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  • Wednesday, May 10, 2000

    Osieck names 18-man roster

    By NEIL DAVIDSON -- Canadian Press
     TORONTO -- Canada's already thin roster will be stretched even tighter when the World Cup soccer team assembles later this month to prepare for a pair of exhibition games and a key World Cup qualifying series.

     Goalie Craig Forrest (hernia), defender Mark Watson (calf), wingback Jim Brennan (hernia) and midfielder Marc Bircham (ankle) are all missing from head coach Holger Osieck's 18-man roster announced Wednesday.

     Midfielder Nick Dasovic is back from ankle surgery but hasn't played a league game for his Scottish team St. Johnstone since November. Goalkeeper Pat Onstad has also seen virtually no action with Dundee United as he recovers from knee surgery.

     With Forrest hurt and Onstad's status uncertain, Osieck has been forced to include three goalies in his roster. That leaves just 15 outfield players for four games: friendlies May 27 in Toronto against Trinidad and Tobago and May 30 in Winnipeg against Honduras and a two-leg World Cup qualifying playoff in June.

     The depleted roster could translate into opportunity for Olympic team players like Mike Franks and Kevin McKenna.

     Franks, an athletic six-foot-five 'keeper, has yet to play for the senior team but has four shutouts in his last five games with the Olympic side. He also helped the PSV Eindhoven reserve side to its league title this season in the Netherlands.

     McKenna, a six-foot-four central defender, was impressive at the recent Olympic qualifying tournament in Hershey, Pa.

     "I liked what I saw," Osieck said.

     McKenna may get a chance at his first cap in one of the exhibition games as Osieck rests veterans coming off a long European season for the World Cup qualifying home-and-away series.

     Captain Jason deVos figures he will only have one week off this year if Canada makes it to the semifinal round.

     The hard-nosed defender has made five transatlantic trips so far this year, a schedule that has taken its toll on his body and his club career with Dundee United in Scotland.

     Even coaches pay a price.

     Assistant coach Bruce Twamley, who doubles as the under-23 national coach, estimated at the recent Olympic qualifying tournament in late April that he had spent more than 90 days on the road scouting in 2000.

     Twamley is no stranger to sacrifices, however. He missed the birth of his child in 1997 when the under-20 side he was coaching became the first Canadian soccer team to advance past the first round of a world championship.

     The Canadian team assembles in Alliston, Ont., for a short camp prior to the Trinidad game. That camp may mean more than most, given the injury situation.

     Lack of depth has been Osieck's biggest problem since taking over the national team. But he has survived that weakness, skilfully shifting players from one position to another with the ease of a street hustler playing the shell game.

     Osieck will probably stick to the nucleus of his squad: a backline of deVos, Tony Menezes and Richard Hastings behind a midfield of Jason Bent, Jeff Clarke, Martin Nash, Paul Stalteri and Davide Xausa with Carlo Corazzin and Paul Peschisolido up front.

     Paul Fenwick, Carl Fletcher and Martin Nash could also figure into the mix.

     Twelve of the 18 players named were part of the victorious Gold Cup squad in February.

     Dasovic, who underwent surgery in late January, has played in two reserve matches with St. Johnstone since returning from injury and reports no problems. Onstad only began kicking the ball on Friday.

     Canada will play the loser of a playoff between Barbados (ranked No. 102) and Cuba (No. 75) to see who advances to the semifinal round of qualifying for the CONCACAF region, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

     Barbados holds the upper hand in that series after a 1-1 tie in Havana on Sunday, which sends the Barbadians back home with a vital away goal for the May 21 second leg. Away goals count double in the event of a tie.

     The result means Cuba, which has yet to win or score in an away qualifying game this time around, must win or draw 2-2 or better to advance.



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