- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

Having finally shaken off the interim tag, Bob Bradley begins his tenure as official coach of the U.S. men’s national team with an exhibition game against China today at San Jose, Calif. That game kicks off an intense summer for the team.

The U.S. team begins play in the Gold Cup, the regional tournament of CONCACAF, in Carson, Calif., on Thursday aiming to reach the final game at Chicago’s Soldier Field on June 24. Four days later, the Americans will play in the Copa America event in Venezuela, which ends July 14. So in less than six weeks, the Americans have the potential to play in 13 competitive games.

The 18-man roster for the China game is made up of European-based players except for four from Chivas USA, the only MLS team not in action this weekend.

Bradley’s focus this summer is the Gold Cup, where an even mix of overseas and MLS-based players will defend the title, with opening round games against Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and El Salvador.

“Winning the Gold Cup is our most important priority this year, and I believe we have assembled a team capable of doing that,” Bradley said.

The winner gets to play in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, an event that pits the winning teams from FIFA’s six confederations and is viewed as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup. The United States was winless at the 2003 Cup in France.

The Americans won the 2005 Gold Cup, beating Panama on penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless soccer at Giants Stadium.

After the Gold Cup, the U.S. team heads south to the 12-team Copa America, where it faces a tough schedule against Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia. The Americans were last invited to the event in 1995.

United meets L.A. — D.C. United visits the struggling Los Angeles Galaxy tonight seeking to extend its winning streak to four games.

United’s players admit the club still hasn’t put together a complete, dominating game but feel things are finally going their way as the team earns points and climbs back up the standings.

“We are not playing pretty, but we are at least winning, and that’s all that matters,” defender Josh Gros said.

United goalie Troy Perkins, who pulled off a stunning save on a penalty kick last week against the Houston Dynamo, says the team must work on remaining focused until the final whistle.

“We are playing 70 minutes of good soccer,” Perkins said. “We’ve got to learn to finish that last 20 minutes.”

Perkins, who had eight shutouts last year, is still searching for his first clean sheet of the season.

“I believe in the guys in front of me,” he said. “Shutouts are tough to come by, but once we get one we’ll get more.”

The Galaxy, who hope to get star David Beckham from the English national team next month, have managed just five points in six games and are tied for MLS’ worst record with Freddy Adu’s winless Real Salt Lake team.

“They’ve got a lot of excitement with the Beckham thing and a lot of distractions, but yet they have guys that can hurt you,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “It’s not going to be easy. It never is. They always seem to play well against us.”

The last time United met the Galaxy, Landon Donovan led the visitors to a 5-2 victory at RFK Stadium. This time the depleted Galaxy have eight players missing because of injuries, national team duty and suspension.

Corner kicks — Tuesday’s draw for the 2007 Peace Cup (July 12-21 in Seoul) saw English club Bolton, drawn in Group A with seven-time Korean champion Seongnam Ilhwa, legendary Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara and Italian team Udinese. Group A will see English team Reading take on Argentine giant River Plate, French champion Lyon and Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse. The winners of each group meet for the $2 million prize July 21 in Seoul’s World Cup Stadium. …

Comedian Drew Carey, a big soccer fan, will play the new Xbox game “FIFA Soccer 07”, against five members of the U.S. men’s and women’s national team, including Donovan, on Tuesday in Carson, Calif. For every game Carey loses he will donate $10,000 to benefit a memorial fund in honor of former U.S. team assistant coach Glenn “Mooch” Myernick. who died last October at 51.

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