U.S. men shake off early deficit to drub St. Vincent in WC qualifier.
By Robert Wagman
ST. LOUIS (Friday, November 13, 2015) -- The United States men expected an easy time and the 6-1 victory over tiny St. Vincent and the Grenadines would seem to fit the bill in tonight’s CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Semifinal Round opener at baseball’s Busch Stadium before a near sellout crowd of 43,433.
However, the Americans and their fans spent the first half hour under extreme stress after stress, first falling behind in the fifth minute on midfielder Oalax Anderson’s well-placed strike.
Forward Bobby Wood egualized for the U.S. six minutes later, but the Americans did not take the lead until the 29th minute on a goal by midfielder Fabian Johnson and added breathing room two minutes later when striker Jozy Altidore scored the first of his two goals.
After taking its improbable lead, St. Vincent, pretty much a semi-pro side, rarely got the ball into the U.S. end. The Americans held a 19-2 shots advantage, 10-2 on frame.
St. Vincent goalkeeper Winslow McDowall made five saves to keep his team from suffering an even worse defeat.
The U.S. came out playing a bit differently. Although listed on the score sheet as a midfielder, DeAndre Yedlin actually played at right back, but pushed forward into the right side of the midfield whenever he could. Meanwhile, Johnson, listed as a defender, played very offensively-minded on the right side -- much as he plays for 1860 München, his club team in Germany.
The Americans were shocked and embarrassed when Anderson picked up a loose ball, went left to right into the middle and curled a shot around keeper Brad Guzan for the opening goal.
Wood used a precise header off a cross from Yedlin to erase the U.S. deficit.
The U.S. continued to attack directly After narrowly missing several times, the Americans went ahead 2-1 in the 29th minute, after Altidore had been pulled down just outside the penalty area. Johnson’s free kick caromed off St. Vincent forward Reginal Richardson and coromed into the right corner of the net.
Two minutes later, Johnson’s right-side corner kick found Altidore at the far post and he calmly headed it home for his 30 th international goal and a 3-1 lead.
The U.S. ended the half ahead on shots 11-1.
The Americans picked up where they left off to start the second half, narrowly missing twice. The, Wood got his head on a corner kick, sending it across the box to defender Jeff Cameron, who converted for a 4-1 margin.
Midfielder Gyasi Zardes made it 5-1, taking a pass from Altidore and slotting it under St. Vincent keeper Winslow McDowall.
Altidore closed the scoring in the 74th minute with some nifty footwork and a quick turn in the box before lifting a shot over McDowell.
In laying out the field, the pitcher’s mound, base paths and infield was covered with sod soon after the baseball season ended and had time to grow in, making it pitch playable. By coming right up against the seats at one corner, organizers were able to lay a regulation width field, but the field ended up four yards short. A waiver was obtained from world governing FIFA body to allow the facility to be used.
It was apparent that many of the St. Vincent players were looking at this and other qualifiers as the equivalent of a tryout for Major League Soccer teams. Only one of those on the roster is playing professionally, Anderson, the opening goal scorer, who plays for Seattle Sounders’ second-division club. St. Vincent coach Cornelius Huggins said before the match he understood this, but hoped he convinced his team it could make a better impression with a win.
The Americans travel to Trinidada and Tobago for a Tuesday qualifier, at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. The game will be televised at 6:25 p.mp. (ET) by beIN Sports and Spanish-language NBC Universo.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 6: He had almost nothing to do. He could not be faulted on the shocking St. Vincent goal, but then made a good save on the early shot in the second half that the visitors triggered.
Defender Tim Ream - 5.5: As with others on the back-line, he was rarely put under much pressure, but he kept his position and dealt with some pace he was facing. He still managed to get forward on occasion.
Defender Matt Besler - 6: He was rarely out of position and he held forth in the center of the back-line as other went forward. A fine game.
Defender Geoff Cameron - 6.5: While not under any pressure, he still managed to do good defensive work, holding the ball in the St. Vincent end and managing to score a nice goal off a set piece.
Defender Fabian Johnson - 6.5: Listing him as a defender was a misnomer. He played midfield and a very offensive midfield at that. He was very good in controlling play and in scoring a fine goal on a free kick. Midfield is clearly his best position.
Midfielder DeAndre Yedlin – 6: He managed a nice assist on the first U.S. goal and did a lot of hard work in the middle, helping the Americans maintain possession.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 6: His typical high energy performance. Assisting on one goal, hewas involved on two others while helping to shut down an opposing attack.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6:An interesting game. With Johnson providing quite a bit of the offense in the middle, Bradley was able to lay back and, with Jones, provide the defensive cover without having to expend much energy. Hopefully, he saved it for Tuesday’s qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago.
Midfielder Gyasi Zardes - 6: With Wood running with Altidore on top, Zardes was freed to play behind them in a way in which he is more effective. He had a good goal and was involved in two others.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 7.5: He had two goals and an assist in the kind of game Klinsmann’s hopes he can deliver regularly. His best international showing in a while.
Forward Bobby Wood - 6: Certainly his best showing since the friendly against Germany last summer. He scored a good goal to open things for the U.S. and then one credited assist, plus he was a key factor in another. His best performance for the Americans.
Midfielder Darlington Nagbe (63rd minute for Johnson) - 6.5: Klinsmann accomplished tow things. He gave Nagbe his first international cap while tying him to the U.S. for the future. It took a bit for him to settle in, but over the final 15 minutes, he made some good passes while also stopping balls coming through the middle.
Defender Matt Miazga (63rd minute for Cameron) - 5.5: He had little to do, but kept his positioning and seemed to fit into a match that was all but over by the time he came in.
Forward Jordan Morris (78th minute for Wood) - 5: He was active and made several decent passes.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Jozy Altidore.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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