Saturday, October 02, 2004


Matchdays Four and Five: Shut The Door!

It's qualifying time again, as the United States National Team heads into another twinbill of action starting next Saturday in San Salvador, followed up by a match on the 13th in Washington, DC against Panama. Bruce Arena has made a couple of changes to the roster for these two matches from the one for the last pair of fixtures, with World Cup veterans Pablo Mastroeni, Tony Sanneh, and Josh Wolff returning to the fold. Absences of note include Chris Armas, Brian Ching, Steve Cherundolo, and Claudio Reyna. The roster:

Tim Howard, Kasey Keller, Jonny Walker; Gregg Berhalter, Carlos Bocanegra, Bobby Convey, Cory Gibbs, Frankie Hejduk, Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Pope, Tony Sanneh (Columbus Crew); DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan, Eddie Gaven, Cobi Jones, Eddie Lewis, Pablo Mastroeni, Clint Mathis, Kerry Zavagnin; Conor Casey, Eddie Johnson, Brian McBride, Josh Wolff.

The United States MUST get six points out of these matches in order to effectively shut the door on the rest of the group and secure its spot in the final round of World Cup qualifying. HOW we do it, however, differs from game-to-game.

El Salvador game notes:

* Jump them early! We have normally had our way with El Salvador in most matches against them. We need to get out and take an early lead rather than leaving it for someone to rescue us on the death of time like the first two road qualifiers.

* Mix it up. No Reyna, no Armas, and a return to the fold of Wolff and Sanneh tells me we should try to play the diamond in this match. Lineup:


* Get the lead, then blood guys. Players such as Eddie Johnson and Eddie Gaven have yet to find the pitch in qualifying for the US but seem to be in the plans of the Bruce. Thus, we need to blood them if we have a chance (two-goal lead at the half should allow for it, I would guess).

Panama game notes:

* THE match of the group. This is the match that pretty much the whole group will hinge upon. If the US can take care of business here and move to 11 points, they will be through and put the rest of the group on-edge for advancement. If we're not in that great of a position, then the whole list of theories come out for how someone COULD keep us home.

* Make Panama play. The Panamanians might come into DC and take the road-team approach (sit on it, bunker, try to get out with a point) if they are in good enough position to be able to advance with a win on Matchday Six. We must force them to bring some action to the table by getting out in front on them (notice the theme of the past few sets?). Early goals force your opponent to play your game and are more conducive to getting results than hanging back and trying to snag something late.

* Saturday's results will determine the lineup. How Panama does against Jamaica I think will contribute to who is used to start this match. I have to think that BA would like to give Howard another qualifying start or else he wouldn't have brought him in, but if the US canont ensure its passage regardless of the result of this match (win or draw), Keller HAS to start. I won't guess at a lineup for this one, but I do think you could design two different approaches to this match, one in which we go for the juggular because we can and one where we make sure we have control of the match and keep our advancement fate in our own hands. Getting to the next round matters more than who of Jamaica/Panama/El Salvador goes there with us, so don't be TOO surprised if we play to secure the one before going for three in this match should it be necessary.

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