Arena assembles all-MLS camp

all from MLS -- for a training camp for a pair of friendlies ahead of the squad's upcoming World Cup qualifying matches against Mexico and Guatemala in March. The domestically-based U.S. contingent is scheduled to arrive this weekend in Carson, Calif., where training will begin Sunday at The Home Depot Center.

The USA will play a pair of preparatory matches in early March, facing Colombia on March 9 (7:30 p.m. PT) in Fullerton, Calif. and Honduras on March 19 (2:30 p.m. MT) in Albuquerque, N.M. Arena's team will then face a crucial away match against Mexico on March 27 at 12 p.m. CT, to be broadcast live on Telemundo. The U.S. will then play their first home match of the final round of qualifying when they host Guatemala at 7 p.m. CT at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. (live on ESPN2).

The all-MLS training camp roster is led by representatives from the Colorado Rapids, the Columbus Crew and the New England Revolution, each side contributing four members to the squad. Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni, who played 66 minutes in the last U.S. qualifier, a 2-1 victory on the road against Trinidad & Tobago, is accompanied by club teammates Nat Borchers, Joe Cannon (2004 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year) and Ritchie Kotschau. That trio has only one full international cap between them, owned by Cannon.

Frankie Hejduk tops the Crew's contribution, having made 65 appearances for the U.S. team, while Steve Ralston is the top cap winner for the New England foursome, which is the same group that represented the Boston-area club at the last U.S. national team camp in January. Clint Dempsey, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on March 9, earned his second cap for the U.S. when he entered the Trinidad match as a second-half substitute.

The most experienced player traveling to California is Real Salt Lake defender Eddie Pope. The stalwart center back had a superb performance against T&T and is looking to make his 68th appearance for the national team. Another top performer from the last qualifier to be recalled is FC Dallas marksman Eddie Johnson, who scored the first goal for the U.S. in Trinidad to give him six goals in four full national team appearances. He is the only player in U.S. soccer history to find the net in his first four national team games.

Reigning MLS Cup champion D.C. United send just one player to the national team, Ben Olsen receiving his second consecutive call-up from his former college and D.C. United coach. He made the final roster for the match in Trinidad, though he remained on the bench throughout the contest. The MLS Cup runner-up Kansas City Wizards also only have one man heading to California in Kerry Zavagnin, who appears set to remain at the Wizards this season after failing to secure a European contract during the offseason and will look to log his 11th cap for the national team.

The Los Angeles Galaxy (Chris Albright, Kevin Hartman), San Jose Earthquakes (Brian Ching, Brian Mullan) and MetroStars (Eddie Gaven) will also have a presence in Arena's camp. The only MLS teams not sending any representatives are Club Deportivo Chivas USA and the Chicago Fire.

The U.S. national team is in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. The 10-game hexagonal will see the Red, White and Blue square off with Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama twice each, once home and once away. The top three finishers in the group will receive automatic berths to the finals in Germany, while the fourth-place team will face the fifth-place side from the Asian Football Conference in a home-and-home series to determine the last entrant into the tournament.

U.S. men's national team training camp roster:
Goalkeepers: Jon Busch (Columbus Crew), Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids), Kevin Hartman (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Defenders: Chris Albright (Los Angeles Galaxy), Nat Borchers (Colorado Rapids), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Ritchie Kotschau (Colorado Rapids), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake)
Midfielders: Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution), Eddie Gaven (MetroStars), Kyle Martino (Columbus Crew), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), Clint Mathis (Real Salt Lake), Brian Mullan (San Jose Earthquakes), Ben Olsen (D.C. United), Steve Ralston (New England Revolution), Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City Wizards)
Forwards: Brian Ching (San Jose Earthquakes), Ed Johnson (F.C. Dallas), Pat Noonan (New England Revolution), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution)

Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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