U.S. men's schedule, results
Note to readers: A system malfunction caused correspondent Harris King to lose e-mail sent to him in response to his interview with Gregg Berhalter. He would like readers to resend e-mail from the past week.
O'Brien returns to Ajax, playing for reserves in Amstel Cup.
and Harris King (in Bamberg, Germany)
(Tuesday, December 23, 2003) -- It was only a reserve-team match, but United States midfielder John O'Brien was back on the field in the Netherlands, playing 72 minutes for visiting Ajax II which fell 1-0 to FC Twente in the fourth round of the Amstel Cup.
O'Brien played surprising well considering it was his first action since May. The match was scoreless when O'Brien departed, but then Twente scored the decisive goal after an ugly scene in which the referee stopped the match for more than 20 minutes so police could get control of the Twente crowd after a disputed call on the field. The match should have resumed with a throw-in, but the referee was confused and restarted with a corner kick that led to a goal past a disorganized Ajax defense.
In England's Premier League, U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel did what he could to keep Blackburn Rovers in the match, but his teammates put forth their worst effort of the season in falling 2-0 at home.
In the first hour Friedel made strong stops on Lee Hendrie, Juan Pablo Angel twice, Gareth Barry and Gavin McCann, but in the 62nd minute, Dion Dublin's long free-kick was headed on by Angel. As the ball bounced into the penalty area, Friedel waited for defender Vratislav Gresko to clear, but Hendrie got to it first, headed it across the box where a unmarked Stefan Moore put it in for a 1-0 lead
Friedel continued to play well, denying Darius Vassell, but in the 75th minute, Vassell crossed from the left and Angel beat his marker to power the ball past Friedel to make it 2-0.
After the match, Blackburn boss Graeme Souness raged at his players, calling their performance the worst he had witnessed during his time at the club. "In the three-and-a-half years I have been here, that's the worst performance by far," He said. "If you were a paying customer as a Blackburn Rovers supporter you would feel robbed."
Tottenham Hotspur just went on of its worst weeks in recent memory, but little blame for three losses cannot be placed on U.S. keeper Kasey Keller who did well in all three matches.
On December 13, Tottenham lost 4-0 to Newcastle United. On Wednesday, Spurs went out of the Carling Cup, losing the quarterfinal 5-4 in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw at home with Middlesbrough.
Tottenham then lost 2-1 at Manchester United Sunday.
The mid-week Carling Cup quarterfinal loss was typical of a number of Keller's matches this season. He played a terrific match, but Spurs could not generate much offense and went down, this time in a tiebreaker.
Spurs took an early lead when Darren Anderton scored in the second minute and, for much of the afternoon, it looked like Keller would lead them to victory. He made a half dozen saves, the best on Juninho and Michael Ricketts. Then, in the 85th minute, Szilard Nemeth sent George Boateng down the right flank. He crossed and Ricketts beat two defenders to the ball and used his first touch to shoot past a helpless Keller.
Middlesbrough was not done and stormed the goal. Keller denied Ricketts again, sending the match into extra time. Keller made three good saves in the extra 30 minutes, stopping Ricketts again, Juninho and Stewart Downing's fierce volley with a tremendous save.
In penalty kicks, Keller denied Gaizka Mendieta, but Spurs misses twice in six rounds.
On Sunday, Keller faced off for the first time against his U.S. men's teammate Tim Howard, now the keeper for Manchester United which was outraged after defender Rio Ferdinand was suspended for eight months and fined $50,000 for missing a mandatory drug test. (United appealed thus Ferdinand was allowed to play in the hard-fought win over Spurs.)
Early on, Keller stopped Ryan Giggs and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Then Giggs beat two defenders into the middle of the penalty area and got off a hard shot which Keller parried away. Paul Scholes was almost sent through, but he lost out in the race as Keller came quickly off his line to claim the ball.
In the 15th minute, however Spurs gave up a corner kick. The ball fell into the middle of the box, and United defender John O'Shea booted it home for a 1-0 lead.
Nine minutes alter,, a quick Scholes and Giggs played a quick give-and-go and then put van Nistlerooy through just on-side. The Dutch sharpshooter, one of the best finishers in the world, calmly slotted the ball past a helpless Keller to extend United's lead to 2-0.
From that point, United coasted until just after the hour. As is often the case, Howard had little to do behind an inspired Manchester defense. Things changed a bit in the 62nd minute when Gustavo Poyet took a squared ball in the six-yard box and put it past Howard to narrow the deficit to 2-1.
