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Charles stays loyal to his crew, ignores accomplishments of MLS best youngsters.By Robert Wagman
WASHINGTON (Tuesday, August 15, 2000) -- United States Olympic coach Clive Charles has named the 18-player roster he is taking to Australia. There were no surprises.
Basically it is the same group he has had together for the past year. Charles often talks about chemistry, and about loyalty. It looks like we'll see in Canberra and Melbourne whether these under-23 men can win soccer matches.
To me, two things stand out about Charles' selections. The first, as far as this team is concerned, this year's Major League Soccer season might not have taken place. Charles appears to have given little credence to how well some players have done in MLS, and similarly little credence to those who have performed less well.
Secondly, it appears that as far as goalkeeper Adin Brown is concerned, Charles is rolling the dice and hoping that the Colorado keeper's repaired knee will hold up over the fortnight.
As expected, the three "overage" players that Charles has named to the squad -- D.C. United's Jeff Agoos, the Chicago Fire's Chris Armas and Bayer Leverkusen's Frankie Hejduk -- are all defensive players. They are also the same three players named by ESPN.com's Jeff Bradley and confirmed by us six weeks ago, when Charles sternly denied they had been chosen when their identities were leaked before he was ready.
Three young defenders in MLS are having terrific seasons: Chicago's Carlos Bocenagra, Kansas City's Nick Garcia and New England's Rusty Pierce. Also, D.C. United's young Bobby Convey has made tremendous strides this MLS season, and has become a United regular since Ben Olsen has gone out with an ankle injury. A strong argument could be made that any of the four belong on this squad, and belong ahead of some of those named.
Honestly, is there an MLS coach who would today choose Evan Whitfield over Bocenagra, Garcia or Pierce? Chicago Fire coach Bob Bradley has the choice each match and chooses Bocenagra. Would Los Angeles Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid chose Peter Vagenas over his rookie Sasha Victorine? It seems an obvious no, since Victorine has played in all 22 matches for LA this season while Vagenas has played in 12.
Charles defended his pick of Whitfield by saying, "The primary thing is that we play with four in the back. The three players I mentioned (Bocenagra, Garcia and Pierce), are playing primarily as marking backs in a three-back system, and we felt that we didn't need any more marking personalities. What we need were defenders that could get forward."
Since that is what Agoos and Hedjuk have been added for, Charles might well wish he had Bocenagra, Garcia or Pierce if either Brian Dunseth or Chad McCarty becomes unavailable from injury or suspension.
We hear that Brown is completely fit. But we also heard that after both D.C. United defenders Agoos and Eddie Pope came back from having their knees scoped this season. Both then missed additional days. Yes, Tim Howard is a very nice young goalkeeper. But I think I would feel better to see Brad Friedel or Tony Meola on this roster.
Obviously, though, if either were, then they would likely start ahead of Brown. Here again, the loyalty issues come in. Injuries had some part in who made this final lineup. Had they not been hurt, defender Steve Cherundolo was a sure starter at right back and midfielder John Thorrington would almost surely have been on the 18-man roster.
Charles does not duck the issue. In announcing the roster he said, "The team has always been a solid core. You don't want to be shuffling players around into different positions because that will only disrupt your chemistry. Sometimes, having the right chemistry is what gets you through a match."
So in the end it came down to Charles believing he had to remain loyal to the players who got him this far. You might
argue: look what happened to Steve Sampson in France in 1998 when he tore
apart his team and ruined its chemistry. So, we'll see soon if Charles' approach is better.
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be
e-mailed at email@example.com..
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org..