In this playful piece, we pose a question or make a statement about something in soccer that will be opined about, agreed and disagreed on, by YOU, the reader. No more talking heads giving safe, politically correct answers. Those days are over. Instead, we've opened the floor to everyone out there in Cyberland to throw in their two cents.
November's question was: Who will be the biggest surprise to earn a spot on Bruce Arena's final 18-man roster for the U.S. Men's National Team friendly versus El Salvador on Sunday?
The overwhelming answer was … everyone, really. With such a young and internationally inexperienced roster, choices for biggest surprise were all over the map, from A(din Brown) to V(ictorine). Even Europe-based defender Steve Cherundolo got a nod, and he would qualify as the biggest surprise, especially since he wasn't even a part of the 23-man training camp roster due to club commitments in Germany. But when all the votes had come in, Adin Brown, Daniel Hernandez, Ben Olsen and Eddie Robinson were the four unofficial finalists for the Most Likely to Surprise award.
Below is a sampling of your responses, sorted alphabetically by player and edited to meet Center Circle's stringent journalistic standards:
Brian Dunseth (D - Columbus Crew)
"Who would surprise me the most in making the U.S. roster? I would have to say Brian Dunseth. I saw him play for the Fusion and I've seen him with the Columbus Crew, as well as his first team, the Revolution. Brian is a tough defender, very physical, and good in the air. He may fulfill the needs necessary for an MLS team, but international-wise... I don't think he has the ball skills and technique to make it. If you're going to put your best 11 on the field, then Dunseth wouldn't be there. If anything, he would come on as a late substitute to protect a lead--nothing more."
- Ivan Rosenow / 21 / Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Daniel Hernandez (D/M - New England Revolution)
"Daniel Hernandez will be the biggest surprise. He is a firey [sic] player, and could provide the team with leadership among the group of young players. Although his aggressive play may cost him a yellow card now and then, he seems to play a bit of an 'enforcer' role, which would be valuable to the team, especally the less agressive players. He is also good with free kicks."
- Renee LaRosee / 17 / Hudson, Mass.
Kyle Martino (M - Columbus Crew)
"Kyle Martino will have an opportunity to showcase his many talents against a lesser El Salvador Team. Martino has excellent vision, quickness and speed. He will prove an asset that Bruce Arena will call on again and again especially when he starts combining with Donovan. Donovan is one of those rare players in American soccer who thinks three or four passes in front of the play. Martino may be one that can keep up with him. I am definitely excited to see how they combine on the pitch."
- Andy Sinsigalli / 35 / San Jose, Calif.
Ben Olsen (M - D.C. United) / Adin Brown (GK - N.E. Revolution)
"I have two thoughts on how to answer this question. One is to go with Ben Olsen, who is continuing to surprise me during his great comeback from nearly two years of injury. His play at the end of the season nearly pushed United into the playoffs, and I'm sure they will be a better team next year with him in the lineup for the entire season. It would surprise me that after such an extensive lay-off that he could come back to form well enough to be on the National squad. However, it doesn't surprise me that Bruce Arena would call him up. The two have a deep relationship from working together in college, at United, and with the National Team through the years. I think Olsen even lived with Arena for awhile. Since Olsen is only half a surprise for me, I'll say the real surprise is Adin Brown getting the call as goalkeeper. If he can beat out Howard and Rimando -- and I think he can judging his form at the end of the MLS season with the Revs -- then it will be a development that no one really saw coming. Arena's use of Howard and Rimando in the past signaled that they might be bearing the torch when it is passed down from Freidel and Keller. Even as late as the middle of this year's MLS season, I would say that was the case and Brown was a long shot on anybody's radar for being called up to the National Squad."
- Kevin Vaughn-Brubaker / 29 / Phoenix, Ariz.
Eric Quill (M - Kansas City Wizards)
"The biggest surprise starter for this weekend's clash between the U.S. Men's National Team and El Salvador will be Eric Quill. Eric has the composure, skill, creativity and guts to make an impact in the midfield. As Claudio Reyna ages, Bruce Arena will need to find a solid playmaker in the midfield. Eric Quill has shown over his career in the MLS that he is not only a goal scorer in the midfield but he also has the potential to be a key playmaker. Look out for Eric!"
- Michael Russell / Glendale, Calif.
Nick Rimando (GK - D.C. United)
"The biggest surprise will be Nick Rimando. Bruce Arena loves the oversized, long-armed keepers like Brad Friedel; Rimando is a Mini-Me Friedel, but minds the net like Jorge Campos. The even bigger surprise? Rimando will play, and play spectacularly well."
- Tim Brandhorst / 36 / Chicago, Ill.
Eddie Robinson (D - San Jose Earthquakes)
"I do not think Taylor Twellman is the biggest surprise, since he showed during MLS season that he deserves a place at the forward spot. In my opinion, the biggest surprise (and a great choice by Arena) is Eddie Robinson. He is a good defender with attacking mentality and good in air with corner kick situations. Hope he gets a chance to play on Sunday, although the defense lineup is already crowded with good and experienced players."
