Wednesday, March 01, 2006

US 1 - 0 Poland

That first half looked real ugly, but somehow the US was just good enough to keep any balls from finding net. Not that Poland had many chances, but they were the better team for the first 45-minutes.

The US was lost in the first, but the Bruce helped them find themselves for the second 45. They came out and went on the attack. This attacking lead right to the lucky goal by Clint Dempsey. I'm not trying to take anything away from the goal because all goals have some sort of luck with them, but had Twellman's head been just an inch in any other direction, the redirection of the goaltender's punch would not have found Dempsey on the right side.

Thankfully, this goal did not cause the US to sit back and let Poland come at them. Instead, they took control of the midfield and controlled the tempo of the game. They also started playing both sides of the field.

At no point did either team dominate the match, but the US did control the second half to a greater degree then Poland controlled the first. Minutes 55 to 75 saw the best overall play by the American side. They were freely passing the ball and were able to quickly stop any counters by Poland. Oddly enough, this was also the time when the snow was falling the hardest.

Still, even when the US was at their best, their timing seemed to be a little off. The number of attempted headers that were just missed and the number of passes that were just a bit out-of-reach was shocking. They also gave up 4 or 5 free kicks near their box. Thankfully, at no point was Poland able to make use of those kicks, but to expect the same outcome during the World Cup would be silly.

If I had to pick the best US player of the night, I would go with Oguchi Onyewu. When the US was doing less then well in the first half, it was his aggressive play that kept the team out of some serious trouble. All and all, I think that first half would have been much worse without his play.

The other players that stood out most for me was Bobby Convey (pictured), who came in for DaMarcus Beasley in the 71st, and Eddie Lewis. Convery managed to muscle control more then a few times while Lewis showed that he is learning his position. Twellman also did some shinning, but most of that was on defensive play.

This was not the best game the US has played, but it showed a lot. The main thing is that they now know that they can win close games in Europe under less then ideal conditions. To have success in June and July, they will need to replicate this feat. All and all, there is a lot to be happy about with this snow-covered match.


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