U.S. team on 7-week hiatus before '98 kickoff


The U.S. men's national team is taking about seven weeks off before regrouping to prepare under coach Steve Sampson, or a successor, for the World Cup final round in France next June.

Players in the pool from which the American World Cup team will be picked are to train in seclusion for three weeks in Chula Vista, Calif., starting Jan. 5. Players invited will include those in the qualifying-round pool, plus others from the 1996 Olympic squad and from Major League Soccer.

In February, the U.S. team will compete in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a tournament of national teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

In March, the team will play host to the annual U.S. Cup invitational, usually a four-team affair. U.S. Soccer aims to schedule at least five additional friendlies in April and May, several in Europe, leading into the World Cup opener. Holland is booked for Feb. 21, possibly in Miami. Belgium, defending champion Brazil and England are on the wish list.

Sport's a 'challenge'

D.C. United coach Bruce Arena is best known for his soccer success. But he also was an All-America lacrosse midfielder at Cornell, played pro box lacrosse in Montreal for a year and then on a couple Long Island club teams that competed against Baltimore clubs.

Asked what about soccer appeals to him, Arena, who played one zTC game for the U.S. national team as goalkeeper, answered:

"The fact that a coach doesn't have much influence after the game starts. The game's more of a challenge to the athletes "

"It's part of the uniqueness of the sport, and so untypical of American sports, where plays, pitches, timeouts are all called by coaches.

"I also think the athleticism of soccer players is tremendous. It's a lot more challenging than lacrosse."

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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