Saturday, June 08, 2002

Arena says to expect lineup changes for U.S.

AP Sports Writer

        SEOUL, South Korea — Look for the United States to make some lineup switches against South Korea on Monday.

        U.S. captain Claudio Reyna thinks he will be ready to play against the co-hosts after missing Wednesday's game because of a strained right quadriceps.

        “I think I'm there,” Reyna said. “I've been practicing the last two days — no steps backwards. I feel confident that I could play.”

        While Reyna is confident, Earnie Stewart appears doubtful, and Kasey Keller could take over for Brad Friedel in goal — a rotation U.S. coach Bruce Arena might have determined before the start of the tournament.

        “We have some injuries and there are some other players that can possibly come back,” Arena said Friday, “so it is obvious there'll be some changes.”

        Stewart strained his left groin Wednesday in the opening 3-2 win over Portugal and was replaced at halftime by Cobi Jones. Arena said his options at right midfield include Jones, Eddie Lewis, Frankie Hejduk and Joe-Max Moore.

        Arena won't say when Clint Mathis will get into a game. The coach has said he doesn't think the charismatic attacker, who has had knee pain, can go a full 90 minutes, but says he anticipates Mathis will get an opportunity sometime during the tournament.

        While the opener was played in the evening in the Seoul suburb of Suwon, Monday's game is in the afternoon at the southern city of Daegu, which means the temperature could be in the 90s with high humidity.

        “I think our players are fit enough to deal with the heat and the humidity,” Moore said. “Our fitness has always been one of our positives. We're a very athletic, very fit team, and I think we will be able to do that for the full 90 minutes without a problem.

        “I have been impressed with their fitness, though.”

        South Korea opened Tuesday with a 2-0 victory over Poland, its first win in 15 World Cup matches. Koreans have taken to their squad, walking around Seoul in red shirts — the team's color. Television is filled with ads of support, and the team's quest to reach the second round has been daily front-page news.

        “I think certainly there is more pressure on them than us at this point. They've got the hopes of the entire nation on them,” Moore said. “I think the Korean population now thinks that they can definitely get there — they're expecting them to.”

        While their crowds have been loud, they haven't been intimidating — nothing like the fans the United States has faced during qualifiers at Saprissa Stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica.

        Many of the American players have faced rowdy supporters in England, Spain and Germany.

        “Fortunately, I've played for one of the teams that definitely has one of the most difficult places to play,” said Keller, who was with Millwall in England from 1990 to 1996.

        Thus far, the Americans have escaped the team dissension that enveloped them in 1998, when they lost to Germany 2-0 in their opener and veterans started to criticize coach Steve Sampson for their lack of playing time.

        Sampson made five lineup changes for the second game, against Iran, but the United States still lost 2-1.

        “Part of the problem with our '98 team was the fact that the chemistry wasn't right,” Moore said.

        “Players were a little bit too disappointed of the fact that they weren't included in the starting lineup, and that kind of became a cancer, and it was a part of the problem of why we didn't succeed.”

        Arena, aware of what happened four years ago, has been careful to communicate with players regularly.

        “If any of the players are really thrown out of whack by some of the decision-making, I try to spend a little time with them and discuss it,” he said. “It's not the best part of the job to tell the players that they're not going to start in a game.”


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