Reyna could play more defensive role for U.S.

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CARY, N.C. (AP) – After spending two World Cups as an attacking playmaker for the United States, Claudio Reyna might find himself in a more defensive role at this year’s tournament.

The U.S. team’s practice resumed Tuesday following a day off, and many of the top stars spent more than an hour each talking about what they expect to achieve at this year’s World Cup, where the United States plays the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana in one of the tougher first-round groups.

“As players come and go into the team, I think I just try to find my role in the team,” Reyna said. “Previously, I was probably more of an attacking player. And now, l still have a responsibility to control the tempo of the game, when to slow it down and speed it up.”

He became the U.S. captain in 1999, shortly after Bruce Arena took over as coach, and played one of the best games of his career in the 2-0 second-round World Cup win over Mexico.

If the 32-year-old Reyna is pushed back into more of a holding midfield role, it leads to some intriguing questions about Arena’s lineup for the opening game against the Czechs on June 12. Will Landon Donovan play as an attacking midfielder or as a forward alongside Brian McBride? Will Josh Wolff or Clint Dempsey find his way into the starting lineup? Will John O’Brien, if he recovers from his string of Achilles’ tendon, hamstring, groin and hip injuries, find his way into the first 11?

Arena has less than four weeks to find answers.

And unlike Czech coach Karel Bruckner and Italy coach Marcello Lippi, he doesn’t carry the expectations of a nation.

“The guys with all the pressure are the guys called Signor Lippi and Bruckner, but not Arena,” he said. “They’re the one who are supposed to win.”

Most of the U.S. players got to Cary on May 10, with goalkeeper Kasey Keller and right back Steve Cherundolo joining workouts for the first time Tuesday. Left back Eddie Lewis, who practiced with the team last week, left to join up with Leeds for Sunday’s playoff game against Watford, a winner-take-all match for a spot in the English Premier League next season. At the 2002 tournament in South Korea, the Americans advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Germany 1-0. Still, it was the best World Cup performance by the United States since 1930.

Donovan recently viewed a replay of that Germany game. German organizing committee head Franz Beckenbauer said in February the Germans were lucky the referee didn’t award a penalty kick to the Americans, which could have tied the game. “We destroyed them. It wasn’t even close. I’d never seen it again, and you’d just think, oh, we had a few chances. We controlled them,” Donovan said. “That was very eye-opening, too, because we were a lot better than a team that finished in second place.”

That has to be inspiring. That has to be confidence-building. It says a lot about our team.”

Notes: O’Brien resumed practice after taking two days off. … After more than 90 minutes of training, U.S. players in their red practice jerseys sprinted around the double practice field next to SAS Soccer Park, first counterclockwise and then clockwise. When they were done with that, they ran across the fields.

AP-ES-05-16-06 2020EDT

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