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T&T vs USA (09-Feb-2005).
Thu Feb 10, 2005 12:31
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Wounded Warriors... Americans win Oval battle.
By: Ian Prescott.


Coach Bertille St Clair got his tactics wrong from the start as Trinidad and Tobago came out of their first game of the CONCACAF World Cup Final round qualifiers with a 2-1 home defeat to the United States yesterday at the Queen's Park Oval.
Still, there was nothing to dislike about the last 20 minutes when the "Soca Warriors" put the Americans under a spell of pressure and midfielder Angus Eve pulled a goal back in the 89th minute from a pass of Denzil Theobald.
But by then, the damage had already been done. The Americans had taken charge midway through the first half and ran up a comfortable 2-0 lead through striker Eddie Johnson (30th) and midfielder Edward Lewis (53rd).
Probably expecting a roasting under the hot Caribbean sun, the Americans instead found a comfort zone, when T&T opted to use the long ball, against the visitors-probably the most equipped team in the CONCACAF region to deal with that style of play.
From the start, some of St Clair's selection were questionable-like the use of Kenwyne Jones up front-probably based on his recent run of goals against teams of suspect quality in what is essentially Third Division football in England.
Jones, never looked the part, until he dropped back to midfield late in the second half.
At the same time, Cornell Glen, the ideal player to unsettle the Americans with his skill and pace, sat on the bench until late in the second half when he came on and made an immediate impact by forcing American goalkeeper Kasey Keller to twice fend off shots.
Carlos Edwards' selection was also puzzling considering that he was just coming off an injury and had not had regular first team football in a few months. Dwight Yorke also might not have had the impact his coach expected, although the Birmingham City striker did not have a bad return to international football.
Obviously, St Clair's instruction was for flanking midfielder Edwards and Leslie Fitzpatrick to get the ball in-field to the 'tall men' Jones and John in the forward line. But Fitzpatrick and Edwards whipped across the ball in almost myopic fashion, showing little variation and making it easy for the Americans to pick off their crosses.
Yesterday's game also showed that Anthony Rougier is no longer a force at international level.
Rougier has become too easy to pass and failed to maintain a defensive presence in the centre of midfield.
His disappearance left the middle open and the U.S. were able to take control. Eventually, St Clair saw enough and substituted the China-based midfielder, bringing on Angus Eve to play in an unfamiliar defensive midfield position.
Eventually, the visitors took the lead in the 30th minute when Steven Cherundolo's right cross found Eddie Johnson unmarked deep in the penalty area and the striker planted a header past Hislop from close up. At the other end, John twice came close with headers, but couldn't generate enough power to beat Keller in the American goal.
Hislop kept T&T in the game with a low save off Landon Donovan, before Eddie Lewis shot the American into a 2-0 lead from atop the penalty area.
It might all have turned out differently had Fitzpatrick scored two minutes earlier when put clear through the American defence. But he could not beat Keller who came up with another big save.
It was only with the introduction of Glen and the improving Denzil Theobald that T&T started to threaten. Glen made an immediate impact, twice forcing saves out of Keller after just five minutes on the field. Eventually, Theobald's through ball picked up Eve, whose low, angled shot bounced off a couple of bodies shot and was eventually steered in by Keller, Eve was credited for the goal. And as T&T piled pressure on the Americans, John twice muffed the chance to give his team an equaliser, once handling a pin-point cross in the penalty area and then making the poor decision to chest the ball when a header on goal looked the best option.
It probably left many of those present with a good headache and a taste of deja vu in their mouths after another loss to the Americans.

Scoring:

USA – Eddie Johnson (Steve Cherundolo) 30th minute.
USA – Eddie Lewis (Landon Donovan) 53rd.
TRI – Angus Eve (Denzil Theobald) 89th.

Line-Ups:

USA:

18-Kasey Keller; 6-Steve Cherundolo, 23-Eddie Pope, 12-Cory Gibbs, 4-Carlos Bocanegra; 25-Pablo Mastroeni (8-Clint Dempsey 66th), 10-Landon Donovan (capt), 17-DaMarcus Beasley, 7-Eddie Lewis (5-Chris Albright 82nd); 20-Brian McBride, 9-Ed Johnson (3-Gregg Berhalter 87th).

Subs not used:
24-Marcus Hahnemann, 2-Frankie Hejduk, 13-Taylor Twellman, 16-Josh Wolff.

Head Coach:
Bruce Arena.

