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World Cup roster has SoCal flavor

CARSON, Calif. -- Sacha Kljestan went to bed Monday night with the World Cup on his mind.

The Chivas USA midfielder, part of the U.S. national team's player pool since 2007, had heard the talk he might be part of head coach Bob Bradley's preliminary roster for this summer World Cup in South Africa, but he wasn't going to trust anyone's word for it.

"I wasn't sure, to be honest," said Kljestan, who grew up in Huntington Beach. "I felt I had been playing really good as of late, in the past five or six weeks, and I felt I deserved to be there, but at the end of the day, it was out of my hands.

"When I went to bed last night, I thought to myself: 'I've done everything I possibly can to hopefully make the team.' I thought to myself if I came out of practice today and didn't make it, I wouldn't have any regrets."

Official word -- for Kljestan, his Chivas USA teammate Jonathan Bornstein, Galaxy striker Edson Buddle and 27 others -- arrived Tuesday morning. All were on the 30-man list Bradley unveiled on ESPNEWS and set for the Americans' pre-World Cup camp, which will open Sunday in Princeton, N.J.

Bradley and his staff by June 1 will whittle the roster down to 23 players for the World Cup, which opens June 11 in South Africa. The U.S. opener is the following day, against England.

Galaxy captain Landon Donovan also is on the list, but there was no suspense for that bit of news. Donovan, one of 10 players on the preliminary roster from or living in Southern California, is the de facto face of the U.S. national team, its all-time goals leader (with 42 in 121 appearances), a veteran of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and, with Fulham forward Clint Dempsey, one of the two players most likely to determine how successful the Americans' trek turns out.

Kljestan, Bornstein and Buddle were expected to be on the preliminary roster, but, unlike Donovan, their status among the final 23 players is not certain. And they know this.

"Exciting, but I also know there's a lot of work to do," said Kljestan, 24, who played for Bradley in 2006, his rookie season, with Chivas USA. "Obviously, seven guys don't get to go, so I want more than anything to be on that plane to South Africa. I'm going to go to New Jersey and try to, you know, prove myself to the coaching staff once again."

Bornstein, 25, who was 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year with Chivas, says he was told "a few days ago" that he was on this list, but that "it's like a provisional kind of thing. You always kind of wait until final decisions are made. ... Anything can happen. Until [it's] released, everything's in the air."

Six other players from the Los Angeles area also made the roster:

• Defender Carlos Bocanegra, the U.S. captain, who starred at Alta Loma High School and UCLA and plays for Stade Rennes in France. Bocanegra, who turns 31 in two weeks, was the U.S. left back against Italy and Ghana at the 2006 World Cup, has been used primarily as a center back for the U.S. since, but is expected to start at left back in South Africa. He has made 77 appearances for the U.S. team, scoring 12 goals, most as a target player on set pieces.

• Midfielder Michael Bradley, the coach's son, who plays for Germany's Borussia Moenchengladbach. Bradley, 23, whose thoughtful approach to the game mirrors his father's, emerged in the past three years as a force in the middle with the U.S. team and at Dutch club Heerenveen before the move to Germany in 2008. He lives during the offseason with his family in Manhattan Beach. He has 41 caps and seven international goals.

• Versatile Maurice Edu, who grew up in Fontana, attended Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga and is coming off a fine season with Scottish champion Rangers FC. Edu, 24, moved to Rangers in 2008 after winning the MLS Rookie of the Year honor in 2007 for Toronto FC. He made his U.S. debut in 2007 and has played in 12 international matches, starting two games during World Cup qualifying.

• Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who attended Northwood High School in Irvine, starred at UCLA and plays in Denmark for AGF Aarhus. The Brazilian-born creator, 25, attracted interest from foreign clubs after an outstanding performance at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship and signed with Germany's Hamburger SV. He moved to Derby County in England in 2007 and following a disappointing campaign transferred to Aarhus in 2008. He has played 31 times for the U.S., scored two goals and started two World Cup qualifiers.

• Defender Chad Marshall, who attended Rubidoux High School in Riverside and plays for the Columbus Crew. Marshall, 25, is among the country's best young central defenders, but his international career has been slowed by repeated injuries and a long bout with concussion syndrome. He has made 11 international appearances and scored one goal, but he played in only one of 18 qualifying matches. He was the MLS Defender of the Year when the Crew won the MLS Cup title in 2007.