- Abe Soroosh / 43 / Pasadena, Calif.
"I believe the man that is going to surprise Mr. Arena is Mr. Eddie Robinson. I believe him and (Carlos) Bocanegra will do outstanding as central defenders, and (Wade) Barrett and (Ryan) Suarez will be also outstanding as outside left and right backs. I think Mr. Robinson has been surprising a lot of people since he started to play a lot of games for the Earthquakes. Since Coach Yallop had a lot of injuries and WC call-ups during this past MLS season, Eddie Robinson had the opportunity and he took this chance and did outstanding work. Now, I am sure Mr. Arena will be starting him against El Salvador. I completely disregard Dunseth and McCarthy. They are real good A-League-type players. Both were no-shows during the last Olympics. And, I've seen them play during this last MLS season, and both didn't show me heck. Sorry, but you said to be blunt! Long Live MLS!!!"
- Leo Perez / 58 / San Antonio, Texas
Ryan Suarez (D - Dallas Burn)
"Mr. Suarez is one of the toughest defenders I've seen on the fields of MLS. His play with the Dallas Burn this year has put him in negotiations with European teams, and drawn fans into the unsung battles that happen on the defensive side of the ball in soccer. I watched Ryan in an intense psychological battle with Mamadou Diallo at the Cotton Bowl this summer. That match-up stole the show from the whole game, as Diallo and Suarez talked trash, battled for the ball, repeatedly leveled each other, and then shook hands after the final whistle. Ryan is tenacious in his defense and bold in his pushes forward to attack. He manages to combine grace and finesse (tough for a tall soccer player) with a raw passion for keeping attackers at bay. We will definitely see him in Germany in 2006."
- Jamie Fougerousse / 27 / Fort Worth, Texas
Taylor Twellman (F - New England Revolution)
"I'm not sure it will surprise anyone to see T. Twellman on the squad. He's young, unpredictable, can run for 90 minutes and can get the ball behind the 'keep! What else is a coach looking for?"
- Calvin G. Perry / 67 / Andover, Mass.
"Taylor Twellman will be the highlight of the camp and game. He will surpass Clint Mathis on the depth chart and team up with Landon Donovan to be a potent strike team. Bruce will not need McBride's heading skills to complement Donovan as Twellmen is also good in the air. His temperament is what Bruce likes and he does not read his press clippings like Mathis. My second choice would be Kyle Martino, our future number 10. Go USA!!!"
- Mark Cox / 42 / Orlando, Fla.
Sasha Victorine (M - Los Angeles Galaxy)
"Sasha Victorine. Sasha is an underrated player who can play just about anywhere. He's really developed in the last couple of years and is quite effective at keeping the ball and winning 50-50 balls. As a mostly defensive midfielder, he's definitely not flashy, but he does have scoring abilities, and his height can make a difference on free kicks and corners."
- Matt Needham / 28 / Valencia, Calif.
"Sasha Victorine is the ultimate unsung hero and has a very high work rate. He isn't the quickest or the most talented, but he brings to the field all the intangibles that every team needs to succeed."
- Jeff Gutheim / 35 / Los Angeles, Calif.
Thanks to everyone for the overwhelming response to the November question. Obviously, we couldn't print all of them, but keep responding and you'll get your chance to see your name among these other knowledgeable folks in the months to come.
Now to the question for December: What was the greatest single moment in American soccer in 2002?
[Editor's Note: I know this question could be considered a little vague, but it's meant to include everything from a historic result (the U.S. Men's National Team's 2-0 win over Mexico to advance to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals), to a brilliant goal (like Mia Hamm's golden goal to help the U.S. Women top Canada 2-1 and win the 2002 Women's Gold Cup), to a great event (the MLS Cup record crowd of 61,000+ that turned up to watch the Galaxy's exciting double overtime win over the Revolution), to a special off-the-field occasion (like the U.S. World Cup Team's lengthy appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman")].
You decide - and keep in mind that this is less of a poll than it is a place for you to try to convince us why your answer is the best one. E-mail your well-crafted response to firstname.lastname@example.org, including your full name, age and city of residence. Feel free to submit responses for as many months as you wish, but in the interest of sharing the spotlight, we will be giving space to different respondents from month to month.
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (The U.S. Women: Ready for China 2003?)
2) In Threes (w/ MNT defender Carlos Bocanegra)
3) Making it in the Show (w/ U-20 MNT forward Santino Quaranta)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ WNT goalkeeper Briana Scurry)
5) Mark That Calendar (Nov. 17 - MNT vs. El Salvador)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT midfielder Aly Wagner)
7) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Biggest Surpise on the U.S. MNT Roster)
8) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (2002 MNT trivia x2)
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