TRI:
1-Shaka Hislop (capt); 2-Marlon Rojas; 4-Marvin Andrews; 5-Brent Sancho, 16-Anton Pierre; 7-Leslie Fitzpatrick (13-Cornell Glen 71st), 10-Anthony Rougier (8-Angus Eve 46th), 19-Dwight Yorke, 11-Carlos Edwards (12-Denzil Theobold 74th); 14-Stern John, 15-Kenwyne Jones.

Subs not used:
21-Clayton Ince; 3-David Atiba Charles, 6-Derek King; 9-Scott Sealy.

Head Coach:
Bertille St. Clair.

Stats Summary:

USA - TRI
Shots 6 - 8
Saves 5 - 2
Corner Kicks 11 - 5
Fouls 12 - 15
Offside 2 - 6

Misconduct Summary:

TRI – Marlon Rojas (yellow card) 68th minute.

Officials:

Referee: Benito Archundia (MEX)
1st Asst.: Hector Delgadillo (MEX)
2nd Asst.: Alejandro Cruz (MEX)
Fourth Official: Ronald Guitierrez (MEX).

Other Scores:

Costa Rica 1 (Paulo Wanchope 27th) v Mexico 2 (Jaime Lozano 7th, 8th).

Panama 0 v Guatemala 0.

Up-Close with Flex, click here.
Feeling the Heat: U.S. wins in tough conditions.

