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Saturday, March 29, 2003
ESPNsoccernet: March 30, 12:06 PM UK
U.S.-Venezuela notebook

Bob Wickwire

A tale of two halves
SEATTLE -- From the looks of how the U.S. played in the first half of Saturday's friendly against Venezuela at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle, it's safe to say the squad won't be saving the videotape of the opening 45 minutes for any highlight reel.

The U.S. enjoyed much of the possession and had decent build-up play, but then things bogged down considerably in the attacking third of the field. Too many crosses and final passes in and around the box were off target.

Even though the United States was misfiring on offense, some credit has to go to Venezuela for keeping the American attack off balance. After the game, coach Bruce Arena praised the opposing defense for its determined play. "Venezuela defended quite well, especially in first half, they put a lot into that."

But, the second half was a completely different story for the U.S. thanks in large part to Earnie Stewart who came on after the break as well as Landon Donovan who entered in the 60th minute.

Both players changed the complexion of the U.S. attack in a big way with Stewart's perfectly flighted free kick leading to the first goal in the 52nd minute.

Striker Brian McBride elevated first to plant a header off the post, the ensuing rebound came to Carlos Bocanegra who headed off the crossbar, and finally Jovan Kirovski found the back of the net with a half volley off the face of Venezeulan keeper Gilberto Angelucci.

Donovan's important contribution came in the 76th minute when he brought the 17,819 fans in attendance to their feet with a fine 50-yard solo run and cool finish at the far post.

But, it was Stewart's all-around play that earned him 'man of the match' honors. "You want to go in and do well for yourself and the team. It's good that you come out and get recognized for doing something good," said the veteran midfielder.

New roost for the National Teams?
With four successful outings in Seattle in just over a year, the city has definitely made its way onto the list of preferred national team host sites.

In four matches, two each for the men and women, the U.S. is now 4-0 in Seattle, with three wins coming at Safeco Field and Saturday's 2-0 victory against Venezuela coming at Seahawks Stadium.

On those previous visits, both Bruce Arena and April Heinrichs raved about playing at Safeco Field, but now add in state-of-the-art Seahawks Stadium and Seattle can boast two venues worthy of hosting exhibition matches, tournaments or World Cup qualifiers.

Arena definitely was impressed by the new stadium. "I think it's a great venue. Obviously as we continue to move forward, I think MLS will continue to explore the possibilities of Seattle having a franchise down the road. I'm sure Seattle becomes a venue that we would include among cities to consider for World Cup qualifiers and other friendlies."

Even striker Landon Donovan, who has now scored three goals in two Seattle matches, sounded off on the subject of future qualifiers here. "It would be awesome. I love this city. It has been good to me. Probably my favorite in the U.S."

Buddle: No. 600
Many exceptional players have suited up for the U.S. national team in its long history including Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda and Cobi Jones just to name a few.

Now we can add the name of Edson Buddle to the select group that has worn the red, white and blue jersey.

The 21-year-old striker became the 600th player to make at least one appearance for the U.S. when he replaced Brian McBride in the 80th minute.

Buddle, a rising star with the Columbus Crew, reflected on his debut after the match. "There were a lot of thoughts racing through my head. I'm glad to be here. Stepping into this game opened up a new chapter in my life. It's something I've worked hard for."

Long wait is over
The last time Jovan Kirovski played for the national team was back on March 27, 2002, in a 4-2 loss in Germany.

But, you have to go back even further to find his name on a U.S. scoresheet.

Amazingly, Kirovski hadn't tallied a goal since July 24, 1999, in a 2-1 victory over New Zealand in Guadalajara, Mexico.

When told about this after the match, the 27-year-old striker was a bit surprised. "Wow, it has been a long time. But, it's good to be back in the team, involved again ... and great to score too."




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