- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

Bruce Arena has seen enough, and now it's time to act. On Monday, the coach of the United States men's team will announce his 23-man roster on ESPN's "SportsCenter" at 6 p.m., one month ahead of FIFA's deadline.
Unlike predecessor Steve Sampson, who was still experimenting with players just a few months before the 1994 finals remember Chad Deering, David Wagner and the John Harkes fiasco? Arena is unlikely to surprise us. Since taking the job in 1998, Arena has looked at 93 players in training camp and played 73 in international games. His mind has been made up for quite a while.
Wednesday's 2-1 loss at Ireland on a rain-saturated field told Arena very little about his team. That's tough for defender Greg Vanney, who needed a decent game to attract the coach's attention.
Along with Vanney, Frankie Hejduk, Pablo Mastroeni, Richie Williams, Greg Berhalter, DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Llamosa, Ante Rasov, Richard Mulrooney, Jovan Kirovski and Steve Cherundolo are hoping to fill the five spots that are open (at least in my mind).
Defenders Vanney, Cherundolo and Llamosa played little for the U.S. team this year, but Llamosa did play a big part in the qualifying rounds. Coaches tend to reward those players who helped them get to the World Cup.
Arena is a conservative coach who steers clear of rash decisions, which means he may stick with seasoned veterans like Hejduk, Llamosa and Williams rather than going with youngsters like Beasley, Mulrooney and Cherundolo. The exception could be defender Mastroeni, who brings needed speed to the team's aging backline.
Hejduk should squeeze onto the roster over Mulrooney because he is a versatile player with big-game experience who can back up Tony Sannah at right back. Mulrooney's time will come later.
Williams gets the nod in my book because he is loyal to Arena, tenacious and a great player to bring on late in a game to help hold onto a result.
The chances of forwards Rasov and Kirovski appear to be over after they failed to make the roster for the Ireland game. Joe-Max Moore and Josh Wolff seem the obvious backups for Brian McBride and Clint Mathis on the front line. Moore has vast experience in the big leagues and scored the crucial penalty kick against Jamaica to put the Americans in the Cup. Wolff, on the other hand, has speed and may peak just at the right time come June.
Although the Americans may struggle just to get out of the opening round in South Korea, Arena definitely has a better squad than Sampson in 1998. Never before has an American coach had so many players competing overseas and in a solid professional league at home.
It gets better for Arena.
American captain Claudio Reyna, who is such a sweet passer and has grown so much as a player in recent years, and goalie Kasey Keller are brimming with confidence these days.
Midfielder John O'Brien might have started only five games for the American team in the last two years, but he is now a standard fixture with top Dutch club Ajax. O'Brien's consistent work in the midfield, typical of Manchester United's Nicky Butt and Bayern Munich's Owen Hargreaves, often goes unnoticed.
For what its worth, here's my guess on who will make the American World Cup roster:
Goalies Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, Tony Meola. Defenders Frankie Hejduk, Jeff Agoos, Gregg Berhalter, Eddie Pope, David Regis, Tony Sanneh, Pablo Mastroeni, Carlos Llamosa. Midfielders Chris Armas, Landon Donovan, Eddie Lewis, John O'Brien, Claudio Reyna, Earnie Stewart, Richie Williams, Cobi Jones. Forwards Clint Mathis, Brian McBride, Joe-Max Moore, Josh Wolff.
Freedom update
Although the Washington Freedom lost their Women's United Soccer Association opener to the New York Power 4-1 last week, there were many good points. For starters, the soccer on the field was far more sophisticated than during early games last season.
Rookie forward Abby Wambach displayed some nice moves at holding the ball with her back to the goal and winning some headers. All she needs now is the right player to link up with on the attack. Wambach is a big powerful forward, capable of holding off defenders and setting up plays. She might want to check out Leeds United's Mark Viduka on tape for some good pointers. Once Wambach finds her pace and timing she could make a big impact.
Finnish midfielder Anne Makinen is another player capable of producing for the Freedom this season. You get the feeling that Makinen just needs a little more confidence in order to really commit herself and stamp her mark on this team.
The problem for the Freedom is that all the other clubs in the league have improved this season.
United's lost lads
D.C. United fans can welcome back former United players Carey Talley, Steve Armstrong and Roy Lassiter at RFK Stadium tonight when they return to face their old club with the Kansas City Wizards. Armstrong and Talley were let go in the offseason, and Lassiter was traded in 1999.

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