• Winger Robbie Rogers, who grew up in Huntington Beach and Palos Verdes, starred at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana and plays for the Columbus Crew. Rogers, whose 23rd birthday is Wednesday, is a dynamic left-flank attacker who made a huge impact in the Crew's championship run after a disappointing stint with Dutch club Heerenveen. He has played 11 times for the U.S. and scored one goal, but he played only 22 minutes during the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Others on the roster with links to the Southland are former Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan, former Galaxy winger DaMarcus Beasley and former Galaxy forwards Brian Ching, Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez. Defender Steve Cherundolo, from San Diego, also is on the list. He was on the 2002 World Cup roster and played in the 2006 World Cup.

The U.S. team will play two friendlies, May 25 against the Czech Republic in East Hartford, Conn., and May 29 against Turkey in Philadelphia, before Bradley must determine his final roster. The Americans also will play a preliminary match June 5 against Australia in Roodepoort, South Africa.

The World Cup schedule: June 12 versus England in Rustenburg, June 18 versus Slovenia in Johannesburg and June 23 versus Algeria in Tshwane/Pretoria.

Buddle, who will be 29 on May 21, wasn't on the World Cup radar before the MLS season began. He has made only one appearance for the national team, a brief end-of-game stint against Venezuela in Seattle seven years ago, but has been in superb form, scoring nine goals in his first six games, numbers too good to ignore.

"Edson has been the hottest goal scorer in MLS and has helped the Galaxy get off to a great start ..." Bradley said Tuesday. "[He has] shown enough for us to take a look as we start the camp."

Buddle called his selection "an opportunity and a blessing" and said he would "continue to do some of the things that I've done to get there. I'm pretty sure that playing with some of the best players in the country will improve my game."

His teammates were thrilled that he was on the list. "You need hot players that are scoring goals," Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said, "and he's not only scoring goals, but he's doing all the other little things that make a difference."

Midfielder Chris Klein called Buddle "maybe the best player in the league this year" and said "for him to get the call is testament ... that our league actually matters, that doing well in our league matters, and it matters to the national team."

Donovan had lobbied publicly for Buddle's inclusion.

"It's always refreshing to know that if you work hard and do things the right way, you get rewarded," he said. "Edson spent a lot of time in the offseason making sure his body was strong and ready for this year. Maybe he didn't have the World Cup in mind, but he wanted to get better as a player, and he is being rewarded for it."

Buddle figures to compete with Houston's Ching and Greece-based Eddie Johnson for a "big" forward slot. Ching, expert at holding the ball and finding teammates in scoring positions, hasn't played in more than a month because of a hamstring injury. Johnson, who has struggled since leaving MLS for Europe in January 2008, scored three playoff goals for Aris Thessaloniki, bolstering his sagging credentials. Ching was on the roster and Johnson played at the 2006 World Cup.

Kljestan and Bornstein, who is from Los Alamitos, played roles during the World Cup qualifying campaign, but Bornstein might have a surer road to South Africa because he plays a position, left back, that has been troublesome for the U.S. He's likely competing with FC Dallas' Heath Pearce for a job backing up Bocanegra, who would switch from a center spot if Oguchi Onyewu, coming off a tendon injury, is unable to go.

Kljestan probably is competing with Scottish-born, Houston-raised midfielder Stuart Holden for a backup role as a creative midfielder, and his current form and versatility -- he can play centrally or on either flank -- might give him an edge. So might the presence of former Chivas USA coaches and players on the U.S. coaching staff: Bradley, goalkeeper coach Zak Abdel, and Jesse Marsch, who in January retired as a Chivas USA player to become one of Bradley's assistant coaches.

"I think it's good we've been around them for a long time, Jonny and me, so we kind of know what's going on," Kljestan said. "Having Jesse step in in January was a big plus for me personally, just because we have a good relationship. He can talk to me anyway he wants to. He can tell me I'm doing badly, and I'll listen to him, and he can tell me what to do. I really respect him."

Gomez, who was born in Los Angeles and raised in Las Vegas, made the list after scoring 10 goals for Puebla in the Mexican Primera Division's Clausura (spring) season, tying for the league scoring title. He has been training with Chivas USA the past week.

Only nine of the 30 players are employed in MLS: the Galaxy and Chivas contingent, Marshall and Rogers, Ching, Findley and Pearce. Holden (Bolton/England) and Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt/Germany) left the Houston Dynamo for Europe after last season.

The only players without MLS experience are goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, defenders Onyewu, Jay DeMerit and Jonathan Spector, and midfielders Feilhaber, Alejandro Bedoya and Jose Francisco Torres.