u.s. soccer  soccerU.S. soccer

feedback

ESPN

SoccerTimes
front page

Visit to Hamburg City Hall follows easy day of training.

Americans again have trouble scoring, but McBride finishes Latvia.

U.S. reserves have little difficulty in disposing of Venezuela.

Knee injury shelves Gibbs, Berhalter joins World Cup effort; Reyna appears OK.

Americans have causes for concern after loss to Morocco.

Reyna, Keller are each named to their fourth World Cup team.

Poor U.S. effort leads to disappointing 1-1 draw with Jamaica.

Donovan becomes leader in career assists as U.S. draws 1-1 with Jamaica.

U.S. defense collapses, Germany hands rout to depleted Americans.

Hejduk has strained hamstring, is replaced by Feilhaber on roster for Germany match.

Donovan scratched for game against Germany with calf ailment.

Dempsey dropped from Germany roster after suspension by Revs for fight.

Gulati is acclaimed new USSF president; board size is slashed.

Three games in May are scheduled as final World Cup prep.

U.S. game against Jamaica in Cary, N.C., sells out quickly.

Twellman's hustle sets up Dempsey's opportunistic header to beat Poland 1-0.

U.S. victory over Poland is welcome, but not particularly satisfying.

Arena selections for Poland game give hints of World Cup roster.

Klein's goal, pair of assists lead 4-0 rout of Guatemala.

Section sponsored by American Airlines! Please support our site by visiting our sponsors!
Please visit our sponsors!
  • World Cup television schedule.
  • World Cup standings, schedule, results.
  • Koller, Rosicky lead Czechs to 3-0 World Cup rout of Americans.

    Analysis

    With stakes high, U.S. comes out flat and is thrashed by Czechs.

    By Robert Wagman
    SoccerTimes

    GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (Monday, June 12, 2006) -- The United State men played a very ordinary match tonight against one of the world's best teams. The result was predictable -- a 3-0 loss to the powerful Czech Republic in the World Cup Group E opener before 52,000, a beyond-capacity crowd at Arena AufSchalke.

    In the World Cup, there is no room for ordinary. In obviously their most important match since the 2002 Cup, the Americans came out flat and paid the price. With the talented Czechs playing with a purpose, the U.S. became the only team to lose by three goals in the first four days of the tournament, the minus-three goal differential a real problem should the Americans need the benefit of a tiebreaker to advance at the end of group play.

    To advance to the knockout round, it is pretty clear the U.S. must defeat Italy Saturday and Ghana June 22.

    The U.S. came into the match with certain defined goals and failed to accomplish any of them. Foremost, on defense, the U.S. aim was to keep men on Czech midfield playmaker Tomas Rosicky so he could not hold the ball and direct traffic, close down passing lanes between Rosicky and winger Pavel Nedved, and to tightly mark huge 6-foor-7 striker Jan Koller, denying him the ball.

    On offense, the plan was to counterattack quickly, hoping to catch the Czechs losing their shape when they threw numbers forward. Then too, the U.S. wanted to spread the field offensively so as to put one-on-one pressure of the Czech's somewhat questionable back-line.

    While the U.S. failed to execute its plan, the Czech Republic ran its to perfection.

    The opening goal came quickly for the Czechs who caught the U.S. out of position. American goalkeeper Kasey Keller took possession and sent the ball upfield where no teammates were in place to to receive it. The Czechs took possession and quickly found right back Zdenek Grygera, who had advanced without an American in the vicinity, deep into the right corner. Though defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Eddie Pope were near, the towering Koller used a slight shove to create space on Pope, while the 6-4 Onyewu was helplessly five yards away when Koller rocketed a header to the left side of the net from five yards, past the helpless Keller.

    While the U.S. was focused on preventing Rosicky, the playmaker, from distributing to Nedved and midfield partner Karel Poborsky, Rosicky turned the tables to score a pair of beautiful goals in the 36th and 76th minutes.

    For all of the U.S. shortcomings -- among them, lack of movement, both with and without the ball -- manager Bruce Arena pointed to Koller's early tally as the game's turning point in the lopsided loss.

    "We were behind the eight ball from the start," Arena said. "I'm very disappointed in the performance of a number of our players over 90 minutes. The better team won today, but give (the Czechs) credit. They took advantage of every mistake we made."

    The U.S. did try to spread the field with DaMarcus Beasley on the right flank and Bobby Convey on the left both playing extremely wide, but the Czechs looked prepared for the tactic and used diagonal runs to force the Americans midfielders more into the middle.

    In an unusually frank public assessment of his players, Arena was particularly critical of Beasley and midfielder Landon Donovan for subpar efforts. "Landon showed no aggressiveness tonight," the manager said. "We got nothing out of Beasley on the night.

    "I think our better players on the night were (midfielder and captain) Claudio (Reyna), I think Gooch (Oguchi Onyewu) had a pretty solid game, I thought Bobby Convey at least had the courage to attack, one of our few players who did. Everybody else -- their performances weren't good. . . Not enough players took the initiative. We didn't get too many good performances and that's obviously why we lost."

    Despite Arena's plaudits, Onyewu had a rough night. Playing in his first World Cup match and making only his 13th overall international appearance, Onyewu's crude tackle earned a yellow card in the fourth minute. A minute later, he seemed caught in no-man's land when Koller put the Czechs ahead for good.

