With a (2-0) victory over regional rival Mexico on home soil Saturday, the United States men's national soccer team secured a place in the World Cup finals next year in Germany. Three regional qualifying games still remain on the U.S. schedule and VOA's Jim Stevenson reports head coach Bruce Arena will use the opportunity to rest top players and finalize the team roster.
The U.S. men's soccer team will be in Guatemala City for a World Cup qualifying game Wednesday night against Guatemala. The match is meaningless for the U.S. team as it begins to look toward its fifth straight appearance in the World Cup finals. Coach Bruce Arena says several potential team members will see playing time after seven of the 11 starting Americans in the Mexico game were excused from the trip to Central America.
"We are bringing a different team, obviously, to Guatemala," Mr. Arena says. "We have got a bunch of guys [playing] in Europe as well as in MLS [U.S. Major League Soccer] that want these opportunities to show that they belong on our next World Cup team. So we are going to put a pretty good team on the field for the next three games."
The victory on Saturday allowed the U.S. squad to avenge the only blemish on its record in the final round of qualifying. The Americans are ranked sixth in the world, one spot behind Mexico. The United States has not lost at home to Mexico in seven games since 1999.
U.S. head coach Bruce Arena was pleased with the play of his four defenders as they helped preserve the shutout. Gregg Berhalter, rising star Oguchi Onyewu and veteran Eddie Pope are considered the top U.S. defenders in the middle of the field when they are healthy. But Arena still has decisions to make on the outside positions.
He also has the question of who the number three goalkeeper should be. Tim Howard, who plays for England's Manchester United, is the likely backup for Kasey Keller, who picked up his 50th international win against Mexico. Keller has not surrendered a goal in World Cup qualifying since a 2-1 loss in Mexico City in April.
Keller and most of the other national team members who play with European clubs will skip the Guatemala game. Even without the top players, U.S. forward Landon Donovan says the next three qualifying games will strengthen an already talented team.
"We qualified, and that is great," Mr. Donovan says. "But let us get better over the next seven months. It does not mean you relax. Guys that get a chance to play now should prove that they belong. And that makes the depth of our team better."
In the revised 18-man roster announced Sunday, only two European-based players remain, including Reading midfielder Bobby Convey, who was suspended for the Mexico game, and goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.
U.S. Major League Soccer players Nick Garcia, Eddie Johnson, Chad Marshall, Matt Reis and Greg Vanney will have the opportunity to impress coach Arena. Forwards Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan and midfielder Clint Dempsey, teammates with the New England Revolution, are likely to compete for forward spots behind Brian McBride and Landon Donovan.