Thursday, March 23, 2006

US routed by ze Germans 4-1

Yesterday, the U.S Men’s National Team lost to Germany 4-1 in a World Cup tune-up and it was not pretty. First, the USMNT was short many of its stalwarts due to league obligations or injury. Beasley, Donavan, McBride, Reyna, Dempsey, Pope, Onyewu and others were all missing. Second, the team was trying to fill out its final roster for the World Cup and was giving a lot of lesser experienced players an opportunity to play and compete for a spot.

The inexperience and lesser talent were apparent quite early. Although the US did not concede a goal in the first half it was it heels for most of that time. There was constant fouling giving the Germans many opportunities on set pieces that are their trademark. Fortunately for the US, the Germans were not that sharp in the first half and wasted several quality opportunities. For the defense, there was little organization in the middle and Conrad and Berhalter were very suspect. One bright spot was the play of Cory Gibbs at the outside back position. He showed speed, ability and played very solidly overall. He could make a good defensive substitute for the USMNT.

In the second half, the defense completely fell apart. Less than a minute in it conceded another free kick near the goal that resulted in the first goal. After that it was mistake after mistake that culminated in the three goals in a six minute span. Miscommunication and poor touches were the culprits in the collapse and the defense did nothing to help its keeper, Casey Keller. Keller was solid in goal although allowing four goals. Most of the goals Germany scored were tough shots from open positions allowed by the defense.

The US midfield and offense played much better than the defense by comparison. Although, there was not much organization from the midfield it still played solidly especially the outside positions. Bobby Convey played very well in starting the attack and doing some attacking himself, as did Pablo Mastroeni. Both looked quick and strong on the ball often beating the Germans. The others in the midfield played without creativity and did little to help the team.

The forwards had their opportunities to score but were stymied by a solid German defense led by German keeper Oliver Kahn who has grown his hair out and is looking like a ‘roided up Nick Nolte. I know I would be scared to take him on. Eddie Johnson had a great opportunity to score in the 66th minute on a header but Kahn made a spectacular one handed save to deny Johnson. After that it seemed the US team was deflated and had less motivation and the Germans began their onslaught. Late in the game Steve Cherundolo got a fluke goal by sending a long pass from the US half to Eddie Johnson. Kahn came out but Johnson and the keeper collided and the ball just trickled into the open goal. Johnson had some good plays and looked like he will be able to hold his own against top-flight competition.

All in all, it was not a very good match but Arena did say he learned a little about the team. For example, he now has a better idea about which players will not be going to Germany. Also, he said he would not play a tune-up with the host nation on its soil right before the World Cup. That is probably a good idea.

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