(Sunday, July 5, 2009) -- The United States men opened defense of two consecutive CONCACAF Gold Cup titles with an easy 4-0 victory over a vastly outmanned Grenada in Group B yesterday before a somewhat disappointing crowd of only 15,387 at Qwest Field in Seattle.
U.S. Player Ratings
There are two central facts of the match to understand before determining how the U.S. played. First, this Grenada squad is certainly among the weakest teams the Americans have ever played in a meaningful match. Then too, the squad fielded by U.S. coach Bob Bradley had never played together before and only had the benefit of a few practices.
The game was filled with instances of good passes to no one or wide-open players who did not receive service. It saw many times when players passed when they should have shot or shot when they should have passed to a unmarked teammate. This was completely understandable, but the Americans hope that by the time this group has several games under its belt and reaches the knockout stages of this competition, they will be playing together more as a team and eliminate many of the mistakes so evident against Grenada.
The game got off to a bright and somewhat hopeful start with Grenada playing somewhat straight up and the U.S. going on the attack from the opening kickoff. Left midfielder Robbie Rogers, clearly the best American tonight, took the ball down the left flank and cut to the middle, beating a pair of defenders before pulling the ball back to advancing striker Freddie Adu, who calmly shot inside the right post to make it 1-0 in the seventh minute.
Over the next 10 minutes, some sharp play by the U.S. resulted in several near misses. But Grenada did not look disheartened and in the 24th minute, Kithson Bain struck a sharp header that looked headed for a tying goal before American goalkeeper Troy Perkins made a nice stop with what proved his only save of the match.
The match turned completely five minutes later when U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden scored on a goal-mouth scramble to increase the lead to 2-0. From that point on, Grenada gave up any pretext of trying to score and went into a defensive shell, trying to hold down the U.S. margin of victory. In a tournament where two third-place teams from the three four-nation groups advance to the quarterfinals, goal differential can become quite important and Grenada packed its final third of the field to try to keep the Americans from inflicting further damage.
The U.S. defense was never really put under any pressure whatsoever. It was not until the American attack reached the final third did it meet any resistance with Grenada then defending in numbers.
On the hour, Rogers added a goal after taking a long pass from midfielder Logan Pause for a 3-0 advantage. In the 68th minute,.striker Charlie Davies, the lone U.S. player who had also played in the recently completed Confederations Cup, ran onto a long ball from the back for a 4-0 bulge.
In an outing in which the Americans had about 80 percent of the possession, they perhaps could be faulted for only scoring four goals. Given the inexperience of the team and the lack of playing time together, the result seemed satisfactory. A tougher test awaits Wednesday against Honduras at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., but the Hondurans are without key players who appeared in a 2-1 U.S. World Cup qualifying win June 6 in Chicago.
Honduras defeated Haiti 1-0 last night in the other Group B game.
Goalkeeper Troy Perkins - 6: Made the only save he was called on to make.
Defender Steve Cherundolo - 6.5: The biggest news of the night was that Cherundolo seems to be healing well after his hip injury and surgery in April. Only able to go for an hour, but pushed forward well and looks on his way back into the first team lineup.
Defender Chad Marshall - 6: early, when Grenada made some pretense of attacking, he looked sharp and he set up the final goal with a nice pass over the top. A good appearance in keeping with the fine Major League Soccer season he is having.
Defender Clarence Goodson - 5.5: Playing as he does in northern Europe, he is not a familiar face with the U.S. squad, but he was steady all night. It will be interesting to see how he responds under greater pressure..
Defender Heath Pearce - 5.5: A player seeking redemption after losing his job in Germany and with the U.S. first team, he did fine under the circumstances. Did not face much pressure.
Midfielder Stuart Holden - 6: Got a goal in his first outing with his national team. Overall, he played well and worked hard all night.
Midfielder Logan Pause - 5.5: At times, he seemed to be trying to find his way, but overall he played well. Was not pressure often.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6: Was the defensive stopper early when there was a bit of a Grenadian attack. Might be faulted for some errant passing, but his work rate was good and he was impressive at times.
Midfielder Robbie Rogers - 7: Easily the best U.S. player. He owned the left side, setting up the first two goals and then scoring the third. Made a statement that he deserves a greater consideration for inclusion with the first team.
Forward Freddy Adu - 6: The usual confounding appearance by the mercurial Adu. He scored a well-taken goal, a brilliant post-hitting attempt. At times, he showed a mature and wonderful reading of the game, but made very questionable decisions at other times. A high work rate with little to show for it over stretches. A typical performance for him.
Forward Charlie Davies - 6.5: Scored a nice goal and displayed a high work rate until he started to tire. At times, he was a victim of lack of service, but that should improve as the tournament goes forward.
Defender Brad Evans (63rd minute for Cherundolo) - 5.5: Normally a midfielder, he came in as the right-side defender, but with the back-line under no pressure, essentially played as a midfielder. Pushed forward, but had little effect on the match.
Midfielder Davy Arnaud (70th minute for Davies) - 5: A player with a lot to prove, he came in as an attacking midfielder, but had little luck against the packed-in defense
Defender Michael Parkhurst (72nd minute for Goodson) - 5: Saw little action in the center of the defense, so any real judgment will have to wait..
SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Robbie Rogers.