Thursday, March 13, 2008

Olympic Qualifying - Can the US pull it together?

US - Panama
8pm ET
TV - Fox Soccer Channel

The US U-23s return to the pitch tonight looking to improve on their poor form from Tuesday. Although the team does not have to win to make it into the next round, anything short of a full three points will make it very difficult to sneak by.

With group mates Honduras and Panama all but assured of three points from their remaining games with Cuba, the US is looking at a -2 point weight around their necks (this is because the US only earned 1 point from their Cuba experience. Add to this the goal difference both Honduras and Panama are likely to run up against Cuba and the US has an even bigger mess on their hands).

To make up these points, the team must figure out a way to control the midfield and finish the chances that appear in front of them. My personal suggestion, don't let Freddy Adu be the only quality player on the pitch.

Panama didn't show much in their match against Honduras other then a great ability to lose the ball in the final third (to be fair, Honduras showed much the same), so Nowak and his squad should have time to settle and make some dangerous plays.

Still there is the question of the wing play. With both Davis and Findley having bad nights in the opening match (and with just 48 hours off since their last game), Nowak will need to find a way to seal these gaps.

With Panama likely to play a very defensive game, Altidore is going to need a lot of help up top. If the US can use their speed and overall better stock of players to sneak balls into the box, a full three points will be their reward. However, if they continue to turn the ball over and fail to show a good center, don't be surprised to see the team end the night tied with Cuba on points.

Concerning the other game on the night, I wonder if Cuba will be able to keep Honduras under 7 goals. With most of their starting 11 now calling the US home, it's going to be a crap night for the team.

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