With the World Cup less than four months away, every game on the U.S. team’s calendar is vital.
Today’s match against Costa Rica in the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup final will give the Americans another chance to impress coach Bruce Arena as he ponders his final 23-man roster for the World Cup.
“What we’re looking for in this tournament is to narrow down our pool of players as we get closer to May,” Arena said.
European-based players Frankie Hejduk, a defender, and Eddie Lewis, a midfielder, may have played themselves back into the World Cup picture in recent Gold Cup games. And newcomers Carlos Bocanegra, 22, and Pablo Mastroeni, 25, could get their names penciled into Arena’s future plans with their current form on the back line.
Today both defenders will have to keep a close eye on Paulo Cesar Wanchope, who scored two goals in Costa Rica’s 3-1 victory over South Korea in the semifinal game. Wanchope has scored 11 goals in 13 games for English First Division leader Manchester City this season.
It will be interesting to see how much playing time Arena will give forward Clint Mathis. Mathis made his return to the team after knee surgery in Wednesday’s semifinal game against defending champion Canada when he came on for the last 15 minutes.
This is the sixth Gold Cup. The United States won the inaugural tournament in 1991, defeating Honduras on penalty kicks. Mexico won the next three events. The Americans were runners-up in 1993 and 1998.
Iron man Cobi If midfielder Cobi Jones plays today for the U.S. team, he will tie German legend Lothar Matthaeus’ all-time record for international team appearances. Jones has played 149 times in an American jersey.
U.S. team The United States is set to face three powerhouse European teams as it prepares for the 2002 World Cup.
On Feb. 13, the Americans will play Italy in Catania, Sicily, before facing Germany in Rostock on March 27, The U.S. team then plays Ireland in Dublin on April 17. Italy and Germany have won the World Cup three times each. All three European teams have qualified for the World Cup and no doubt will field their best 11 against the Americans.
Super Eagle Major League Soccer picked up some much-needed star power this week when it signed Nigerian star Daniel Amokachi and allocated him to the Colorado Rapids.
The 29-year-old Amokachi, a former Nigerian team captain, scored two goals in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
Nicknamed the “Bull” and the “Taxi” for his ability to shake off defenders, Amokachi played for Everton (42 games, 14 goals) in the English Premier League and went on to win the soccer gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Amokachi will team up with Scottish striker John Spencer (14 goals) on the Rapids attack, backed-up by Carlos Valderrama, MLS’ all-time assist leader.
Amokachi’s most recent club experience was with Turkish team Besiktas, but that was two years ago. Since then, the stocky forward has been trying to recuperate from a knee injury.
If Amokachi can get his old form back, he could give MLS the spark it has been lacking since Tampa Bay’s Mamadou Diallo scored 26 goals in the 2000 season.
Stadium stuff The city council of McKinney, Texas (pop. 22,000), voted unanimously this week to build a 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium to serve as the home of the Dallas Burn. The facility, located north of Dallas, will have an expandable capacity of 35,000.
MLS has promised the 2003 All-Star Game and the 2004 MLS Cup championship to the McKinney facility. Only the Columbus Crew now plays at a soccer-specific stadium.
The Chicago Fire, without a home because of renovations at Soldier Field, agreed this week to play at North Central College in suburban Naperville, Ill. North Central plans to expand its seating from 5,000 to about 15,000.
The Women’s United Soccer Association announced that the Carolina Courage will play this season in a new 7,000-seat soccer-specific stadium in Cary, N.C.
Corner kicks Taylor Twellman, a star at Maryland in both soccer and baseball, signed a contract with MLS this week and will be included in the pool for the MLS SuperDraft on Feb. 10. Twellman, 21, has spent the last two years playing for the reserve team of Bundesliga club 1860 Munich. He went to Germany following his sophomore year. He attended Maryland on a baseball scholarship.
The St. Louis native comes from a proud sports family. His dad, Tim, played soccer for the Chicago Sting; his grandfather, Jim Delsing, played baseball for the New York Yankees; and his uncle, Jay Delsing, is on the PGA Tour.
D.C. United midfielder Bobby Convey was named to the U.S. under-23 team’s roster, which departed yesterday for a two-week trip to Portugal and Italy.