According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, midfielder Mike Burke, along with central defenders Kevin Knight and Peter Luzak, are "reportedly" among the 22 players called into the national team by coach Bruce Arena.
The majority of the players, who have been practicing this week at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, are said to come from the United Soccer Leagues and from the Major Indoor Soccer League. Arena has said, however, that every player has outdoor experience.
Players from First Division sides Charleston and Rochester, according to the Post, are among those who have reportedly been selected to replace current national team players while they are in a contract dispute with the United States Soccer Federation. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune noted that some of the Thunder players, who play in the USL First Division, were on a list given to Arena that were available to be called up, including former Kickers’ midfielder Marco Ferruzzi.
In addition, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is reporting that goalkeepers Preston Burpo (Seattle), Dan Popik (ex-LA Galaxy) and Dusty Hudock (Rochester), along with forward Greg Howes (Milwaukee Wave), have also been called into camp.
The Kansas City Star, meanwhile, said Justin Evans of the MISL’s Kansas City Comets has reported to Carson. Evans told the Star he is one of three current indoor players in camp.
The squad list was compiled during last week’s NSCAA convention in Baltimore after consultations with USL coaches and ofher team officials.
Dustin Swinehart, a forward/attacking midfielder who made spot appearnaces with the Kickers last season while on loan from USL Second Division side Charlotte, is another name reported to have joined the national team camp.
BigAppleSoccer.com is reporting that Steve Shak (Virginia Beach) has accepted an invitation to camp.
The US will open the final round of qualifying Feb. 9 with a match at Trinidad & Tobago.
Arena has yet to announce when he will officially release the names of the players, citing the players’ need to relax. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that an additional two to three players could wind up in the US camp.
While none of the players called in have played with the US men’s national team, some of the names known thus far have represented the US in international competition.
The squad Arena has in camp is similar in nature to one that was put together back in June 2004 when the US Representative XI and the England National Game XI played to a scoreless draw in Charleston, South Carolina. In that match, Hudock, then playing with Charleston, earned the shutout in goal, while Swinehart, Evans and Ferruzzi made appearances.
Of the names listed below, four of them were named to the 2004 All-A-League (the A-League moniker has changed as of this season to USL First Division) first or second team–Dustin Branan (1st team), Warren (2nd team), Evans (2nd team), Howes (2nd team). Swinehart was named to the 2004 Pro Soccer League 1st team (the PSL moniker changed to USL Second Division)
List of players reportedly in camp:
Mike Burke (27 years old, 5’7", 147 pound midfielder, Richmond Kickers, USL First Division)
Peter Luzak (26 years old, 6’1", 180 pound defender, Richmond Kickers, USL First Division)
Kevin Knight (28 years old, 6’1", 175 pound defender, Richmond Kickers, USL First Division)
Steve Shak (26 years old, 6’1", 158 pound defender, Virginia Beach Mariners, USL First Division)
Justin Evans (27 years old, 6’1", 170 pound midfielder, Charleston Battery, USL First Division/Kansas City Comets, MISL)
Joe Warren (30 years old, 6’5" 220 pound goalkeeper, Minnesota Thunder, USL First Division)
Freddy Juarez (26 years old, 5’6", 160 pound defender/midfielder, Minnesota Thunder, USL First Division)
Dustin Branan, (23 years old, 6’3", 190 pound defender, Minnesota Thunder, USL First Division)
John Ball (32 years old, 5’11", 160 pound midfielder, Cleveland Force, MISL/Atlanta Silverbacks, USL First Division)
Dustin Swinehart (30 year old, 6’0", 165 pound midfielder/forward, Charlotte Eagles, USL Second Division)
Greg Howes (27 years old, 6’0", 185 pound forward, Milwaukee Wave/MISL; Milwaukee Wave United/USL First Division)
Preston Burpo (32 years old, 6’3", 215 pound goalkeeper, Seattle Sounders/USL First Division)
Dan Popik (25 years old, 6’3", 200 pound goalkeeper, last club: LA Galaxy/MLS)
Dusty Hudock (32 years old, 6’3", 188 pound goalkeeper, Rochester Rhinos, USL First Division)
Additional names that potentially are in camp, as reported in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Marco Ferruzzi (34 years old, 5’9", 170 pound midfielder, Minnesota Thunder, USL First Division)
Amos Magee (33 years old, 5’8", 145 pound forward, Minnesota Thunder, USL First Division)
Jeff Matteo (24 years old, 5’6", 155 pound midfielder, Minnesota Thunder, USL First Division)
Jay Alberts (24 years old, 5’8", 150 pound midfielder, Minnesota Thunder, USL First Division)
MLS players had been approached to play, but all of them declined. Among those asked were DC United’s Bryan Namoff, Brian Carroll, Josh Gros and Troy Perkins.
