by user Bobo

Well, the United States team for the 2006 Soccer World Cup has been announced. And it has to be said that yes, I concur that it's one of the strongest teams they've ever put together. Let's examine, block by block.

Kasey Keller
Us Brits have had tons of experience with this rock-solid goaltender, having seen him start his career at Millwall, and not leave until fourteen years later for his current team, Borussia Mönchengladbach. The man was soccer athlete of the year in 1997 and 1998, played over 75 consecutive games for Tottenham Hotspur between 2002-4, and is the all time US national team leader in victories and clean sheets. His most recent accomplishment was helping the Americans win the 2005 CONCACAF title. An obvious, but nevertheless, a top-drawer decision.

Marcus Hahnemann
Seattle-born Hahnemann is currently the first-choice goalkeeper for newly-crowned Football League Championship champions Reading F.C. As well as helping the Premiership new-boys to a top-level career next season, Hahnemann has earned five caps for the men's national team, and is destined to earn many more in upcoming years. Having made over 180 appearances for the Royals, he is a natural second-choice keeper with buckets of experience.

Tim Howard
I knew it would be odd to see the day when the United States' third-choice 'keeper was a member of one of today's two strongest sides in England. But, after Edwin van der Sar signed for the Reds, Howard's comments may well leave him out of favour with Arena. However, being a decade younger than Keller, he is the natural progression to the next first-choice keeper for the Stars and Stripes.

Carlos Bocanegra
Frankly I should know more about this young Californian defender, formerly of the Chicago Fire, later of Fulham. Having started as a fullback, the versatile defender now spends a lot of his time covering that most pressured and underrated of positions, the left-back. He spent some quality time playing for the team during the 2003 Gold Cup victory, and now alternates his position with that of Eddie Lewis. On the other hand...

Steve Cherundolo
..until the beginning of last year, this man was a once-in-a-lifetime style enigma to me. Illinoisan by birth, this young player, who currently plays in Germany, moved to Hannover back when they were a second division side in 1998/99. A frequent tackler, Cherundolo has suffered many crucial fouls at important moments in his career, including going into the 2005 Gold Cup. However, fully fit, he should perform well. He has recently scored his first goal for the United States, in a 4-1 loss against Germany.

Jimmy Conrad
Soccer player and columnist Jimmy Conrad has a great understanding for the game, and also picked up his first cap in a Gold Cup match last year. Having been traded off to Kansas City Wiz, he moved from the Earthquakes after helping them win the MLS Cup in 2001.

After his first season with Kansas City, in which he more than doubled his career turnover, he masterminded their defence and was part of the league's Best XI of 2004. A year later, he won the title of Best Defender of the Year after being nominated for the second year in succession.

Cory Gibbs
Gibbs, currently playing in the Netherlands as one of Den Haag's top defenders, has spent much of his career in Europe, playing also in Germany, during which at one point he was touted for a move to the Second Bundesliga, for an up-and-coming young outfit before moving back to the United States to get more of a look-in for the national team. One to watch.

Frankie Hejduk
Hejduk’s international career spans all the way back to 1996, where he played in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, having unsuccessfully tried his hand at surfing in his youth. Without being able to find play in Europe halfway through his career, he returned to the US in 2003, where he has undoubtedly come into the view of Arena.

Having taken part in the 2002 Gold Cup, he has since played in the 2002 World Cup and will once again be playing a pivotal role within the American team.

Eddie Lewis
Lewis, courtesy of ten years’ international experience, is one of the better United States internationals currently playing for an English team. Having started his career with the San Jose Clash, later the San Jose Earthquakes, he played with Fulham for three years, without seeing much action until the last, irrelevant, match of the season.

Having moved to Leeds, with a three-year spell at Preston North End interceding, his skill at free kicks has been wonderfully exploited by the Whites.

Lewis made his debut against Peru in 1996, when several United States players boycotted the national team. These days, he has moved to left-back, after competition for his position from DaMarcus Beasley.

Oguchi Onyewu
Onyewu, of Nigerian descent, but born in Washington DC, currently plays in Belgium for top side Standard Liège. Believed to be the tallest outfield player in United States soccer history at 6’4”, and, according to the Washington Post, destined for big things in England if he succeeds during this tournament, most notably having received offers from Manchester United, Middlesbrough, and Charlton. He also holds the honour of Foreign Player of the Year, which he achieved in 2005. Another who, if the United States perform to their expectations, will go home with his head held high.

Eddie Pope
Pope, currently a member of Major League Soccer’s new boys, Real Salt Lake, who finished the last season at fifth place in the Western Conference, having previously played in the United States’ disappointing run in the 1998 World Cup.

Considered as one of the foremost defenders of United States’ soccer history, Pope is one of the key members of the United States squad, and his form will greatly determine their potential run into later rounds.

DaMarcus Beasley
Having made his mark in the 1999 Under-17 World Cup as the second-best player of the tournament, behind teammate Landon Donovan, Beasley was traded from the LA Galaxy to the Chicago Fire, where he excelled and was later picked up by Guus Hiddink of PSV.

