In this playful piece, we pose a question or make a statement about something in soccer that will be debated by two individuals from the same walk of life. Be it a coach, player, journalist or whomever, the two will each give their side of the story, so to speak.
In this case, we've enlisted the help of two of the top soccer personalities behind the mic in the U.S. In one corner, representing the tough old school of U.S. soccer, U.S. Men's National Team legend (okay, so he’s not a legend, but he did earn eight caps from 1979-80) ... Ty Keough, who serves as Color Commentator for all U.S. Men's National Team games and will be calling all U.S. World Cup matches with play-by-play man Jack Edwards. In the other corner, representing the cocksure new school of U.S. soccer, former Colgate standout (no, I'm not talking about toothpaste commercials you might think he's done; he did actually play collegiate soccer) ... Rob Stone, who serves as Sideline Announcer for all U.S. Men's National Team games and will be hosting "World Cup 2Night" on ESPN2 throughout June.
This month's question: If you're head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team, what is your starting lineup on June 5, assuming everyone is healthy?
[Editor's Note: As different as these two engaging personalities are on and off the field, they see eye-to-eye when it comes to the U.S. Both picked almost identical starting lineups for the Portugal match, but we like the name "Point / Counterpoint", so we're sticking with it]
First off, even though Coach Arena continues to "split hairs", I would pick Kasey Keller as the starting keeper. Keller's calming presence and sometimes plain dumb luck seem to get the desired result without drawing much attention. Even when he pulls off an astonishing save, the expression (or lack thereof) on his face seems to say that he expected to be able to pull it off.
Tony Sanneh, in outplaying Zenden of the Netherlands in the USA's final stateside tune up match, proves he can do the job at right back. Also, his physical stature is crucial in dead ball situations defensively as well as offensively (see May 12 goal against Uruguay from Reyna corner kick). Eddie Pope as a central defender is essential, because his speed can cover up breakdowns and he generally makes good decisions on the ball. Jeff Agoos organizes and for the most part, plays quality balls out of the back. The left back position would give any coach fits, since David Regis has been marvelously inconsistent, combining brilliant plays with stunning mental breakdowns even within the same half of a game. I would definitely consider Frankie Hejduk to start ahead of Regis. Hejduk, although better on the right, is a scrapper and his speed adds something the U.S. back line definitely needs. Besides, the first job of a defender is to defend, and I think sometimes Regis forgets that. Although not as good on the ball as Regis, Hejduk can also cause some problems for the opponent with his energy going forward and can recover better than Regis.
The U.S. should employ both John O'Brien and Claudio Reyna as defensive midfielders. The competition is tougher than it is in CONCACAF and we're without Armas. If they tire out, Pablo Mastroeni can do the job on the defensive end of things in midfield. DaMarcus Beasley is the left midfielder, unless you want to save his speed for the Koreans, with Earnie Stewart as a bit more of a free-lancing midfielder. I could even see Cobi Jones starting against the Koreans for his feistiness, tenacity, and quickness. He would match up well. Steve Cherundolo could be a good match for the Koreans too. The speed and athleticism at a World Cup is at a whole different level.
Start Brian McBride and Clint Mathis up front, but be ready to inject the speed and skill of Landon Donovan, Josh Wolff, Eddie Lewis and Joe-Max Moore.
First off, let's get things straight. I'm as much of a head coach as Bruce Arena is a broadcaster. That being said, here's the starting 11 I'd throw at Portugal.
In net, I don't hesitate; Kasey Keller, you're my man. Now hold everything Brad, don't hate me for this, but I just have a gut feeling on this one. Keller has that innate ability to make that "difference maker" save. How many times have we seen Kasey single-handedly keep the States afloat? Ahhh, do you all remember a certain Brazil game a few years ago in L.A.? ‘Nuff said.
In the back, it's a fairly easy call, with one grueling exception. David Regis, you are a lucky man. You scare me every game, and I wanted to drop you from the team after that Holland blunder (and don't think I don't have a little blame for you as well for that Italy match), but you live to see another soccer field. He gets in the attack, is smooth, comfortable (sometimes too much), and I just think that he's learned his lessons, and will be so focused when it really counts. David, as a personal plea, don't make me eat these words. Jeff Agoos will be in the middle (please Bruce, as a favor to us all, keep him there, and don't throw him out wide), paired with Eddie Pope. I like Pope as an option out wide right also, but he is best in the center of the defense. Wide right I go with Tony Sanneh. Tony, if you're out there, read the Regis stuff from above, most of it applies to you as well. However, your defensive focus versus Holland was at the highest level I've yet seen from you -- a good, make that, very good sign.
DaMarcus Beasley, welcome to my starting 11!!! Remember, you promised me a cut of your transfer fee when you sign for mega coin over in Europe. How on God's green earth could you keep him out of the lineup based on his recent performances? Trust me -- Portugal, South Korea, and Poland will have his name written on their pre-game blackboard as one to watch out for. I love this kid. I keep Claudio Reyna in his accustomed offensive/central midfield slot -- why change a good thing? Behind/next to him I put John O'Brien. John's talents seem underappreciated to me, and I think his stock will rise at this summer's cup once the rest of the world sees how confident, composed, and quick with the ball at his feet he is. Earnie Stewart starts wide right for me. Earnie, just do what did you did throughout qualifying, and we'll get along fine.
As tempted as I am to start Landon Donovan up top, I have to play it safe and go with Brian McBride. I don't love him as much as Bruce does, but how can you hate this guy? All he does is get his face bashed in every other game, and still win headers versus the monsters of the soccer world. Next to him is "The Cover Boy" Clint Mathis. I think if Clint ever became a professional wrestler, his name should be "The Cover Boy." I mean what a great ring persona that would be. Yes, I've managed to digress again over to the squared circle. Sorry. Clint's arrogance, confidence, and ability on the field is something that has been sorely lacking in our sport here. I love what Jack Edwards says about him, "He's our Joe Namath." Priceless. Let's just hope we don't see him in a pantyhose commercial. Go get 'em, boys.
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder ("Nike Road to Korea" according to Larry King)
2) Word Association (w/ MNT goalkeeper Brad Friedel)
3) At the Movies (w/ MNT midfielder DaMarcus Beasley)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ Philips World Cup reporter and "Survivor: Africa" celeb Ethan Zohn)
5) Making it to the Show (w/ MNT defender Steve Cherundolo)
6) Mark That Calendar (The Opening Round -- June 5, June 10 and June 14)
7) Point/Counterpoint (w/ Soccer Broadcasters Ty Keough and Rob Stone)
8) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (General World Cup trivia)
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