Breathing room
With World Cup secure, U.S. can focus on other things

The United States beat Mexico 2-0 Saturday, securing their fifth straight trip to the World Cup.
AP


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- This is a luxury the United States wants to savor now that its World Cup berth is secure -- time to rest and fine-tune its roster.

"The goal now is to make our team better for the World Cup," coach Bruce Arena said.

The Americans beat Mexico 2-0 Saturday night to assure themselves a fifth straight spot in the World Cup with three qualifying games to spare.

The team can now rest its stars and fill out its roster starting with Wednesday's game in Guatemala, with seven of Saturday's 11 starters excused from the trip. A light workout is planned for Monday in Columbus before the trip to Central America.

The victory allowed the U.S. squad to avenge the lone blemish on its record in the final round of qualifying. The Americans are ranked sixth in the world, one spot behind Mexico. The United States has not lost at home to Mexico in seven games since 1999 nor yielded any goals in that span.

Before a crowd of 24,685, Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley scored five minutes apart and goalkeeper Kasey Keller notched his 50th international win. Keller hasn't surrendered a goal in World Cup qualifying since a 2-1 loss in Mexico City in April.

This time, Keller made an especially clutch save, diving to his left to snuff a low drive by Mexico captain Rafael Marquez.

"To be able to shut them up at the beginning of the second half by getting two goals and just kind of seeing the game out comfortably was fantastic," Keller said.

Keller and most other national team members who play with European clubs won't suit up for the Guatemala game. In the revised 18-man roster announced Sunday, only two European-based players remained: Reading midfielder Bobby Convey (who was suspended for the Mexico game) and goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.

Kansas City defender Nick Garcia was added to the roster, and Eddie Johnson, Chad Marshall, Matt Reis and Greg Vanney were brought back from their Major League Soccer teams.

"I think it gives the coach a real chance to look at some other players in games that matter," defender Gregg Berhalter said.

One question to be settled on the U.S. World Cup roster is that of the No. 3 goalie. Manchester United's Tim Howard figures to be the No. 2 U.S. goalkeeper.

"We're bringing three goalkeepers to the World Cup, and I want to be one of them," said Hahnemann, one of four players besides Keller to have played in goal for the U.S. this year.

Arena was pleased with the play of his four defenders against Mexico, but the back line remains to be sorted out, especially the outside spots. Berhalter, rising star Oguchi Onyewu and veteran Eddie Pope -- when healthy -- are mainstays in the middle.

Frankie Hejduk, Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra have experience and Eddie Lewis, usually a midfielder, played the last two qualifiers at left back. Chad Marshall and Chris Albright have seen considerable action of late. Pablo Mastroeni, Jimmy Conrad and Bobby Convey can be deployed at midfield and defense.

Forwards Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan and midfielder Clint Dempsey, teammates with the New England Revolution, are likely to compete for forward spots behind Brian McBride and Landon Donovan.

The revised roster:

Goalkeepers: Marcus Hahnemann (Reading, England), Matt Reis (New England)

Defenders: Chris Albright (Los Angeles), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City), Nick Garcia (Kansas City), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus), Chad Marshall (Columbus), Greg Vanney (Dallas)

Midfielders: Chris Armas (Chicago), Bobby Convey (Reading, England), Clint Dempsey (New England), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado), Santino Quaranta (D.C.), Steve Ralston (New England)

Forwards: Jeff Cunningham (Colorado), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Eddie Johnson (Dallas), Taylor Twellman (New England)

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I had no idea that the U.S. were ranked #6 in the world (and with their win over Mexico, should move up.) TX's favorite, Keller, is playing lights-out. Great news... By the way, anyone know what's going on with Claudio Reina?

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