DORTMUND, Germany — When the U.S. takes the field against Germany tonight in its last meaningful soccer friendly before the World Cup, several players' immediate futures will be on the line.
Three-quarters of the probable U.S. World Cup starting lineup will be absent -- because of injury or unavailability -- so the game presents a chance for reserve or "bubble" players to show they belong.
Virtually certain to make the June 9-July 9 tournament are goalkeeper Kasey Keller, defenders Steve Cherundolo and Gregg Berhalter, defensive midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, midfielder Bobby Convey and forward Josh Wolff. Taylor Twellman, Eddie Johnson, Marcus Hahnemann and Jimmy Conrad also are all but assured of being back in Germany this summer.
But proof is needed for forward Brian Ching, defenders Cory Gibbs and Heath Pearce and midfielders Kerry Zavagnin, Ben Olsen and Chris Klein.
Germany will have the vocal roar of 67,000 disgruntled fans demanding the team make up for its most recent showing, a loss to Italy in Florence. The atmosphere will be intimidating, very close to World Cup conditions, in fact.
The U.S. has played Germany seven times since 1993, with the Germans holding a 5-2 advantage.
After tonight, the U.S. has four games remaining before the World Cup, all of them at home and none of them against significant opposition. The team leaves for Germany on June 1.
-- Grahame L. Jones