Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Matchdays Two and Three: End the Insanity!

By the close of business next Wednesday night, CONCACAF will have completed the first half of its semifinal round of World Cup Qualifying. For the United States, games two and three in the six-game round are a home tilt against El Salvador on Saturday in Foxboro, MA and a road match in Panama City next Wednesday. Each match is unique and thus requires a different mindset and parameters of an acceptable outcome.

Roster (wth clubs listed for newcomers to the pool): Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, Jonny Walker; Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Bobby Convey, Cory Gibbs, Frankie Hejduk, Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege, Belgium), Eddie Pope, Greg Vanney; DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan, Eddie Gaven (Metrostars, MLS), Cobi Jones, Eddie Lewis, Clint Mathis, Claudio Reyna, Kerry Zavagnin (Kansas City, MLS); Conor Casey (Mainz, Germany), Brian Ching (San Jose, MLS), Eddie Johnson (Dallas, MLS), Brian McBride.

Overall objectives:

* Put to bed ANY questions of not advancing to the Hex.
The US can and should take six points off the next two opponents, moving to seven through three matches and securing at worst a three-point gap on the third-place team in the group with the two home matches to go along with a trip to San Salvador.

* Integrate new pieces as possible. We need to give significant time to players such as Eddie Gaven, Eddie Johnson, and Brian Ching SO LONG as we have the ability to do so while still getting the desired result.

El Salvador objectives:

There is always one match in the group phase where the perceived dominant team in the group needs to show such and build a sizable goal differential in case weird things happen down the road and they were to end up tied with another team in the group for advancement. This is the match which the US needs to do so. Waiting until Matchday Five against Panama is too late to have it take effect, and since the goal of these two games combine is to distance ourselves from the rest of the field, we need to do it against the Sallies.

* Start strong. With Chris Armas absent from the side due to injury and there being a lack of defensive midfielders in camp, I am quite unsure how Bruce will line the boys up for this match. Based on the roster, I would reckon that we might see a skinny diamond in the midfield. This will allow the wingbacks to push up, gives Landon Donovan appropriate freedom to pinch in from the right side, and starts our most-offensive XI possible. My first XI: Keller; Cherundolo, Pope, Bocanegra, Vanney; Donovan, Reyna, Mathis, Beasley; McBride, Casey.

Panama objectives:

* 1-0 is enough.
In this match, getting full points is MUCH more important to meeting our overall objective than racking up a huge scoreline. We will see a US team that will want to dictate possession while attempting to take opportunities as they are presented.

* End it early. The one thing the US has not done in this region in all of my time watching them has been getting an early goal on the road in an important match. With Panama being considerably lesser in quality than the US, we need to score in the first ten minutes and then eat up the clock (a little Catenaccio, if you will). If we do that, we win this game and win it without a lot of sweat.

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