Sunday, June 15, 2008 ESPNsoccernet: June 20, 7:07 PM UK
U.S. takes care of business against Barbados
Jeff Carlisle, ESPNsoccernet
CARSON, Calif. -- Following the United States' 8-0 demolition of Barbados on Sunday, the one overriding thought was ... well ... it's only Barbados. There is a reason why the U.S. sits 100 spots higher than the Bajans in the FIFA World Rankings, and one could argue quite persuasively that the result was merely a case of the form book being followed, one that essentially clinched the Americans' passage to the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Landon Donovan, right, and the U.S. put on a record-setting show. (Victor Decolongon/GettyImages)
The score line was the largest margin of victory for the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier, and Clint Dempsey's goal after a cozy 53 seconds set another U.S. qualification record, this one for the fastest goal. Had this match been a game show, it would have been titled, "Who Wants to be a Goal Scorer?" as six different players tallied for the U.S., including Barbadian defender Daryl Ferguson.
"We wanted to make sure that we ended it here," said U.S. attacker Landon Donovan. "We didn't want to go there [for the return leg] having any doubts."
There will certainly be none of those, and for some, this match will offer concrete proof that such games are a complete waste of time for CONCACAF's big boys. Certainly, U.S. manager Bob Bradley won't have learned much from this encounter.
Then again, it's not always easy being the prohibitive favorite. Just ask Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Mexico how easy these games are. Costa Rica is tied with Grenada 2-2 after the first leg. T&T lost to Bermuda 2-1 at home. And Mexico made hard work of beating Belize in Houston, winning 2-0 with the considerable help of a stoppage-time penalty by Jared Borgetti. Credit the U.S. then for taking care of business, with Dempsey's opener doing plenty to settle the Americans' nerves.
U.S. men's schedule
U.S. vs. Barbados
Kensington Oval; Bridgetown, Barbados 3 p.m. ET, ESPN Classic
"It was massive," Donovan said of Dempsey's goal. "The biggest thing is scoring early, and if you get into the 20th, 30th or 40th minute, and you haven't scored, then you start rushing. So getting that was huge. It set us on our way."Were there a few quibbles? Sure, but they're from the Leona Helmsley School of Nitpicking. The U.S. raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first 20 minutes with Michael Bradley adding the second on a rebound in the 12th minute, and Brian Ching deflecting in Pablo Mastroeni's long-range blast eight minutes later. But once Mastroeni went off injured with a strain of his left gluteus muscle in the 26th minute, the Americans took their foot off the pedal. As the second half progressed, it looked like the Bajans just might escape with a three-goal defeat, which while big enough to prevent them from coming back in the series, would have at least been respectable. "Coming out at halftime, there's the feeling that, can we re-establish things ... start to get the ball moving again, can we not let them see any light?" Bradley said. "There was a lull for sure."But a bit of quick thinking from Donovan in the 59th minute allowed the U.S. to extend its lead and break what little of the visitors' will remained. Freddy Adu's darting run ended with him being scythed down by Barbadian defender Bryan Neblett, and while goalkeeper Alvin Rouse was in the process of setting up the wall, Donovan cheekily took the free kick and scored into an unguarded net from 30 yards."I told [the referee], 'We don't want to wait for the whistle,' so he got the ball, made sure we were set, and said 'You can play if you want,'" Donovan said. "It was a freebie."But it was also a goal that was the result of some thorough preparation. "We talked about it all week about making the game fast, and that included restarts and corners," Donovan said, "and if you can do those things sometimes they turn off for a second, and that was the case." After Donovan's tally, it was Open Season on the Barbadian goal, and given the Americans' superior fitness, they were only too happy to turn on the style. Eddie Johnson, Ching and the unfortunate Ferguson scored for the U.S., turning a rout into a humiliation. Such was the extent of the Americans' dominance that Bradley admitted to already thinking ahead to the composition of his roster for next week's return leg while the game was still going on. He hadn't come to any conclusions, mind you, but it's not often that Bradley will let his mind wander while the game is in progress.
Of course, one can only speculate as to what thoughts will pass through Bradley's transom in the return leg. It's not often that a coach has 90 minutes to ponder his options with an eight-goal lead. But compared to some of the region's other heavyweights, it's a luxury the U.S. manager will gladly take, even if it is just Barbados.Player ratings (scale of 1-10)Brad Guzan, 6 -- Was rarely called upon, but showed good alertness on the few occasions Barbados ventured into the American's half.Heath Pearce, 7 -- Delivered a sublime cross for Eddie Johnson's goal in the 82nd minute, and defended his side well.
Carlos Bocanegra, 8 -- Didn't put a foot wrong, and won everything in the air.
Oguchi Onyewu, 7 -- The only blight on Onyewu's day was a foolish yellow card he received in the first half. He'll need to iron that out when the games get bigger. Otherwise he delivered an authoritative performance.
Steve Cherundolo, 7 -- Got into the attack well, and produced a fine cross that Ching nodded home for his second goal.
DaMarcus Beasley, 7 -- Showed off his range of passing, and was a near constant threat on the right side of midfield. He also missed a glorious chance in the 84th minute. Like it mattered.
Pablo Mastroeni, 8 -- Kept the U.S. attack ticking over early on, and might have claimed a goal of his own if not for Ching's deflection. He went off injured after just 26 minutes. Michael Bradley, 8 -- It took a while for Bradley to find his rhythm again once Mastroeni left the match, but he really took over in the second half, winning everything in the midfield. He also gave his dad a nice Father's Day gift with a scrappy goal.Landon Donovan, 7 -- His free kick goal in the second half killed off what little resistance was left in the visitors. Clint Dempsey, 7 -- Can't really have too many complaints on a day in which he scored two goals, but his passing could have been sharper. Still, his opening goal set the rout in motion.Brian Ching, 7 -- Looked like he wasn't on the same page as his teammates in the first half, but gradually began to find the range with his passing. He took his second goal well. Now let's see him do it against a more challenging opponent.SubsFreddy, Adu, 6 -- Actually had a bit of a nightmare in the first half, but rallied to produce a much better showing in the second, because his passing was much better.
Eddie Lewis, 7 -- He came in and helped the U.S. go in for the kill. He's probably still wondering how his header in the 73rd minute didn't go in.
Eddie Johnson, 7 -- It might have been Barbados, but you have to say that Johnson played well, scoring on a fine header and passing the ball smartly.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet. He also writes for Center Line soccer and can be reached at email@example.com.