Roster cuts put U.S. players on edge

May 25, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- U.S. national team midfielder Claudio Reyna tries to ease the tension by playing video games or cards.

Tony Meola, who starts in goal, doesn't use such devices.

"Some people have worked three or four years for this, and in some cases, players have worked 10 years," said Meola. "Then in a five- to 15-minute conversation, you're history. You have just been told that you can't be part of the greatest show on Earth that is coming to America."

It's high-anxiety time for the 25 players competing for a place on the 22-man roster of the U.S. team that will compete in the World Cup, which begins June 17. Final cuts are to be made by June 3.

That leaves the U.S. players with only two games left to prove themselves, today against Saudi Arabia at Rutgers University, and May 28 against Greece in New Haven, Conn.

"I think you're going to see a lot of tight players, a lot of mistakes made because of the tension," said U.S. defender Fernando Clavijo.

"It was like this before the last cut," he said. "A lot of the players don't want to talk about it, but I think everyone will be glad when it's over."

U.S. coach Bora Milutinovic last trimmed the roster on May 10. He cut four players -- including two defenders, Maryland native Desmond Armstrong, 29, and Jeff Agoos, 26. Midfielders Janusz Michallik, 28, and Brian Quinn, 34, also were cut.

Milutinovic said he has the 22 players in mind, but there is still a feeling of uneasiness among the players.

"That's because Bora hasn't told us if we're going to play with four or five players in the back, or where certain people will play," said Meola.

"There's still a lot of decisions to be made in the next couple of weeks," Meola added. "I think there are more players on the bubble than most people think."

One problem the team will focus on is concentration.

"We have a habit of playing tough for 30 minutes, then letting up for 15," said Reyna. "We have to work on playing a full 90 minutes.

"We've had trouble because we haven't always played top-notch competition. . . . That's about to change. The World Cup is here."

Four years ago in Italy, the United States finished 23rd among 24 teams in the World Cup.

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