CLEVELAND -- Bobby Convey and Clint Dempsey improved their chances of starting for the United States at the World Cup with sharp performances in a 2-0 win over Venezuela on Friday night.
Brian Ching scored in the 36th minute and Dempsey added a goal in the 69th as the Americans rebounded from Tuesday's dismal 1-0 loss to Morocco in Nashville, Tenn. Convey made the cross that created the first goal, and he was praised for his energy and defense by U.S. coach Bruce Arena.
"I think I'm making Bruce sweat a little bit," Convey said. "I'm happy about that."
The fifth-ranked Americans, who were given plenty of space as No. 71 Venezuela attacked, changed nine of 11 starters, keeping only defender Oguchi Onyewu and attacker Josh Wolff. They have just one game remaining before the World Cup: On Sunday night against Latvia in East Hartford, Conn.
Convey and Dempsey are competing for a starting midfield spot, likely on the right side, when the United States opens the World Cup against the Czech Republic on June 12.
"What we want to see out of Bobby is that kind of play for 90 minutes. He lost his concentration a little bit in the second half," Arena said. "I'm hopeful we can continue to move him forward because there's no reason to believe that Bobby can't challenge to get into our first 11."
Ching, who beat out Taylor Twellman for the World Cup roster, put the United States ahead with his fourth goal in 19 international appearances. Convey took the ball down the left side and crossed around Hector Gonzalez. Ching, at the top of the six-yard box, got a toe on it and beat goalkeeper Javier Toyo.
"Bobby crosses a great ball," Ching said. "When he gets the ball wide, I just look to make good runs in the box."
Ching nearly got another in the 54th, off a sharp cross from Chris Albright, but Toyo dove left to punch the ball away. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard then made a leaping save in the 64th to push Juan Arrango's shot over the crossbar.
Landon Donovan, who entered with DaMarcus Beasley midway through the second half, started the play that led to the second goal, pushing a through ball ahead to Eddie Johnson.
Johnson ran the ball down just before it reached the goal line and bent it back to the onrushing Dempsey, who sent the ball in with a diving header from the top of the six-yard box for his fifth international goal.
"I don't think anything is guaranteed at this point, so you've got to do whatever you can to hopefully try to see minutes over in Europe," said Dempsey, who has been slowed by a sore back.
Although Arena said Dempsey needs to improve his defense, the coach sounded impressed.
"He's a guy that is, in his own way, creative, and he takes chances," he said. "He's got to be a little bit more experienced and understand when to pick his spots on the field in terms of going after people in one v. one situations. But he's a confident player on the ball. He has had a habit of scoring goals, which is a real positive out of the midfield."
Dempsey followed his goal with an extended dance, waving his arms in a hula motion.
"It's just a dance we saw on video and me just messing around," he said.
Arena's choices this week were cramped by the schedule of three games in six days.
"I'm not sure there are any benefits for the players. I think for marketing purposes there are benefits because you're playing weekend games," he said. "The games are more attractive for television on Friday and Sunday, and for marketplaces. Obviously, if we could avoid doing this, we would do that.'
With 2½ weeks left before the opener, he's still unsure about his starting lineup against the Czechs.
"It's still going to be based on players being in the right form," he said. "I think there's a chance that we'll make a few decisions for our first 11 in the first game that will probably surprise some people."
Oft-injured midfielder John O'Brien, who played the first half against Morocco, had an MRI on his right Achilles' tendon that was negative and is day-to-day. ... Earlier in the day, the U.S. team watched a telecast of the Czech Republic's 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia. ... A crowd of 29,745 came to Cleveland Browns Stadium for the national team's first game in Cleveland since a 1994 World Cup warmup. ... Michael Bradley, the son of Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley, made his national team debut in the 89th minute. ... The Americans finished a man short after Carlos Bocanegra was ejected in the 82nd for getting his second yellow card.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press