 goals for the New England Revolution in 2005, but the reigning "Most Valuable Player" has only one goal this season.

Arena said memories of crucial goals Ching scored in 2004 during the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying helped influence his decision. "Brian's had a good start in the MLS season," Arena said. "He's been on the pool for the last couple years. He did a fantastic job for us (in qualifying). . . Brian didn't necessarily get this over the last six weeks. It's a culmination of the things his brought to us over the past two years."

As far as Twellman was concerned, Arena said, "He could have easily made the team. . . He was a player who was in and out and in and out over the last couple months."

Another surprise was the inclusion of defender Jimmy Conrad of MLS's Kansas City Wizards, probably at the expense of World Cup veteran defender Gregg Berhalter, who plays for Energie Cottbus of Germany's 2Bundesliga. Conrad was probably the most improved player in the long U.S. training camp in January and did well in early friendly matches, but his play tailed off and many observers believed Berhalter would get the nod. However, Berhalter's poor play in a 4-1 loss to Germany March 22 might have cost him his spot.

Midfielder-defender John O'Brien made the Cup team even though he has virtually seen no game action since September, when he was injured with the Netherlands' ADO Den Haag. He was released this spring and signed in March with Chivas USA, where he has seen only five minutes of action in his three games as he tries to regain his fitness. Though O'Brien's talent is obvious and his potential value is unquestioned, he will be replaced by an alternate if he can's demonstrate he is match-fit.

"We have six weeks to get him fit," Arena said.

While injury did not keep O'Brien off the team, it is probably why Conor Casey was relegated to the list of alternates, who will not be called in for training unless someone is injured before the June 2 deadline. Casey returned in the last month from knee surgery to rejoin FSV Mainz of the Bundesliga.

Some might find the inclusion midfielder Ben Olsen's unexpected, but his versatility and long relationship with Arena, his one-time coach at University of Virginia and MLS's D.C. United, make it less surprising. Olsen, whose experience and high work rate make him valuable, was probably the reason Pat Noonan was named an alternate.

"Ben's a winner," Arena said. "He's a guy who can play a bunch of positions in the midfield. . . He's a good teammate."

Noonan was impressive in some appearances for the U.S, but tailed off some in more recent outings.

Arena said Jonathan Spector, who had surgery Tuesday to repair a dislocated shoulder suffered playing for Charlton Athletic in the English Premer League, would have been a strong candidate had he not been hurt.

Arena confirmed injuries were a major factor in why Noonan and his New England midfield mate Steve Ralston were not named to the roster. "Those two guys easily could have made the team," the manager said.

Arena said his easiest decision was in picking Keller, Tim Howard and Marcus Hahnemann as his three keepers.

The 23-man United States 2006 World Cup roster with club affiliations in parentheses:

Goalkeepers (3): Marcus Hahnemann (Reading, England), Tim Howard (Manchester United, England), Kasey Keller (Borussia Mönchengladbach, Germany).

Defenders (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham, England), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96, Germany), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards, Major League Soccer), Cory Gibbs (ADO Den Haag, Netherlands), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew, MLS), Eddie Lewis (Leeds United, England), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liège, Belgium), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake, MLS).

Midfielders (8): DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Bobby Convey (Reading, England), Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution, MLS), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), John O'Brien (Chivas USA, MLS), Ben Olsen (D.C. United, MLS), Claudio Reyna (Manchester City, England)

Forwards (4): Brian Ching (Houston, Dynamo, MLS), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City, MLS), Brian McBride (Fulham, England), Josh Wolff (Kansas City, MLS).

U.S. World Cup alternates

Goalkeepers (2): Tony Meola (New York Red Bulls, MLS), Matt Reis (New England, MLS).

Defenders (3): Chris Albright (Los Angeles, MLS), Gregg Berhalter (Energie Cottbus, Germany), Todd Dunivant (Los Angeles, MLS).

Midfielders (5): Chris Armas (Chicago Fire, MLS), Chris Klein (Real Salt Lake, MLS), Pat Noonan (New England, MLS), Steve Ralston (New England, MLS), Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City, MLS).

Forwards (3): Conor Casey (FSV Mainz, Germany), Chris Rolfe (Chicago, MLS), Taylor Twellman (New England, MLS).

SoccerTimes publisher and managing editor Gary Davidson contributed to this story

Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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