Where are the goals going to come from for the United States once World Cup qualifying resumes in two weeks?
Coach Bruce Arena gave seven Major League Soccer strikers the chance to answer that question Monday when he included them among 28 players called into camp at the Home Depot Center in advance of the Feb. 9 qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago.
The forwards called up were Brian Ching (San Jose Earthquakes), Alecko Eskandarian (D.C. United), Ed Johnson (FC Dallas), Mike Magee (MetroStars), Pat Noonan (New England Revolution), Taylor Twellman (New England) and Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards).
Arena will add European-based players to his final roster shortly before the match at the Queen's Park Oval at Port of Spain, Trinidad. Under FIFA rules, clubs are obliged to release their players only five days ahead of qualifying games. Players from MLS are available now because the 2005 season does not begin until April 2.
Team captain and playmaker Claudio Reyna (Manchester City) ruled himself out of the running Monday, telling Associated Press that he will not have recovered from a thigh muscle injury in time for the Feb. 9 match.
By including Clint Mathis (Real Salt Lake) among the nine midfielders he called up, Arena gave himself the option of reuniting the partnership of Mathis and Wolff, which was hugely instrumental in the U.S.' qualifying for the Korea/Japan World Cup in 2002.
But the hottest strikers at the end of last year were Johnson and Eskandarian.
Johnson set or tied several records by scoring five goals in his first three games for the national team, including a hat trick against Panama.
Eskandarian scored twice in the MLS final as D.C. United defeated Kansas City, 3-2, at the Home Depot Center to win the league championship.
In addition to Mathis, other midfielders in camp are Clint Dempsey (New England), Diego Gutierrez (Kansas City), Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), Brian Mullan (San Jose), Ben Olsen (D.C. United), Steve Ralston (New England) and Clyde Simms (Richmond Kickers).
Simms is the only non-MLS player invited and is one of four players attending their first national team camp. The others are Mapp and defenders Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew) and Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City).
Also among the eight defenders are Chris Albright (Galaxy), Nick Garcia (Kansas City), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus), Ritchie Kotschau (Colorado), Eddie Pope (MetroStars) and Tony Sanneh (Columbus).
The Galaxy's Kevin Hartman is one of four goalkeepers in camp, along with Jon Busch (Columbus), Joe Cannon (Colorado) and Nick Rimando (D.C. United).
The Port of Spain game is the first of 10 qualifiers for the U.S. between Feb. 9 and Oct. 13 as it plays home-and-home series against Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica, seeking one of three guaranteed spots in Germany 2006.