Los Angeles Galaxy forward Jovan Kirovski is one of 22 players called in by United States Men's National Team Manager Bruce Arena to train in advance of the first leg of the USA's World Cup qualifying series against Grenada on June 13 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The second leg of the series will be played June 20 in St. George's, Grenada, with the team scoring the most goals over two games (aggregate scoring) advancing to the semifinal round.
"The national team call up is well deserved for Jovan," said Galaxy President and General Manager Doug Hamilton. "He is a proven goal-scorer who has made a great impact in his short time in our League and deserves the chance to continue that with his country ' s national team."
The June 13 game marks the first of at least 18 matches necessary in order to qualify for the 2006 World Cup to be held in Germany. Of the 22 players, 13 are based in Major League Soccer while nine play professionally overseas. Thirteen of the players were part of the USA's quarterfinal finish in the 2002 World Cup.
"The qualifying process for the 2006 World Cup is going to be extremely challenging, and we are going to take every match very seriously," said Arena, who has led the team to a 3-1-2 record in 2004 that includes three consecutive shutout victories. "We respect Grenada as an opponent, and we plan to use our best available players in order to be successful. The goal of any national team is to qualify for the World Cup, and we are prepared to begin that journey starting June 13 in Columbus."
U.S. captain Claudio Reyna will once again lead the U.S. through the first part of the qualifying campaign, having earned his 100th cap for the United States in the 4-0 victory against Honduras on June 2 in Foxboro. He is joined by 14-year U.S. international veteran Earnie Stewart, who holds the U.S. record for most World Cup qualifying matches played (27) and goals scored (9). Stewart is two games shy of becoming the eighth player in U.S. Soccer history to play in 100 international games.
Kirovski has made an immediate impact on the Galaxy since coming to the club from Birmingham City of the English Premier League prior to the 2004 season, scoring five goals and adding an assist in just eight matches with the club.
"We are extremely proud to have Jovan be a part of the national team pool again," said Galaxy Head Coach Sigi Schmid. "We wish him the best of success with the U.S."
Starting in goal is three-time World Cup veteran Kasey Keller, the USA's all-time leader in shutouts who has posted 33 clean sheets in 68 international appearances. Keller is also tied for the record for most wins (37) with Tony Meola, the Kansas City Wizards goalkeeper who joins the U.S. roster for the first time since the 2002 World Cup.
The USA's strike force is led by Fulham forward Brian McBride, whose two goals against Honduras moved him into second place on the all-time U.S. scoring charts with 25 career goals. He is joined by 22-year old Landon Donovan, the San Jose Earthquakes marksman having tallied 15 goals in 49 appearances. Hannover 96 striker Clint Mathis suffered a bruised heel in training May 31 in Boston and is not available for selection.
Kirovski, meanwhile, has played 61 times for his country's national side and scored nine goals. His most recent appearance for the red-white and blue came in the USA's 1-0 defeat of Mexico on April 28 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.
"It's an honor to once again be called into the national team," said Kirovski. "I hope to continue with the good form I have had with both the Galaxy and the (USA) so far in 2004."
Six players on the U.S. roster are looking to make their first appearance in a World Cup qualifier, led by Colorado Rapids defender Pablo Mastroeni. He was the only player on the USA's 2002 World Cup team not to appear in a qualifying match. D.C. United midfielder Bobby Convey is one of two players to appear in all six of the USA's matches in 2004, and was tied for the most appearances in 2003 (15) with Donovan. Last year, Carlos Bocanegra became the first defender since 1994 to score four goals in a year while three times being named Chevrolet Man of the Match. Conor Casey, Cory Gibbs and Kerry Zavagnin round out the rookie class.
MetroStars captain Eddie Pope returns to anchor the U.S. backline, and is no stranger to the World Cup qualifying process. The 30-year old defender started six of the 10 matches in final round qualifying for the 2002 tournament. Tony Sanneh turned in one of the standout performances in Korea/Japan, and has returned to full fitness after a 15-month rehabilitation process from a back injury. Not including former longtime Crew star McBride, U.S. veteran Frankie Hejduk is the sole representative of the hometown Columbus Crew. The U.S. posted an 8-4-4 record during the 2002 World Cup qualifying process, booking their ticket to Korea on Oct. 7, 2001 with a 2-1 win against Jamaica in Foxboro. For the first time, the U.S. is entering the qualifying process in the second round stage, adding two games to the overall campaign. The United States is meeting Grenada for the first time in international competition.
After June 13, the return leg is scheduled for June 20 in St. George's, Grenada (ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET). Following the MNT World Cup qualifiers against Grenada, the U.S. will meet Poland in a domestic friendly on July 11 in Chicago. Should the U.S. advance through their preliminary qualifying round, the team's six-game, four-team semifinal round competition will begin on August 18 away to either Jamaica or Haiti.