YA's: Then And Now
As I mentioned in the previous post, the 2002 USA World Cup squad was comprised of 11 MLS players. That means that a majority (12) came from abroad (Europe). While the split should remain pretty much the same this time around, the difference is that almost all of the key players are in Europe. Not only that, but there are many more YA's overall. A full World Cup squad comprised only of them would be very good, and certainly much improved over a 2002 squad. Just look:
2006 YA Squad
Starters: Friedel, Bocanegra, Gibbs, Onyewu, Cherundolo, Lewis, O'Brien, Reyna, Beasley, Casey, McBride
Bench: Keller, Howard, Berhalter, Califf, Pearce, Spector, Bradley, Corrales, Feilhaber, Convey, J. Johnson, Nguyen
Weak up top after McBride. Defense is very strong, as some solid guys didn't even make the top 23. Could probably use a little more depth in midfield, but certainly we need more forwards going aboard. Virtually every one of these players is a starter for his club, except for a few younger promising guys.
2002 YA Squad
Starters: Friedel, Regis, Vanney, Berhalter, Sanneh, Lewis, O'Brien, Reyna, Stewart, Kirovski, Moore
Bench: Keller, Walker, Hejduk, Cherundolo, Gibson, Thorrington, Palomares, Lawson, Enochs, J.Beasley, Mason, Casey
At the time of the World Cup four years ago, there was very little to choose from, especially after the starting XI. Not only that, but guys like Berhalter, Lewis and Moore rarely played for their clubs. The goalkeeper was solid, and the defense decent, especially on the outside. But overall, the 2006 squad is much better. I had a hard time even filling out the bench here. That shows you how far we've gone in four years.
Actually, it's the European clubs that have changed. Our players are pretty much the same. The quarterfinal run has opened the doors for a bunch of Americans to make a living playing in Europe, and for decent clubs (unlike 2002). That will probably go down as the biggest impact of the 2002 World Cup. Finally, everyone realized that (like the 2000 White Sox slogan) the kids can play. And if you look at our probable World Cup squad for 2006, it is clearly much stronger than four years ago. Looking forward to the YA squad of 2010!