Strengths & Weaknesses: The U.S. Midfielders

The U.S. World Cup Midfielders

By Ridge Mahoney, Senior Editor

DaMarcus Beasley

Pos.: Midfielder.
Club: Chicago Fire.
Age: 20.
GP: 12. G: 3.
Once more of a winger. Now is maturing into a two-way midfielder or emergency left back. Recovers and closes down players quickly. First U.S. goal was a stoppage-time volley that downed South Korea in Gold Cup. Good work rate and great attitude. Needs to take players on more often.

Landon Donovan

Pos.: Midfielder.
Club: San Jose Earthquakes.
Age: 20.
GP: 23. G: 5.
Speed, acceleration, touch, vision, creativity, audacity, courage ... it's all there. Melds physical gifts and guile. Can score or set up goals by swooping into the goalmouth, floating out wide and cutting inside, or racing away down the middle. Only question mark is doing well at the highest level.

Cobi Jones

Pos.: Midfielder.
Club: Los Angeles Galaxy.
Age: 31.
GP: 155. G: 14.
Only squad member to play in each 1994 and 1998 World Cup game will be a catalyst off the bench. Not the flank speedster he once was but still covers a lot of ground. Better suited to veering inside to play short balls or go for goal than crossing from the corner.

Eddie Lewis

Pos.: Midfielder.
Club: Fulham (ENG).
Age: 28.
GP: 40. G: 3.
Scraped the rust off of his passing and crossing game in 2002 to win a roster spot on the left flank. Bends ball beautifully when given time and space; must do better at speed and under pressure. Has grafted work rate and defending onto his offensive skills. Good jumper.

John O'Brien

Pos.: Midfielder. Club: Ajax (NED).
Age: 24.
GP: 15. G: 1.
Left-footed yet not necessarily left-sided. Quick, tough, shrewd midfield dynamo. Not afraid to mix it up but not always big enough (5-foot-8, 150 pounds) to win duels. Adds bite, desire and determination. Good first-touch passer. Can deliver over middle distances. Has been dinged up often last few years.

Claudio Reyna

Pos.: Midfielder.
Club: Sunderland (ENG).
Age: 28.
GP: 88. G: 8.
One of the few Americans capable of holding the ball and passing it accurately under pressure. Can hit balls of any distance and has the vision to spot open teammates anywhere. Reliable defensively and good tackler. Service on dead balls can be inconsistent. Health is a concern.

Earnie Stewart

Pos.: Midfielder.
Club: NAC (NED).
Age: 33.
GP: 80. G: 15.
Top scorer in qualifying (eight goals in 15 games) prefers to play centrally. Willing to attack the box and can also shoot from distance. Vast experience essential in turbulent midfield situations. Speed has been dulled by age yet must be respected. Training camp should revive lackluster U.S. showings in 2002.
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