A key member of the Eredivisie squad, Beasley aided PSV to the Amstel Cup with a last minute goal. One of the best former Major Leaguers.

Bobby Convey
Bobby Convey, at one time the youngest-ever Major League Soccer player, was drafted into DC United after their faltering beginning to the 2000 season. Since bested by sixteen-year-old Santino Quaranta, and later, wünderkind Freddy Adu, Convey is now present at the English team Reading F.C., recently promoted to the Premier League.

Previously a captain of the Under-20 United States team, Convey is a key performer in Reading’s promotion run, and without doubt one to watch in the next few months.

Clint Dempsey
Dempsey, drafted in the 2004 Superdraft by the Revolution, he was named Rookie of the year in his opening season, despite missing several weeks courtesy of a broken jaw, which caused him to miss much action. Upon his return, he played several MLS games with a sprained ankle. Later having had training with Dutch team Feyenoord, and English team Everton F.C., it is likely he will leave the United States at some time in the future.

Landon Donovan
Landon Donovan, having come to prominence playing for German club Bayer Leverkusen, is currently the US’s all-time assist leader. Since leaving Leverkusen, having had designs on returning to San Jose, he actually signed for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Since this, he has been named to the MLS All-Time best XI.

With an eye for goal, and a key role within the team, Landon is sure to be one of the star players for the United States team.

Pablo Mastroeni
Mastroeni, having suffered a major injury in the early part of 2005, causing him to be out for eight weeks, had previously also had an injury-filled run to the 2002 World Cup, too.

Previously of the defunct Miami Fusion, Mastroeni became a first-team player in the centre of defence within a season. The Argentinean-born Mastroeni moved to the United States at the age of four and achieved his first US cap against Ecuador on June 7th 2001. Should he keep free of injury, he could prove to be one of the surprise packages of the tournament if he’s given time to play.

John O’Brien
O’Brien, having spent most of his career in the Netherlands, signed in 2006 for FC Chivas. Having aided Ajax to two titles in 2002 and 2004 respectively, this is O’Brien’s second World Cup appearance. He played every minute during the 2002 World Cup run, and looks to doing the same once again.

After an unsuccessful season at ADO Den Haag, O’Brien has been known to score crucial goals at crucial moments for the national team, and helped them to finish fourth in the Sydney Olympics.

With buckets of international experience, O’Brien may well just come good once again.

Ben Olsen
Olsen, a player with DC United, having spent some time in England with Nottingham Forest, before an ankle injury destroyed his chances of moving abroad, stood out in the 2002 season and returned fully in 2003, starting 26 games. Adapting to a central role, Olsen's intelligence at club-level brought good things once again from his time away.

Having recently scored goals for the United States, Olsen is something of a surprise choice for his country, having only had time to truly impress since the beginning of 2006.

Claudio Reyna
Another English-based player, the former Bayer Leverkusen midfielder was to become the first American to coach a European soccer team, before moving to Rangers, Sunderland, and now Manchester City.

Having started playing college soccer in Virginia, and being coached by current US national coach Bruce Arena, the New Jersey native was first selected for the 1994 World Cup, before sustaining an injury and missing out on their campaign. Later appearing in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, he was instrumental in helping the Americans reach the quarter-finals in Korea and Japan. Reyna's wife, Danielle Egan, is a former US Women's team player.

Brian Ching
Brian Ching, the first ever Hawaiian to play in Major League Soccer, scored four goals in his first ever game with the Houston Dynamo. Used extensively by Bruce Arena in World Cup Qualifiers since his first cap in March 2003 against Wales, Ching has scored two vital goals in two games, the first of which was a crucial equalizer against Jamaica.

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson, a former Under-17 star, was signed by Dallas Burn in 2001 at the age of 17, and played in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship, winning the Golden Boot after scoring four goals (three of which were from the penalty spot).

Having been sidelined until January, Johnson is hoping to make a comeback having signed to the Kansas City Wizards in February 2006, due to the Burn's salary problems.

Brian McBride
McBride, currently of Fulham, but previously of Columbus Crew, has played for the United States team since 1993. With a record for Columbus Crew including 62 goals, the joint-greatest haul with Jeff Cunningham, he was voted in 2005 in the MLS All-time Best XI. McBride is the only US player to have scored in both the 1998 and the 2002 World Cups, and could once again get his name on the scoresheet this time around.

Josh Wolff
Wolff, having played previously in the 2000 Summer Olympics, has lots of footballing experience. He had previously been selected for the 2002 World Cup, and performed well, assisting in a goal against Germany.

Currently playing for the Kansas City Wizards, alongside stars such as Eddie Johnson, Wolff is simultaneously one of the most attacking, and yet the most injury-prone players.

Overall, a very good choice for a first team by Arena, and a decent opportunity for the young boys to shine.

Late breaking news
Breaking news tells of Frankie Hejduk having suffered an injury and being replaced by the LA Galaxy's Chris Albright, who has six years of international experience under his belt and in his debut season of 2000 scored 25 goals, the fourth highest tally in the league.

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