Playing (soccernet.com) in the sand and getting some much-needed rest at the Manzanilla beaches is the activity of choice each and every Ash Wednesday for the locals in the island nations of Trinidad & Tobago. It allows the thousands of revelers to get the madness of Carnival out of their system and rest up for a return to everyday life. Having the opportunity to take in their beloved Soca Warriors at the Queen's Park Oval in a World Cup qualifying match against the vaunted Americans was supposed to be an added bonus.
Unfortunately for the locals, the furious play by their underdog side that closed the gap to one goal before the final whistle was not enough to earn a point against the United States in a 2-1 loss, or make the nation's collective hangover any easier to digest on a scorching Wednesday afternoon.
"We held our own," said midfielder Leslie Fitzpatrick, who currently plays for the Atlanta Silverbacks in the A-League but is meeting with MLS officials next week to explore his options with the league. "We showed we can match up with anyone in this group."
Losing by one goal to the Americans was not a bad result for Trinidad & Tobago, which is currently ranked 61st in the world and has never reached the World Cup. In reality, the United States was in control for all but the final 15 minutes or so when the heat started taking its toll and the desperate Soca Warriors pushed forward with numbers to try to make up a two-goal deficit.
"Under difficult conditions with both travel, the field conditions, the heat and everything else, it turned out to be a fantastic result," said U.S. manager Bruce Arena, who likened the hard, sun-drenched turf at the Oval to a parking garage. "Winning qualifying games on the road is a very difficult challenge, and to pull that off in the opening game of this round with the issues we were dealing with is fantastic."
Arena was talking about the labor issues between the players' association and the U.S. Soccer Federation that prevented Arena from having training camps in December and January. Only having two weeks to prepare, especially with 13 of 23 players in the midst of their offseason with Major League Soccer, made this match look like a "trap" to several outsiders.
What the Americans were doing for most of the match wasn't as important as what Trinidad & Tobago wasn't doing on the field. From the outset, the U.S. players had time and space with the ball, particularly in the midfield, as the Soca Warriors sat eight and nine players behind the ball.
"With the amount of players that have been playing in Europe, they weren't used to the heat, either, so it was never going to be a day for pressing the ball at midfield," said assistant coach Glenn Myernick. "You really had to pick and choose your spots. As the game went on, it opened up, and we had time with the ball."
Fitzpatrick said that his side's spacing was off, which made it easier for the U.S. to control the tempo through patient play in the midfield.
"We just had too many gaps between the forwards and the midfielders," he said, "and also between the defense and the midfield."
Part of the problem for the home side was the lack of ground that attacking midfielder Dwight Yorke covered. The former Manchester United star, who hadn't played for the Soca Warriors since June of 2001 because of a dispute with his federation, was ineffective in a playmaking role behind the strikers, and in on only a few tackles in the midfield. Because of this, the U.S. was able to play through Pablo Mastroeni, who was in a holding role, and dual attacking midfielders Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley. Not using a right-sided midfielder in Arena's 4-4-2 formation gave right back Steve Cherundolo the freedom to move up into the attack.
Once Trinidad & Tobago started to retreat on defense, it gave Cherundolo space to move up the flank, which led to the first goal of the game. With plenty of time to serve in the ball, the Hannover 96 captain read Eddie Johnson's near-post run to perfection and swung the ball onto his path from about 30 yards out in the 30th minute. Despite being just to the left of the penalty stripe -- right in the danger zone of the penalty area -- Johnson was unmarked and nodded home his sixth tally in four matches to stake the U.S. to a 1-0 lead.
Arena acknowledged that the game could have been a 3-0 or 4-0 affair because of his team's ability to get into the attacking third of the field during the first half. But a number of things prevented the Americans from getting the second goal before halftime. Even with time and space, several balls to the strikers were off the mark, as the weight on the chips from 40 and 50 yards gave away possession to goalkeeper Shaka Hislop more times than not. Carlos Bocanegra, playing as a left back on Wednesday rather than in his usual centerback role, was the main culprit.
Credit must also be given to the Trinidad & Tobago defense, which was quick to the ball, strong in the air and organized under the guidance of Glasgow Rangers centerback Marvin Andrews. When they were able to win the ball, it was quickly given back to the U.S. due to the faulty play of the midfielders and inability of Yorke to free himself to be available to start the attack.
When Eddie Lewis struck in the 54th minute on a wicked left-footed drive to the far post from 23 yards out, it seemed as though the U.S. had the game in hand.
"What a great goal," said Donovan, who played Lewis the ball with a quick one-touch pass after combining with Johnson in the center of the field. "It was so needed at that point. That helped calm today's game down for us."
That calm only lasted for 10 minutes or so, as the Soca Warriors finally came to life. Buoyed by the entrance of FC Dallas striker Cornell Glen in the 71st minute, the home side created problems with three strikers up front and aggressive runs at the defense. Glen's fresh legs had Eddie Pope, his former teammate with the MetroStars, and Cory Gibbs scrambling to track his darting runs.
"He came in and gave them a little bit of life up top with his speed when our legs were a little heavy," said Pope. "He was dangerous."
Added Myernick: "Glen is a very good player, and he's tailor-made for coming into a game when guys are tired. He energized them. His running off the ball, dragging players with him, caused us some problems."
Part of the reason that second-half substitute Angus Eve was able to sneak in down the right side to manufacture Trinidad & Tobago's goal on a cross through the box that hit off Kasey Keller's glove and into the goal in the 88th minute was because of the focus on both Glen and Stern John, who was much more of a force in the second half than he has during the first 45 minutes of the game. The heat also seemed to wilt the U.S. team a bit more than the home side around this juncture.
"We lost our concentration a little bit," said Keller, who flew back to Germany immediately after the match with Gregg Berhalter while the rest of the squad traveled to Miami on the team charter. "We were starting to get tired."
"They made good subs," said Donovan. "Their subs just run. We were tired -- I was exhausted. We got out of it, though."
It could have been done in an easier fashion. The U.S. was unable to put the game away during those final 20 minutes and was forced to have a few nervous moments during the final, hectic minutes of the match when the crowd was back into the game urging on its red-white-and-black-clad Warriors.
"We needed to manage the game a little better," admitted Myernick. "We could have kept the ball more and been patient because that third goal which would have killed them. I thought we could have done a better job of keeping possession and changing the point of attack."
In a bit of a surprise move, Arena inserted both Clint Dempsey and Chris Albright into the match during the second half. While Albright had little effect on the play after he came in for Lewis in the 81st minute, Dempsey was impressive in the 25 minutes he logged after coming on for Mastroeni to play as a defensive midfielder.
On more than a few occasions, the 2004 MLS Rookie of the Year relieved pressure with a clearance or a tackle and brought some much-needed fresh legs and grit into the match. In just his second appearance with the National Team, the 21-year-old New England Revolution midfielder proved he can handle the rigors of playing on the road amidst less than perfect conditions.
"He's a good all around player," said Myernick. "He made some key plays for us down the stretch, tracking back into the box. He also blocked a shot here and a cross here. We were winning the game 2-0, and he's a guy that we wanted to get in to get more and more international experience because we truly think he has a bright future for this team."
As of the moment, that future is looking bright because the U.S. gained the maximum three points in its first of 10 qualifying matches over the next nine months. Having to start on the road followed by the upcoming match against Mexico in Mexico City on March 27 wasn't the best of draws -- anything can happen on the road in CONCACAF, for example the 1-1 tie against Panama in Panama City last fall.
"Now we just have to move forward with our goal of advancing to the final round of the World Cup," said Keller. "We took a big step forward today."

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