The US have been heavily favored to win one of the qualifying spots for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but the path there should prove much more difficult with an untested group of players on the international stage.
However, USL players have taken on a national team and had success before, albeit on a much lower stage and under different circumstances.
In May 2002, the Richmond Kickers scrimmaged the US men’s national team while they were in camp in Cary, North Carolina preparing for the 2002 World Cup. The Kickers played the US men to a 2-2 draw.
Here’s our coverage of the events that took place there in May 2002–first excerpts from an article by Andy Gustafson, and then another article by Mark Bushman.
by Andy Gustafson
At around halftime of the Man United game, we saw a bus pull into the lot. There were a few people, mostly kids, who had already arrived and they all ran to the bus. We quickly realized that it was the Richmond bus and off we went towards it. For about the last half hour or so, I had been sweating in the press box. I had made a few comments of how hot it was inside. However, upon stepping out to meet the bus, I was hit with a new form of heat. It was hot and humid. I had read some reports from players as to how hot it was in camp, but I had not noticed the heat until now. It was difficult to walk down the steps and then the 200 or so yards to the bus. Wow! I was glad that I did not have to play in this heat.
… I quickly grabbed Assistant Coach Jesse Myers and asked him if they had been given any directions as far as how to play from the national team. The coach said no, other than they asked them to play a 4-4-2, which is the formation they regularly employ, so that was not a problem at all.
Back up in the press box, we were joined by Richmond GM Billy Hallock. I said to him that this must be exciting for the players and he replied, "Exciting or scary." This was something I had not considered. As a player who is not very good, I have often imagined taking the field against professionals. Sure, they would destroy me, but it would be a great experience watching them go right by me. However, as professionals, being dominated is not something to look forward. I am sure most of the Kickers have goals to play at a higher level. Whether that is Major League Soccer or somewhere overseas, they have to have the confidence that they can hold their own against a higher class of players. In a few hours, they were going to get that chance; only the players would be a few classes up. A quick example I had would be a CBA basketball team playing the Dream team.
… While I had been ignoring the match on TV and meeting new people, the Nats arrived. They did some warm up drills, but it surely would not take long for them to get loose in this weather.
… The U.S. started an interesting lineup. Brad Freidel was in goal, which was no surprise as Kasey Keller was still in England. Also missing were Claudio Reyna, John O’Brien, and Eddie Lewis who were all with their European Clubs and Carlos Llamosa, whose hamstring had kept him out of training. Defensively, it was Jeff Agoos on the left, Eddie Pope and Gregg Berhalter in the middle and Tony Sennah on the right. In midfield, DaMarcus Beasley was on the left, Chris Armas was behind Landon Donovan and Earnie Stewart was on the right side. Up front were Josh Wolff and Clint Mathis. I thought it was interesting because most people think that our forwards in Korea will be Mathis and Brian McBride. The one knock they have is that due to injuries they have not played together much at all. I would think that Coach Arena would put them together as often as possible.
We noticed that Richmond began its regular first team. I have seen Richmond twice play D.C. United in the last year. Once in the U.S. Open Cup and again in a friendly, and the one thing I took from those games was that they do not pack it in defensively. They play their own game. I was curious to see if they would attack the Nats. It did not take long to get my answer. In the first minute, forward Kevin Jeffrey found some space on the left wing and sent in a low driving cross that looked as if it would find a streaking Josh Henderson. However, Freidel was not caught napping; he quickly came off his line and dove to snare the cross.
Richmond kept the pressure for a few minutes, then the U.S. seamed to wake up. In the 15th minute, Mathis crossed to Wolff whose header went high. Two minutes later, he would not make the same mistake. Stewart took a ball from Donovan, made a nice move and from the right side, sent the ball to Wolff who found himself with an open net and calmly applied the easy finish. I thought, "OK, 15 minutes to get a goal, they will probably add a couple more before halftime." I thought wrong.
