US players eye World Cup spots at Gold Cup
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP):
The 23 players on the US roster for next month's CONCACAF Gold Cup are mostly young and lack international experience. They need little reminding of what's at stake.
Past regional championships gave then-fringe players like Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley and Stuart Holden the chance to showcase their skills. With many of the national team mainstays given a break for this tournament, this is the time to impress.
"I don't think I have to make that point to them, I think they're well aware of that," coach Bruce Arena said on Monday after the team's first practice at Lipscomb University. "A lot of things can happen coming out of the Gold Cup, especially when the World Cup is a year away. So this is an important tournament for the players."
The US play Ghana in an exhibition on Saturday in Hartford, Connecticut. It begins the Gold Cup in Nashville on July 8. World Cup qualifying resumes September 1 against Costa Rica.
Thirteen players on the roster have eight or fewer international appearances. Four have been invited for the first time: Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer and midfielders Kenny Saief of the Belgian club Gent, Cristian Roldan of Seattle and Kelyn Rowe of New England.
"It was the first time I've had the opportunity to see some of these players, so it's been a good day for us," said Arena, who confessed he was unsure of how to pronounce Saief's last name. "They need to know me, I need to know them. And we have to piece it all together in a short period of time."