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U.S. NOTES

Which Goalie? Arena Won't Say

June 03, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEOUL — Bruce Arena, the U.S. coach, said he would make up his mind Sunday night about whether to start Kasey Keller or Brad Friedel in goal in the opening game against Portugal and let the players know his decision today.

That doesn't mean anyone else will find out until game time on Wednesday, however. "We are very close to finalizing our lineup," Arena said. "No, we will not be disclosing our lineup."

He did give a broad hint that midfielder Claudio Reyna could be involved in more of a defensive role than an offensive one, which suggests that Reyna might take on the defensive midfield position once occupied by injured Chris Armas, thereby freeing John O'Brien to start in left midfield in place of DaMarcus Beasley.

Such a move might also open a place for Landon Donovan in the starting lineup, either as the attacking midfielder or as an out-and-out forward.

"Claudio has grown considerably since 1998," Arena said. "One area where he is clearly now an outstanding player is on the defensive end of the field.

"He positions himself well, he is good in the tackle and he is very responsible on the defensive side of the ball. [And] obviously, he is a good player in helping us keep position, he is a good passer and he helps settle our team down."

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The Portuguese are champing at the bit to get started, according to forward Nuno Gomes.

"Watching other teams playing on television just increases the anxiety and the will to start our World Cup campaign," he told Reuters. "We know we are the favorites [to win Group D, which also includes South Korea and Poland], but we have to prove it on the field."

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Arena does not believe FIFA's system of ranking teams should be taken seriously, at least not as an indicator of what might happen when the U.S. plays higher-ranked Portugal.

"If we based everything on rankings, then there is no point in playing," he said. "If I understand it correctly, this time around at the World Cup we still have to go on the field and play."

Grahame L. Jones

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