Claudio Reyna can still play.
At adidas' first ever World Cup Media Day on Thursday, the former United States Men's National Team captain joined Kristine Lilly and assorted journalists for a game on the company's turf field at its Portland, OR campus. Reyna, showing a bit more pepper in his salt and pepper mop and looking a touch thicker in the midsection, was still a presence in the midfield, demonstrating the passing skills that earned him 112 caps and a spot on four World Cup teams.
After the kickaround, he spoke with Goal.com about the El Salvador match, the coming World Cup, and the difference between the 2002 and 2006 American teams.
The 36-year-old watched the second half of the friendly against the Central American side and came away wondering how valuable it was as an evaluation tool.
"With all due respect, El Salvador's not an opponent that you can compare to the standards that they are going to see this summer," Reyna said. "I think it was hard for the players because it was very clear what they had to do was impress. A lot of players are pressing to do something, to make something happen, and sometimes that's not how you really play the game."
The New Jersey-born midfielder has higher hopes for Wednesday's match with The Netherlands.
"You're not really so much keen on having to get a result or win the game but you want to see what your team looks like," he said. "How do they compare? The form of some of the players."
U.S. manager Bob Bradley clearly agrees with the player's assessment as he called in the first team for the tilt. It's the first of three pre-World Cup warm-up games and the last before the manager must name his 23-man roster. (The Americans play the Czech Republic on May 25 and Turkey four days later.)
Conventional wisdom holds that somewhere between 16 and 18 spots are filled. While a couple slots are in doubt due to injuries (Charlie Davies, Jermaine Jones), the rest are still available because players on the fringe haven't stepped up and claimed their place on the team. In Reyna's opinion, the lack of options is troubling.
"It's hard to say, but I think the '02 and '06 teams are deeper as a squad," he said. "That's a little bit of a concern because why aren't we developing players to fill out a squad?"
During his World Cup career, Reyna enjoyed the highest of highs and lowest of lows. He missed out of the 1994 tournament due to injury and played every minute of 1998's "disaster off the field." He played a key role in '02 side -- leading the Stars and Stripes to the quarterfinals and becoming only the second American named to the World Cup all-tournament team -- but struggled with injuries during the disappointment in Germany.
In his mind, the difference in the success of the later two squads stemmed from the desires of the members of the team.
"I think one of the major problems with '06 is you have a lot of players -- not that you can go against them -- but in our situation, a lot of players wanted to be seen," he said. "They wanted a move to Europe. As a captain, I could sense right away that it wasn't the same. In '02, it was more about the team. No one was trying to get a move. The '06 team was a little bit more about players making sure they were seen and they were playing. If they didn't play, you could see it between each game. In '02, no one cared."
Reyna pointed out that while players on European clubs have many chances to show off their talents, footballers in Major League Soccer need the spotlight of the World Cup to impress scouts. That mentality hurt the squad four years ago.
"In 2006, it seemed like there was a lot more individual interest," he said. "There's only so much you can do. If guys are thinking, 'This is my chance to move to Europe,' it really affects the team. The extra pressure you add to your mind is not the right type of pressure. The environment you're put in during World Cup games is pressure enough."
Reyna thinks the U.S. can get out of its group this summer. Slovenia and Algeria represent relatively unknown challenges, although both games are winnable. But first, there's the England match. Reyna, like much of the world, can't wait.
"I have a good feeling about that game," he said. "I don't know what it is. It's going to be great."
Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com and will be reporting from the World Cup in South Africa.If you follow the U.S. Men's National Team, you'll love their dedicated page on Goal.com