US team begins training in Seoul

The US World Cup soccer team started their training in Seoul on Saturday.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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The US World Cup soccer team started their training in Seoul on Saturday. The Americans are in a difficult group with hosts South Korea, Luis Figo's Portugal and Poland, but they will still be hoping to improve on their performance in the 1998 World Cup finals when they failed to win a game. Saturday saw the US World Cup squad's first training session since their arrival in South Korea and for coach Bruce Arena the opportunity to make some difficult selection decisions. Arena has, for example, not yet decided who will be his starting goalkeeper between Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel - both with considerable top level experience. He also has to decide who will take the place of midfielder Chris Armas who was injured in a friendly against Uruguay. Cobi Jones, the most-capped US player, is one possible choice to play alongside Claudio Reyna and Earnie Stewart in the middle of the pitch. While a 4-4-2 lineup is Arena's favorite formation, he's said that he hasn't yet decided what names will go with those numbers. The coach did register some relief that the injury to Armas was their only bad piece of luck in the health department. "As I look around the other countries they've experienced a number of injuries. We're pretty fortunate that we haven't experienced a whole lot of them. So we have a pretty good and experienced group here and we're hoping by June 5 we'll be ready to play". Arena didn't want to field questions about the Korean team and its impressive performance against England in their recent drawn friendly. He says his squad is focused on Portugal, their first opponents on June 5. Many expect a defensive strategy from the US in that match, but both the coach and players say to watch out for their own attack. There is no doubt, however, that the US squad have a lot of respect for Luis Figo and his colleagues, who helped eliminate Holland from the qualifying competition. "It's not only him that you have to reckon with, especially with Portugal. They have a lot of talent in their group and they were first in their group when they qualified against one of my favourites. So, they just have an overall good team. But Figo is definitely one of the better players in the world right now," remarked US midfielder Earnie Stewart. Most experts expect that the US will have a tough time making it out of its group. But coach Arena says their chances of making the second round are as good as anyone else. Stewart, perhaps a bit more realistic, is hoping for a better performance than in France in 1998 when they failed to win one match. (SNTV)