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U.S. NOTES

Talent Is Only Part of Equation

June 02, 2002|Grahame L. Jones

SEOUL — What will it take for the United States to produce a World Cup team with speed and power and skill in every position, a team capable of upsetting a world champion--in short, a team like Senegal?

"They're terrific athletes," defender Jeff Agoos said Saturday. "We have that level of athletes in the U.S. We have some of those guys on our team.

"Our best athletes, some play soccer, some play football, some play basketball, hockey, whatever. We're a much more diverse country than a lot of the countries we play against."

The challenge, Agoos said, was in luring more top athletes away from other sports to soccer, but that will take some doing.

"[It takes] a strong domestic league, higher salaries, more organization, more development at the youth level, better recognition of talented players." he said. "There are quite a number of things."

Goalkeeper Brad Friedel suggested one more.

"You have to get someone who loves to play soccer," Friedel said. "You can't just take somebody who is 6 feet 4 and big and fast and say, 'Right, come play soccer now.' They have to love the game, because if they don't, they might as well not play it.

"In America, it's hard. When you're growing up, you want to play other sports."

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The U.S. opens its World Cup against Portugal on Wednesday and the Portuguese will be without experienced defender Abel Xavier, who injured his left hamstring in training and will be sidelined up to 10 days.

U.S. striker Clint Mathis said that Xavier's absence will not make the task confronting the U.S. any easier.

"Who's to say?" he said. "Any player can play their greatest game on any given day or against any given team, so I don't think that [Xavier's injury] is going to change the mind-set of what we're going to do or change the structure of the Portuguese team. They're still a good team."

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