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Complete archive of Robert Wagman's It Seems to Me.

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It Seems To Me . . .

Arena faces interesting options in picking team for Guatemala qualifier.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Monday, June 26, 2000) -- United States menís coach Bruce Arena says he will bring 18 players into camp before the first U.S. World Cup qualifier against Guatemala July 15. A good guess is that 13 or 14 of those places are pretty well set, but Arena is going to have some interesting choices to make for the final spots.

The big question is whether striker Joe-Max Moore will be sufficiently recovered from his English Premier League season-ending knee injury. "We won't know until we give him some physical tests this coming week," Arena said on Saturday night while attending the D.C. United-Dallas Burn Major League Soccer match at RFK Stadium in Washington. "I have not seen him, but I have talked with him down in Florida. He thinks he's ready. But we'll have to see."

Moore's fitness became more important when probable starter Brian McBride suffered a fractured cheekbone in an MLS match. He will be out for four-to-eight weeks and miss at least the first three qualifiers.

If Moore is fit, he figures to start on the front line with the Los Angeles Galaxy's Cobi Jones. If not, Arena will probably have to go with either Chicago Fire's Ante Razov or Dallas Burnís Jason Kreis.

At the United-Burn match, Arena was probably encouraged by the performance of defender Eddie Pope, who seems to be fully recovered from injury. He joined with Jeff Agoos and others in shutting down Dallasí potent forwards, Kreis and Ariel Graziani.

At the same time, however, Popeís fellow central defender Carlos Llamosa, who has been the U.S. teamís best man marker recently, sat out with a knee injury, though it was considered minor.

To venture a guess, the following players would clearly seem to be among those who will be called in: goalkeepers Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel; defenders Jeff Agoos and Tony Sanneh, midfielders Claudio Reyna, Earnie Stewart, Eddie Lewis, John OíBrien and Chris Armas; and forwards Cobi Jones and Ante Razov.

From here things get a little iffy. The first question will be whether Arena will call up both D.C. United central defenders, Llamosa and Pope. He should. Llamosa on the strength of his recent performances, Pope because he is rounding back into fine form. If he brings in both, that would account for spots 12 and 13.

If Moore is fit, he will play, filling the 14th slot.

That will leave four spots open. Probably competing for those four spots will be defenders Gregg Berhalter, David Regis and Robin Fraser; midfielders Frankie Hejduk, Jovan Kirovski and Ben Olsen; and Kreis at forward.

Considering he will almost surely carry six defenders, Berhalter, Regis, Hedjuk and Kirovski would seem to be the logical choices. If Moore is not fit, then the decision would be between Olsen and Kreis.

Seven players competing for four spots. Some interesting choices are ahead for Arena.

By the way, Arena has done a favor for MLS. He could have called in players on July 5, 10 days before the Guatemala match. Instead, he'll start training on Monday, July 10, allowing MLS players to compete for their clubs on July 9.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com..

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