Though the U.S. had the majority of the ball, Richmond’s defense was holding well and not giving up any good chances when in the 27th minute, former DC United player Mike Burke sent a through ball to Josh Henderson who got his shot under Pope and past Freidel into the far side netting. Richmond had tied it at 1-1 and Amanda let out a small cheer. I thought it was probably a fluky goal that was nothing to be too concerned about. The U.S. will still probably win 4-1 or so. And they had their chances; the best came to Mathis who was open to receive a Sanneh cross, but managed to send it high. Richmond continued to look to spring either Jeffrey of Henderson, but Pope and Berhalter stood firm. The half ended 1-1.
Mark came in and I could tell he was giddy from the Kickers showing so well. Mark is as patriotic as they come, but I knew he was rooting for Richmond. Hell, he knows most of the players and all the staff. I was not as far on the Kickers bandwagon as Mark, but I was hoping they would play well and give a good account of themselves.
Arena made changes at the half, starting with goalkeeper Tony Meola replacing Freidel. I was hoping Arena did not blame him for the goal. Frankie Hejduk entered for Sanneh and Regis for Berhalter, moving Agoos to the center. Pablo Mastroeni, a player I am very happy made the final squad, replaced Chris Armas. Cobi Jones was in for Donovan which moved Stewart to attacking mid. Both forwards exited for McBride and Joe-Max Moore.
Nine minutes into the half, Hejduk ripped a 25-yard drive just wide. The next minute saw Jeffrey receive a pass from another former DC United player, David Hayes. Jeffrey made a sweet move to get by Agoos and slotted the ball under the onrushing Meola. Unbelievably Richmond were ahead 2-1 and Amanda could hardly contain herself. Now the game really picked up with the US showing some urgency. Moore, Stewart, Beasley, Regis, and Jones each had powerful shots that either just missed or were nicely saved by Kickers keeper Ronnie Pascale. Then followed an exciting flurry as McBride headed off the post, a crowd blocked Regis’ follow-up and Pope had his bicycle deflected as well.
In the 72nd, Rob Ukrop beat Meola, but the linesman’s flag was up. Pascale made a great save on Jones. About ten minutes later, the Richmond hero was subbed out. Just a minute later, McBride took a long ball in an apparent offside position at the top of the 18 and laid it off or Stewart who beat the new keeper. Amanda looked like she wanted to kill the linesman!
The game ended 2-2 and we all made our way down to the field to try to get some interviews. I first went to Arena who was surrounded by press who had emerged from I don’t know where. I heard someone ask him if he was panicked. There were too many people around for me to hear him clearly. But I did make out that he was in no means panicked. He was pretty honest, saying Richmond played well, their keeper was outstanding. He was disappointed in the finishing, but thought McBride and Moore were better together then were Mathis and Wolff.
I left the coach to the throngs and made my way over to my man, Brad Freidel. He was saying that he was close to signing a five-year deal that would keep him at Blackburn and was very happy about that. I asked him what he was doing to prepare himself. He said in his funny English accent, "I am preparing that I am playing. What else would do? I have been very happy with the last two years of my footballing career. There is no doubt about that. I think I have played every single game except for when I had a concussion. I am confident, we are working very hard here and I am preparing as if I’m going to be starting on June 5th. There’s no other thought in my head right now."
I next found Mark talking to Joe-Max Moore who was saying how hot it was. "It’s a lot different than England, that’s for sure." He was disappointed in the performance against an A-League team. He said Uruguay will play a lot like Portugal so he was looking forward to that game. He had picked Holland to win the 1998 World Cup and is surprised they will not be there this year. Mark asked him about the differences in this year’s team as opposed to the one in 1998. "The chemistry of the team is a lot better. Talent wise I knew we had a solid team, much like this one. The chemistry is better; everybody is pulling for each other, trying to support each other. I think we are going into the first game with 23 players that are going to, no matter what, be there to support the team."
After hearing from a few players, I sought out Richmond coach Leigh Cowlishaw and congratulated him on the game. He said, in a real English accent, "Could not be better. It is not often we get a chance to play a team that is a lot better than us, so we haven’t really worked on defending with the eight defenders. We did a little bit of that this week and this was the perfect kind of practice game for that, to defend with the eight and keep the two forwards up there. That was the biggest focus, to see how we would handle that and I thought they handled it very well. They were very compact. It wasn’t until we made a lot of substitutions at the end did it go a little bit ragged."
