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May 26, 2010

U.S. defense weak in World Cup warmup

Associated Press
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EAST HARTFORD, Conn. -- If a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic in Tuesday night's World Cup warmup was tough for the United States to take, now comes an even more difficult spell: Coach Bob Bradley will cut seven players to trim his roster to FIFA's 23-man limit.

"We're all nervous," Herculez Gomez said, "anxiously awaiting Bob's decision."

DaMarcus Beasley was a sharp bundle of energy, Gomez and Maurice Edu got all-important goals, and Edson Buddle was a strong man in front, blood dripping from his lip. Defender Oguchi Onyewu looked shaky in his first game since knee surgery last October.

Czech Republic, USA
Stew Milne/US PresswireCzech Republic goalie Petr Cech (1) and defender David Lafata (20) attempt to clear a ball as U.S. forward Edson Buddle (29) heads a ball to midfielder Maurice Edu, left, for a goal.

Evaluation time is over. Bradley will hold one-on-one meetings Wednesday morning, then take the remaining 23 players over a few miles to ESPN's campus in Bristol for the nationally televised announcement at about 1:20 p.m. Then, the team will fly to Washington for a White House meeting on Thursday morning with President Barack Obama.

"This was another chance for guys on the edge to prove they belong on that plane to go to South Africa," said midfielder Stuart Holden, the best player on the field of a U.S. lineup that lacked stars Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. They were given the night off so Bradley could evaluate players on the bubble.

While Edu and Gomez each got their first international goals, Heath Pearce, Clarence Goodson and Steve Cherundolo struggled on defense along with Edu, who started in the midfield and moved back.

Before a crowd of 36,218 at Rentschler Field, Edu scored in the 17th minute only to have the Czechs surge ahead on goals by Tomas Sivok in the 44th minute and Jan Polak in the 58th.

Making just his third international appearance and first in three years, Gomez entered at the start of the second half and tied it in the 65th when he beat goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Martin Fenin broke the tie when against backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 78th after Pearce, Goodson and Cherundolo all failed to clear a ball in front. Tomas Necid got the final goal in the 90th after Edu jumped and failed to clear a pass, giving Necid an open path to the goal.

"A lot of energy at times. A little bit crazy," Bradley said. "In the process of trying to put so much into it I think at times we left ourselves wide open."

That was understandable given the pressure on players uncertain of World Cup trips. By time the Americans play Turkey in Philadelphia on Saturday, a day before the U.S. teams leaves South Africa, the roster will have solidified.

"You can only imagine when they come off the field, the emotions. Guys know we're now at a point where some tough decisions need to be made," Bradley said.

Once in Africa, the U.S. has a final exhibition against Australia on June 5, one week before the big opener against England in a rematch of the famous American upset in the 1950 World Cup.

Beasley hopes to be there for his third World Cup.

"It's a bit nerve-racking not knowing what's going to happen, but you just try your best all the time and take it from there," he said. "I feel confident and I'm having fun and I hope to keep it going."

He was dropped from the team after last June's Confederations Cup, then returned in March,

"It's been a good camp for DaMarcus," Bradley said. "I think he's shown his teammates again that there's, you know, a renewed commitment to everything."

Onyewu played 65 minutes, the first game appearance for the 6-foot-4 defender since he tore his left patellar tendon in the last World Cup qualifier on Oct. 14. Gooch was outjumped to a header on the goal by Sivok, a player 3 inches shorter, who put the ball past backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

"I didn't feel rusty at all," Onyewu said. "I don't think there was any moment in the game that the speed got over me. I think I neutralized their strikers and they didn't get anything on me."

Buddle, making his second national team appearance and first in seven years, headed -- or shouldered -- Holden's free kick on for Edu's goal and needed two stitches to close a cut on his lip. He showed more than Eddie Johnson, the other starting forward.

"My attitude has been just to work hard," Buddle said. "

Edu, who became a regular for Glasgow Rangers by the end of the season, scored his first goal in 13 international appearances. Wearing the new white home jersey echoing the one worn by the 1950 team, Edu followed with a "Stanky Leg" dance.

"That was for my man Charlie Davies," he said, "who, obviously, didn't make it here."

Notes

A fan ran halfway across the field in first-half injury time and quickly was detained. ... The Czechs beat the U.S. 3-0 at the 2006 World Cup and failed to qualify for this year's tournament. ... D Chad Marshall and F Robbie Findley didn't play, an indication they may be cut.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press