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US defender Clarence Goodson looks to return to World Cup 4 years later with greater role

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STANFORD, Calif. - Clarence Goodson led the U.S. soccer team onto the Stanford Stadium field for Day 1 of World Cup training, about 20 paces ahead of teammates.

Goodson was a member of the 2010 U.S. World Cup team, and the 6-foot-4 defender is hoping that experience will help him earn a trip to Brazil next month, and a greater role this time around.

The competition at his position is stiff, given that coach Jurgen Klinsmann's preliminary 30-player roster features 11 defenders, and he must trim the roster to 23 by June 2.

Goodson, who plays for the San Jose Earthquakes some 20 minutes down the freeway from Stanford University, is among the more experienced American players in training camp, with 46 international appearances, yet the centre back was an unused substitute who never saw the field four years ago in South Africa.

"It's certainly a dream, but not just going but being able to play and be a part of it. That's certainly something I'm hopeful of this time around," said Goodson, who turns 32 on Saturday. "It speaks about longevity, being able to be considered for two World Cups. Not many people get to go to one, so to be considered for two is certainly a big honour, but it's something I've worked very hard for."

Goodson and the Americans are training at Stanford ahead of an exhibition against Azerbaijan on May 27 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. There also will be a June 1 match versus Turkey at Harrison, New Jersey, and a game with Nigeria six days later at Jacksonville, Florida. The U.S. squad will then travel to its base camp in Sao Paulo to prepare for its Group G opener against Ghana on June 16 at Natal.

Midfielder Maurice Edu was cleared to participate in Thursday's training after sitting out Wednesday's first session because of concussion-like symptoms.

Goodson expects to compete for the starting spot at centre back — and Klinsmann has said depth at all positions will be important in case of injuries or other factors throughout the World Cup.

"Clarence is a guy that's very vocal, so especially for me being a young guy, that's something I like," defender DeAndre Yedlin of the Seattle Sounders said Thursday. "Even if it's not necessary information, as long as they're talking, I know they're in the game and it helps me stay in the game. Clarence obviously has that experience. He's been there."

After Wednesday's initial 90-minute training, Goodson signed autographs for a small group of children waiting outside Stanford Stadium.

Earthquakes coach Mark Watson believes Goodson has not only earned the opportunity to play in a second World Cup, but also to take on a greater role than he had during the 2010 tournament.

"We certainly hope so. He's been in the national team program a long time and been a big part of their success," Watson said. "We hope that his play with them, including the most recent game with Mexico he came on as a late sub, and his play with us is going to be enough for him to make the squad. That would be a real honour."

Goodson returned to MLS midseason last year following more than five years in Europe, with both Norway's Start and the large Danish club, Brondby.

He appreciates seeing the sun in the Bay Area, given his long stint in Scandinavia.

"It's been good. Of course there's differences between America and Europe. For me it's been good to be able to come back here and settle down and have a good group of guys to train with and be with," Goodson said. "It's been nice for my family as well to have some security, to have some nice weather. That's been a bit of a change."

He played a key role during last year's World Cup qualifying and was a member of the CONCACAF Gold Cup roster. After making his season debut for San Jose on Aug. 3, Goodson was part of a back line that surrendered only two goals over the final two months of the regular season.

Goodson has the backing of another U.S. and MLS teammate, Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski.

"He's very capable, he's been to the World Cup, has the experience and he's great for our team as well," Wondolowski said. "It's always good to have."

NOTES: MF Michael Bradley, F Clint Dempsey, MF Graham Zusi and D Matt Besler all joined the team Thursday and were expected to practice in some capacity. The additions gave the U.S. 26 players including a guest goal keeper. ... Thursday's training included a sprinting exercise called the "beep" test, in which players must complete their bursts between cones before hearing the beep.

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