Tuesday, April 11, 2006

US v Jamaica - MLS players last chance to shine

The US men get back into action in just a couple hours in Cary, NC, but just how important is this game?

Tomorrow, Bruce Arena will announce his 35-player pool for the 23 World Cup spots. Although there is nothing FIFA-wise that says you have to be in the pool to make the final roster, it is safe to say that if you are not in the pool you will not be invited to the final swim.

So who is in the pool, who is testing the waters and who is stuck in a lounge chair?

If you look at the list of 18 for tonight's meeting, it would seem that most of them will make the pool. However, I think there might be a few interesting things happening. First off is goal.

Okay, with all odds, the final roster will be Kasey Keller, Tim Howard and Marcus Hahnemann. However, Howard is not getting playing time at Man United, so maybe he is not such a lock. Perhaps Arena will decide to bring a MLS keeper. The odds are long, but who knows, it could happen. If it does, whom do you pick?

Tony Meola has a lot of history in the Cup, but he is getting up there in age. Matt Reis and Kevin Hartman have done some time between the posts for the nats, but are they ready for the big show? Taking Reis or Hartman could help the team down the road, but is it worth the risk, however small it might be, to bring them?

Chances are the pool will include 4 or 5 goaltenders, but I think at most, there is only one opening on the final roster.

Then you have John O'Brien. Obviously Arena likes him. When JOB is going full force, he is next to impossible to stop, but can he go the next three months without injuring himself? Unless he falls on his face tonight, I think Arena will include him in the pool. That will give O'Brien three weeks to prove himself with Chivas. A tall task, but if he stays healthy, it is possible.

Landon Donovan will be in Germany, but will he be there as a midfielder or a forward? If he goes as a forward, who gets bumped? Would McBride, Donovan, Johnson and Twellman be the strikers? Donovan has not looked himself of late, be it in MLS or national play. This game would be a wonderful one for a break out performance.

Does Nick Garcia have any chance of making the pool or is he only there tonight because Jim Conrad is injured?

How about Pat Noonan? I'm guessing pool but not roster.

Those are my thoughts in general. As far as tonight's game. It should be a pretty one-sided affair. Anything short of a 2-goal win, will look bad. Still, I could see Ryan Johnson giving out backline a few difficult moments (if he is played). Jamal Campbell-Ryce will make our midfield work and Donovan Ricketts will not be an easy keeper to beat. This game will be harder then most think it will be, but no reason to suspect a shocker.

It will be a fun game to watch.

US vs. Jamaica
7pm ET

By the way, for more on the game from folks in Cary, check out TriSoccerFan. There are some good photos from yesterday's practice.



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