Coach Bruce Arena turned his attention to the long-term future of the U.S. national soccer team yesterday, selecting 18 players with little or no senior international experience for the Nov. 17 friendly against El Salvador at RFK Stadium.
It will be the Americans' first official match since reaching the quarterfinals of last summer's World Cup, their best performance in 72 years.
Only four players from that squad were included on this 23-man roster: forwards Clint Mathis and Landon Donovan, and midfielders DaMarcus Beasley and Pablo Mastroeni.
"The challenge of building a team capable of qualifying for the World Cup begins again," Arena said. "There are a lot of talented young players with great potential in MLS, and over the next two years we plan to provide them with quality international experience in order to evaluate who can compete at the international level."
The roster, with an average age of just under 24, includes two D.C. United players: goalkeeper Nick Rimando, 23, and midfielder Ben Olsen, 25, a U.S. regular until he broke his ankle in March 2001 and was sidelined for about 18 months.
Arena also selected former University of Maryland star Taylor Twellman, 22, who in his first season in Major League Soccer led the New England Revolution to the championship game with 23 goals, second most in the league.
Other notable players named were New England goalkeeper Adin Brown and San Jose defender Wade Barrett (both from William & Mary); Los Angeles defender Danny Califf and New England midfielder Leo Cullen (both from Maryland); and Columbus midfielder Kyle Martino (Virginia), the 2002 MLS rookie of the year.
The core of the national team will continue to be Americans playing professionally overseas and those starring in Major League Soccer, such as Donovan, Beasley, Mathis, Brad Friedel, Eddie Pope, Tony Sanneh, John O'Brien and Claudio Reyna. But with his European-based players unavailable because of club commitments and some MLS players, including Pope of D.C. United, recovering from injury, Arena will use this match to take a closer look at a younger generation.
Eleven of the 23 players named have never made a senior national team appearance and seven others have played six or fewer games. El Salvador, which hasn't played an international game in about nine months, is expected to name a young squad as well. The U.S. team will begin training camp at Georgetown University on Nov. 10 and the roster will be trimmed to 18 a day or two before the game.
Arena's contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation expires in two months, but he has agreed in principle to a new, four-year deal, sources told The Post recently. An official announcement is expected in the next three weeks.
Soccer Notes: The USSF has had talks about a national team friendly against England in February, but those prospects apparently have dimmed in recent days. However, the Americans could end up playing Costa Rica (now guided by former U.S. coach Steve Sampson) and Argentina early next year. Arena said last week that he would like to play one game per month leading up to two major international tournaments next summer, the FIFA Confederations Cup and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. . . . Pope had minor knee surgery yesterday and will be sidelined six weeks.
Complete roster, Page D4