I said, "It wasn’t like you were packing it in?"
"No, not at all. I wanted to make sure we didn’t do that. It would be no good obviously for the National Team to play against a team that packed it in. We just defended with the eight and left the forwards up there. We actually, tried to press in the first 10-15, I thought we did that quite well."
I then commented that the team did not seem intimidated. The coach replied, "It’s not everyday you get to play against the national team, it’s a little bit of fun, but they worked for it." He also praised his young keeper. …
U.S. MNT Analysis
Arena: ‘Don’t Read Too Much Into This’
Breaking Down the U.S.’ 2-2 Draw With Richmond
by Mark Bushman
CARY, N.C., May 8, 2002–The questions were asked repeatedly to US coach Bruce Arena after his team’s 2-2 draw against the A-League’s Richmond Kickers Wednesday afternoon at SAS Stadium.
"Are you concerned?"
"Is it time to panic?"
"Are drastic changes coming?"
Each time, Arena simply responded by saying "Don’t read too much into this. It was an 11 vs. 11 scrimmage which we needed to play against another professional side. Give Richmond a lot of credit. They played really well today."
When asked about the play of individuals, Arena was his usual blunt self, praising some and voicing displeasure at a few others.
"I wasn’t happy with the way [Josh] Wolff and [Clint] Mathis played together in the first half…DaMarcus [Beasley] played very well, [Eddie] Pope was solid, Earnie [Stewart] did a good job rallying the team. Our defense was beaten a few times one on one, and we’ll have to improve that. For the first goal, the shot just went under Eddie’s foot…on the second, [Jeff] Agoos just got beat. Overall, it wasn’t bad."
The questionable speed of the US backline, a concern raised by many fans and media members alike, did get exposed some against Richmond, a team considered by many to have the best team speed in the A-League.
Kickers striker Kevin Jeffrey, a 20-goal scorer last year, simply ran past Agoos on Richmond’s second goal and calmly slotted the ball past a helpless Tony Meola. At other times, the defense was solid and did a great job of closing down passing lanes during Richmond’s attempted counterattacks.
When asked what Arena didn’t like about Mathis’ performance, he said he thought Clint was dropping back too far into the midfield to get the ball. In Arena’s system, he wants Clint up top and stretching the defense, getting the ball in more dangerous areas, preferably in the opposition’s third of the field.
Several of the players also mentioned they were a bit tired from a pretty intense week of training, plus playing in warmer conditions than they were used to.
"I haven’t played in this type of weather in about eight months," said Joe-Max Moore, who played the final 45 minutes for the US "It’s good, though, because these are probably the types of conditions we’ll be playing in over in Asia."
"Our legs are bit tired because of the workouts of the last week, plus this was our first real opportunity to play 11 against 11," said Brad Friedel, who played the first half and gave up a goal on a great individual effort from Kickers’ forward Josh Henderson. "Everything we’ve done so far has just been fitness and small-sided games. Those of us in Europe are getting acclimated to the heat, but we’ll be fine."
As the game wore on, the US did a really good job of stepping up their attack, knocking the ball around, and creating numerous scoring chances.
Richmond goalkeeper Ronnie Pascale made some spectacular saves to hold on to a 2-1 lead late in the game, including a blast from David Regis which he did well to touch over the bar, and a thunderous shot from Cobi Jones where Pascale was able to get down on the ball quickly and knock it out of danger. Only a very questionable non-offside call gave the US the tying goal to salvage the draw.
Although Arena claimed the scrimmage was really "just a practice with fans in attendance," Moore was a bit more harsh on himself and the team.
"We can’t say we’re happy with the result. We can’t make excuses, and we just need to play better…no disrespect to Richmond, because they played a great game, but I’d like to think we should be able to beat any pro team we’ll play. We’re the best the country has, and we need to play like…that being said, I’m not worried. We’ve got three more games against quality opponents and a few more weeks to train. We’ll be fine."
As a parting shot, when asked about how this training camp differs from the one in ’98, Moore said there’s a big difference.
"There’s much less tension. We all know each other pretty well, have played together for a few years, and we’re very team-oriented in doing things. Bruce has created a great atmosphere, and we’re all really dedicated to working hard for each other and doing well in the Cup. Everybody knows they have a shot of getting playing time if they play their best."
Sounds like things are drastically different than four years ago, at least off the field.