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US Soccer Team Greatly Improved Since Last World Cup

Competition between 32 global teams is underway in the 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany. While some teams have already begun competing, others, including the United States, are waiting to take to the field.

The training and friendlies are over for the U.S. Men's National Team. Midfielder Landon Donovan said, "We're good enough to win games; that's our mentality. It's not, 'Let's just go out there and kick the ball as far as we can and hope we sneak a goal.' "

The 24-year-old said this year's squad is the best soccer-playing team the United States has ever had. "We're going to be fit, we're going to be ready, we're going to be prepared, so it's our time to play."

It was Donovan leading the team in points during 2006 World Cup qualifying. He's also the leading assist man in U.S. history. He said, "In the past it was, ‘lets fight our way through games, try to scrap a one-zero result if we can and see how it goes.’ Now we're good enough to beat teams and to beat teams pretty handily."

Granted, it's the World Cup, but this year's team has experience it did not have when it lost to Germany in the 2002 quarterfinals. Today, 11 players from that team are back. Along the way, they’ve gained popularity at home and respect abroad. The team is now ranked fifth in the world.

Veteran goalie Kasey Keller has played a big part in the team's success. He is the U.S. male soccer player of the year who has 31 World Cup qualifying appearances. Keller said, "We have good size, we have good speed, we have good players on the ball. I think we are going to match up very well against most teams that we play against."

The United States compiled a 6-2-2 record in friendlies this year, outscoring opponents 18-8.

For Bruce Arena, the winningest coach in U.S. history, it is a second chance at putting together a World Cup team. "You have a picture in your mind of what it takes to be successful in the World Cup,” he said. “The kind of players you need to have, the kind of qualities that are necessary, understanding the speed of the game at that level in comparison to club soccer, and the qualities that players need to have to be successful once they step on the field at the World Cup." Along with the experience, Coach Arena says this team has more depth and more versatility.