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U.S. men

Knee injury shelves Gibbs, Berhalter joins World Cup effort; Reyna appears OK.

By Gary Davidson
SoccerTimes

(Thursday, May 25, 2006) -- The United States men suffered a blow today when defender Cory Gibbs was removed from the World Cup roster because of a knee injury suffered in Tuesday night's 1-0 loss to Morocco in Nashville.

Gibbs, 26, completed the match Tuesday and apparently the severity of his ailment was not discovered until today. He was replaced on the roster by Gregg Berhalter, a 32-year-old central defender and veteran of the Americans' successful 2002 World Cup effort.

"Naturally we are very sorry for Cory," manager Bruce Arena said in a U.S. Soccer Federation press release. "We know he was looking forward to playing in his first World Cup. I believe strongly in him as a player. We are going to miss him. In Gregg, we are fortunate to have a player of his experience ready to step in to his second World Cup. I'm confident that Gregg will be able to contribute immediately to our team."

The U.S. did receive some good news on the injury front yesterday when midfielder and captain Claudio Reyna underwent an MRI exam which showed no muscle damage from the right hamstring he strained in the 11th minute of Tuesday's 1-0 loss to Morocco in Nashville.

Reyna has been ruled out of tomorrow night's meeting with Venezuela in Cleveland (on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET) and is doubtful for Sunday night's World Cup sendoff match against Latvia in East Hartford, Conn. (also on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.).

"I am relieved that there is no serious damage," Reyna said in a USSF release. "I'll be working with the trainers on a daily basis and will be focused on getting back on the field as quickly as possible."

Gibbs was slated to serve as a backup to Eddie Lewis on the left side of defense, while also providing Arena the option of sliding Lewis up to his normal position on the midfield flank. With Berhalter a central back, it would seem Lewis' backups will be reserve right defender Chris Albright and possibly midfielder John O'Brien, who has played the left back position in the past.

Things were looking up for Gibbs after missing most of the 2005-06 club season because of a left knee injury. On May 2, he was named to his first World Cup team and six days later signed with Charlton Athletic of the English Premier League.

The injury throws a cloud over his future with Charlton. The deal was contingent on Gibbs receiving a work permit. Only time will tell if Charlton can or would reconsider its contract offer or whether being dropped from the World Cup might jeopardize Gibbs' ability to obtain a work permit, which is closely tied to how much a player has represented his nation in major competitions.

Gibbs played left back for the U.S. twice in 2006, preceding Tuesday's 90-minute appearance by starting March 22 in a 4-1 loss to Germany, giving him a total of 19 caps.

Gibbs tore the meniscus in his left knee with the U.S. men last May 28 in a 2-1 friendly loss to England in Chicago. He eventually underwent two surgeries to correct the problem. After a long rehabilitation in Florida, the Fort Lauderdale native reported to his club, Feyenoord of the Dutch Eredivisie January 19, only to be released five days later.

A week later, he was recalled and loaned to Eredivisie rival ADO Den Haag, playing in five games before being let go after the season.

After returning from Europe to play for the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) in Major League Soccer in 2004, Gibbs signed with Feyenoord in January 2005, his contract reportedly running to the summer of 2009. He was an immediate starter under coach Ruud Gullit, scoring one goal in 15 appearances. Gullit was fired after that season and Gibbs never played for Erwin Koeman, who took the job stating his strong preference for Dutch players.

Berhalter has represented the U.S. 44 times since first representing his nation in 1994. In the 2002 World Cup, he did not play in the three group matches, but started both games in the knockout round. He etched his placed in World Cup lore when his shot in the 50th minute appeared destined to tie Germany 1-1, but was kept out of the net by defender Torsten Frings' hand. Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn gathered the ball, Scottish referee Hugh Dallas did not award the Americans a penalty kick and Germany held on for a 1-0 victory and a berth in the semifinals.

"I don't want to be a sore loser, but that was a clear hand-ball and the referee should have given Frings) a red card," Berhalter told Associated Press after the match.

Berhalter has served as captain for the last two seasons for Energie Cottbus, which recently finished third in Germany's 2.Bundesliga, good enough for promotion to the first Bundesliga. He has spent his entire professional career, beginning in 1994, in Europe with stops in the Netherlands, England and Germany.

Gary Davidson is SoccerTimes publisher and managing editor.

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