    In the 36th minute, Onyewu's weak -- and poorly directed -- clearing header went to Rosicky's feet and he immediately laced a fading shot into the net from 30 yards for a 2-0 lead. In the second half, when Rosicky raced through the U.S. back-line to beat Keller one-on-one, Onyewu had a chance for a tackle, but instead watched the Czech run by.

    Both sides started in essentially 4-5-1 formations with single strikers. This clogged the midfield, but the Czechs, with slashing runs by Nedved, Rosicky and the aging Poborsky, were able to create space for themselves, while the U.S. players showed little initiative.

    The Czech defense played better than the U.S. expected, particularly Marek Jankulovski and Tomas Ujfalusi. The U.S. had few quality chances beyond Reyna hitting the left post on a hard shot that beat keeper Petr Cech in the 28th minute. Had the shot gone six inches to the right, there would have been a 1-1 tie and the course of the match might have been entirely different. Instead, the Americans appeared deflated by their bad luck.

    In the second half, the U.S. removed a defender and brought in striker Eddie Johnson, who gave his team a lift, but ultimately didn't affect the outcome.

    Arena was harsh in his comments about Donovan, who had some nice touches but, as a team leader, was often passive and failed to force the action.

    "To be fair, we got beat by a pretty good team," Donovan said. "I don't think we played that terribly. I thought we were a little bit lifeless, a little bit unlucky. But they scored three pretty good goals. Not enough guys came to play and that's what mattered. I didn't think I played badly, but in 45 minutes playing as a forward,.I didn't have a shot and that's not good. I didn't get the ball much."

    Beyond Reyna's effort, the U.S. managed only one shot on goal among its five shots. The Cezchs only had five of 10 shots go on target.

    The Czech lineup was formidable despite playing without forward Milan Baros, who helped Liverpool win the 2005 Champions League and was Euro 2004's top scorer. The 24-year-old striker hurt his foot in a friendly with Trinidad & Tobago last week. Meanwhile, Koller injured his right hamstring when tackled by Onyewu in the 42nd minute and he declared himself out for Saturday's meeting with Ghana, if not for longer, a clear blow to the Czechs' title hopes.

    In the end, tonight, the Czech Republic would have beaten most teams with its performance tonight, but its job was made much easier by the American's lacking effort.


    U.S. Player Ratings:

    Starters

    Goalkeeper Kasey Keller - 5: He has provided so much magic for the U.S. over the years, but tonight he had none, though he certainly could have done little to stop any of the goals. Arena was critical of Keller's distribution in the prelude to the Czechs' first goal.

    Defender Steve Cherundolo - 5: Did alright defensively, but made little headway bringing the ball into the attacking zone. Was taken out at halftime, replaced by a striker, in a tactical move to generate more offense.

    Defender Eddie Pope - 5: Giving up six inches and nearly 50 pounds, he could not match up physically to the 6-7, 230-pound Koller, who pushed him out of the way for the decisive early tally. Did some good work, tracking back on a couple of occasions to disrupt dangerous Czech thrusts, but certainly fell short of what was hoped for him.

    Defender Oguchi Onyewu - 4.5 His dumb early caution from a clumsy challenge caused an early disadvantage. A minute later, he laid off Koller who put the Czechs ahead for good less than five minutes in. Was also culpable to some degree on other Czech goals, but did have some strong defensive moments.

    Defender Eddie Lewis - 5: At times, he was the only U.S. defender in position to make a play, especially when the Americans went to three backs in the second half. Was caught far up-field on the first and decisive Czech goal and did not provide much of a positive impact.

    Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni - 4.5: Had a few good moments before being removed at intermission, but had some problems defensively and did not contribute much to the attack. He did not have an answer for the slashing runs being made by the Czech midfield.

    Midfielder Bobby Convey - 5: Singled out by Arena for his aggressiveness, but seemed to pout, at times, when he didn't get the ball. When he did, he was one of few Americans to take on the Czechs, but these runs had little effect.

    Midfielder Claudio Reyna - 6: Pushed the attack and had a couple of quality chances, but couldn't do it by himself. He could have changed the course of the match when he caught the left post with a 25-yard shot through traffic, but luck was not on his side.

    Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 4: Did use his speed well at times, but he was not aggressive and repeatedly was victim of a poor first touch. Overall, a poor performance.

    Forward Landon Donovan - 4.5: As is often the case, he disappeared for long periods. When he needed a top performance, he turned in one of considerably less quality. Now has not scored in his last 16 appearances with the national team

    Forward Brian McBride - 5: Received little service and had little impact on the match. He was often double-teamed and took a beating as he worked hard.

    Reserves:

    Midfielder John O'Brien (46th minute for Mastroeni) - 5: Played a hard 45 minutes, but didn't make much of an impact.

    Forward Eddie Johnson (46th minute for Steve Cherundolo) 5.5: Injected life into the U.S. attack and had a couple of good chances, making a statement he belongs in the starting lineup.

    Forward Josh Wolff (76th minute for Brian McBride) 5: Was active, but with little effect.

    Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent. E-mail Robert Wagman.

    Do you have a comment on this story or something to say about soccer in general? Send us a letter.

    ©Copyright 2006 SoccerTimes.com. All Rights Reserved