- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

NEW YORK — D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen was one of 11 newcomers chosen yesterday for the 23-man U.S. World Cup roster by coach Bruce Arena.

Olsen, who turns 29 today, was the only player selected who didn’t appear in any qualifiers for the 2006 tournament, although he did play in a qualifier in 2001.

“I bet a lot of people didn’t think I would be back on the national team,” said Olsen, who overcame four operations on his right ankle.

Olsen, one of eight midfielders selected, has appeared in 33 games for the U.S. national team.

Forward Brian Ching and defender Jimmy Conrad were the biggest surprises to make the team. Arena did not include former University of Maryland star Taylor Twellman, and defenders Gregg Berhalter and Chris Albright.

Ching learned he was chosen when he viewed Arena’s televised announcement with Houston Dynamo teammates at a sports bar in Denver International Airport.

Conrad, a 29-year-old who was selected Major League Soccer’s top defender last year, got the news from Donovan, a former MLS teammate, who told him a few minutes before an e-mail arrived with the official news.

Twelve holdovers were chosen from the 2002 team, which advanced to the quarterfinals in the best showing by the United States since 1930: forwards Brian McBride and Josh Wolff; midfielders Claudio Reyna, Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, John O’Brien and Pablo Mastroeni; defenders Steve Cherundolo, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis and Eddie Pope; and goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

Among the newcomers were forward Eddie Johnson; midfielders Clint Dempsey and Bobby Convey; defenders Carlos Bocanegra, Cory Gibbs and Oguchi Onyewu; and goalkeepers Marcus Hahnemann and Tim Howard.

“We are deeper from one through 23 and a better team,” Donovan said, comparing this year’s roster with the one four years ago. “The thing we don’t have that we had four years ago was not as many clear leaders on the team.”

Twelve of the players are with European clubs, and 11 are from Major League Soccer — exactly the same as the 2002 roster. Three players come from the Kansas City Wizards.

At the World Cup in Germany, the United States opens against the Czech Republic on June 12, meets Italy five days later and closes the first round against Ghana on June 22.

“With a good training camp, good preparation games and the right mental approach, our team will be a team that’s going to challenge anybody on the field in this World Cup,” Arena said.

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