(Sunday, January 20, 2008) -- The United States men started 2008 on a positive note with a somewhat lackluster 2-0 victory over visiting Sweden at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
U.S. Player Ratings:
The U.S. received a first-half goal from defender Eddie Robinson, in his first international appearance, off a scramble in the penalty area following a corner kick, and doubled its advantage when striker Landon Donovan converted a penalty kick after intermission. That was enough as the Swedes, except for a stretch late in the first half, did little and seemed tired after their 1-0 midweek victory over host Costa Rica in the Central; American city of San Jose.
The Americans went into its first training camp of the year searching for answers about their attack. For the most part, its scoring in 2007 had been set plays or because of opponents' defensive errors. U.S. coach Bob Bradley has not been able to find a strike force that meshes well with his midfield and that has to be his primary concern going into World Cup qualifying this summer.
This opening match did little to solve his problem. Again the American margin of victory came off a set play and a penalty kick. There was an nearly total lack of cohesion by the U.S. on offense, except in the opening 15 minutes or so when Sweden's slow start allowed the Americans all kinds of room in the midfield.
"We had a very good start to the game, and we had a lot of energy," Bradley said. "We lost a little bit of that at the end of the first half, and (Sweden) responded well. They tilted the game, but in the flow of the game, there are going to be these moments. We try to make our guys understand that they still need to stay organized, still need to be ready when a team is coming at you. Sweden is very consistent in their approach. They play as a team and have a great understanding. Even when (Sweden) is missing a lot of players, they don't miss a beat as a group."
Both teams used players who might comprise their "B" teams with both coaches looking for players to fill their rosters when serious competitions begin this summer. On the Swedish side, only goalkeeper Rami Shaaban and midfielder Daniel Andersson are first-team starters. Add to that up-and-coming Niclas Alexandersson, who played the first half, and might break into the first team by the time Euro 2008 starts this summer.
For the U.S., only Donovan figures to be a starter when World Cup qualifying commences.
Perhaps the two players that Bradley most wanted to see in action last night were not present. Defender Danny Califf, who has a chance to break into the first team as a defensive backup, suffered a mild hamstring strain in training and did not dress. More importantly, striker Eddie Johnson, who many hope will be the answer on the front line, was allowed to depart camp and go to England to try to earn a work permit, allowing him to transfer from Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards to Fulham of the English Premier League.
Bradley might have hoped for more from some of his players. Now the U.S. moves on to a February 6 meeting with Mexico in Houston on an international match date that will allow both teams to be at or near full strength.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 6: Came up big on three occasions when the defense in front of him faltered. Had a strong match which could boost his chances of moving from MLS's Chivas USA to Europe, even before the end of the January transfer window.
Defender - Drew Moor 5.5: Did well at times moving forward and making good passes. Had a few problems defensively, but overall a positive night.
Defender Eddie Robinson - 5.5: In his belated national-team debut scored a opportunistic goal and mostly did well on defense. Had some problems late in the half when his fitness seemed to come into question.
Defender Jimmy Conrad - 5: As the veteran in the back four, probably should have organized things better. Allowed the Swedes several dangerous short-range chances.
Defender Ramiro Corrales - 5.5: Appears to be a stronger player after his three years at SK Brann in Norway. Showed good fitness over the full 90 minutes and probably warrants a further look on the left side at a position the U.S. has had problems filling recently.
Midfielder Ricardo Clark - 5: Was called on to play 90 minutes after a long layoff from competition because of his MLS suspension. At times, he was not sharp, but overall did probably a bit better than might have been expected.
Midfielder Maurice Edu - 5.5:: Had some very good moments, but his inexperience showed in his inability to make key passes. He will gain valuable experience with the U.S. under-23s this year and obviously has a bright future.
Midfielder Landon Donovan - 6.5: Became the all-time U.S. leading goal-getter with 35, passing Eric Wynalda. Was very active and clearly the best player on either side. Might have been a little more direct in attacking, but a solid early-season performance
Midfielder Brad Davis - 6: Boosted his chances of making the roster when the important matches begin later this year. He crossed the ball and took corners with accuracy, and moved back into the defense when it was necessary.
Forward Taylor Twellman - 5: Same story as we have seen on the national level of late. He received no service to speak of, so he was not at all effective. He did not do much off the ball after the opening 15-or-so minutes.
Forward Pat Noonan - 5: Was the more effective than Twellman up front, but still did not add a great deal to the somewhat anemic U.S. attack in the first half.
Defender Michael Parkhurst (46th minute for Robinson) - 4.5: Did not make any major errors, but appeared shaky at times and lacked organization.
Defender Clarence Goodson (46th minute for Conrad) - 5: Used his height well on balls in the air. Probably did well enough under the circumstances.
Forward Josmer Altidore (46th minute for Twellman) - 5.5: Did well at times, forcing the foul that led to the Donovan's penalty kick. Caused some problems for the Swedes, but did not create enough for himself. Looked good, though, for so early in the year.
Forward Chris Rolfe (63rd minute for Noonan) - 5: Dif little with his half-hour opportunity against a tiring opponent and did not make much of an impact.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan (72nd minute for Davis) - 4.5: Did fine defensively, but added little to the already disorganized U.S. attack.
Midfielder Jeremiah White (81st minute for Donovan) -- 5: Match was essentially over by the time he got it. His fresh legs made him a threat but, by this time, the U.S. was just trying to kill off the match.
SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Landon Donovan.