U.S. Men’s National Team Manager Bruce Arena has selected 18 players to face Jamaica on April 11 Cary, N.C., in the final match prior to naming his 23-man roster for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Three-time World Cup veteran Tony Meola will earn his 100th cap for the United States at sold-out SAS Soccer Park in a match broadcast live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET (tape-delay on Telemundo). Fans can also follow live on ussoc cer.com’s MatchTracker.
”The Jamaica game is an important game for our players as it is the last opportunity for them to show before we announce a preliminary roster for the World Cup,” said Arena, who has guided the U.S. to a 4-1-1 record in 2006. “We will certainly be watching closely as we continue to finalize our plans for Germany.”
Tony Meola heads the list of capwinners on the U.S. roster, collecting 99 appearances during a national team career that began in 1988. A starter in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, he is the USA’s all-time leader in appearances for goalkeepers and is second to Kasey Keller in both wins (37) and shutouts (32). Meola played every minute of the USA’s matches in Italia ‘90 and USA ’94, including the 2-1 victory against Colombia that helped put the U.S. into the second round. The five-time MLS All-Star presided over the USA’s 2-0 victory against England in U.S. Cup ’93, and served as one of three goalkeepers for the USA’s historic quarterfinal run in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. His last international appearance came during the 2002 Nike ‘Road to Korea’, playing the final 38 minutes in the 5-0 win against Jamaica on May 16, 2002 at Giants Stadium.
Landon Donovan heads the domestic-based roster and, along with Real Salt Lake defender Eddie Pope, holds the second most caps on the U.S. roster with 77 appearances. The two-time U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year is tied with Cobi Jones for the all-time U.S. assist lead (22) after getting a point in the 5-0 win against Norway on Jan. 29 in Carson, Calif. The 2005 MLS MVP, Taylor Twellman, has scored four goals and tallied three assists in his last four matches for the U.S., recording the USA’s ninth-ever hat trick in the Norway victory and assisting on the USA’s lone goal in the 1-0 win against Poland on March 1 in Kaiserslautern, Germany. The Kansas City Wizards duo of Josh Wolff and Kerry Zavagnin are the only players on the roster to appear in all six of the USA’s matches in 2006 as either a starter or a reserve.
Several players are returning to the U.S. fold following various injury spells. Both Donovan (calf) and Frankie Hejduk (hamstring) come back after missing the March 22 match against Germany. New England Revolution midfielder Steve Ralston can make his first appearance for the national team in 2006 after suffering a torn quadriceps during the USA’s training camp in January, with Los Angeles Galaxy defender Chris Al-bright in a similar boat after suffering a knee injury in the first days of the U.S. camp in Carson, Calif. Pat Noonan started two matches for the USA in 2006 before a hamstring injury put him out of action for several weeks, while John O’Brien hopes to be sufficiently recovered from a groin injury enough to take part in an international match for the first time since the Aug. 17 World Cup qualifier vs. Trinidad & Tobago.
Houston Dynamo striker Brian Ching - whose first-ever international goal delivered the U.S. a 1-1 away draw versus Jamaica to open semifinal round qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup on Aug. 18, 2004 - is one of three players in the squad who scored during the MLS debut weekend, potting four goals in his side’s 5-2 win against Colorado. Clint Dempsey tallied the game-winner against the Galaxy in a rematch of MLS Cup 2005, while Eddie Johnson scored the insurance goal for his new team as Kansas City downed Columbus 3-1 at Arrowhead Stadium.
The U.S. is undefeated in 16 meetings with Jamaica, holding a 9-0-7 record against the Reggae Boyz. The teams’ last meeting came in the quarterfinals of the 2005 Gold Cup, the U.S. collecting a 3-1 win on the strength of goals by Josh Wolff and a pair from DaMarcus Beasley. While never dropping a match to Jamaica, there have been a number of close match-ups with five of the nine victories coming by just one goal.
The USA was drawn into Group E for the 2006 FIFA World Cup along with the Czech Republic, Italy, and Ghana. The U.S. plays their opening match against the Czechs on June 12 in Gelsenkirchen before meeting Italy on June 17 in Kaiserslautern, then finishing off group play against Ghana on June 22 in Nuremberg. The U.S. has chosen the northern port city of Hamburg as their base of operations throughout the tournament.