The pace picked up and, two minutes later, Gary Neville sent a dangerous back pass to Howard who had to be alert to beat Roy Keane to the ball. A few minutes from the end, Rohan Ricketts beat two defenders down the right side and triggered a strong shot which Howard deflected and then controlled on the bounce to preserve the victory.
U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna, who has been in and out of Manchester City's starting side, played 90 minutes last night when City dominated Leeds, but needed a late goal to escape with a 1-1 draw.
Reyna was an offensive threat all night with two good chances. Michael Duberry cleared his well-taken shot off the goal line and Reyna sent a shot inches wide. He was also involved with the play that led to Antoine Sibierski's 82nd-minute header that saved the point.
In England's First Division, U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis found himself back in Preston North End's starting side and responded with a goal and an assists in 90 solid minutes in a 5-3 decision over Burnley.
Early, Lewis sent a pinpoint cross to Richard Cresswell whose shot was barely saved by Burnley keeper David May. After the teams traded first-half goals, Lewis scored off a cross from Ricardo Fuller for a 2-1 advantage.
Lewis later assisted on one of Fuller's three goals, the third finally give North End the lead for good, 4-3 in the 82nd minute..
There was little American keeper Marcus Hahnemann could do to help Reading which fell 3-0 to fired-up Crystal Palace. Andrew Johnson and Wayne Routledge found net with close-in shots for a 2-0 lead in the final five minutes past Hahnemann who then made a speculative effort to stop Neil Shipperley, and a good save on Julian Gray.
Johnson's second tally came in stoppage time.
It's been a roller-coaster ride for Hannover 96 and its American defender Steve Cherundolo and it was typified in the club's 2-2 draw with visiting VfL Bochum Wednesday in the Bundeliga. Vahid Hashemian tied the game at 2 in the 75th minute as Bochum twice wiped out Hannover leads.
Silvio Schröter started as the right back, but Cherundolo replaced him after 63 minutes. Schröter, who transferred from Energie Cottbus after last season, has been recovering from a knee injury all season and his start reflected his need of match experience.
Hannover is 5-7-5 with 20 points, in 11th place at the season's halfway point, despite conceding more goals than any team in the league. Hannover is seven points above the relegation zone and, as a rule of thumb, teams that have 40 points will not be in danger of relegation.
The Bundesliga and 2Bundesliga now are on winter break for the next six weeks, though players will only get about two weeks off before reporting for training camps in warmer places like Spain, indoor tournaments and test matches. League play resumes January 31.
After being humiliated 5-0 a week earlier against Bielefeld in the 2Bundesliga, VfL Osnabrück captain, American midfielder Joe Enochs was quoted in the German magazine Kicker as being ashamed of his team's performance and promised a different team would show up for Tuesday's home match against Rot-Weiss Oberhausen.
Osnabrück did indeed play better, but still ended up on the losing end of the 2-0 score in which Enochs went the distance. Osnabrück (4-9-4, 16 points) finds itself at the bottom of the table in the 18-team league. Last year's promotion has all but been forgotten as the team must now face the prospects of improving dramatically or being relegated back to the third-division Regionalliga.
American striker Conor Casey and his Karlsruher SC teammates ended the first half of the season with a 0-0 draw away at fourth-place Aachen (8-4-4, 28) which still hase a game to make up against FC Nürnberg in late January. The draw leaves Karlsruhe (7-4-6, 25 points) in seventh place in the very competitive 2Bundesliga in which eight points separate the top 13 teams and 13 points separate first and last place.
Casey played a full 90 minutes in game that was entertaining despite ending without any goals. Casey was invited to attend the U.S. men;s training camp January 4-18 and will miss the beginning of Karlsruher's preparation for the second half.
Energie Cottbus (8-4-5, 29) and its U.S. defender Gregg Berhalter are tied for first place at the break after their 0-0 draw at Jahn Regensburg. Rot-Weiss Oberhausen is also 8-4-5 and has a goal differential four better than Cottbus, while Nürnberg and Aachen are both 8-4-4, trailing by one point with a game in hand.
The top three teams are promoted, but Cottbus' goal of returning to the 1Bundesliga probably requires improved play on the road. At home Cottbus has earned 19 of a possible 24 points, but only 10 of the possible 27 when traveling.
In the game against Regensburg, Berhalter went the distance, but picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and will sit out the next game as stipulated in league rules.
The Regionalliga is on break until February 28.
In France, U.S. defender Greg Vanney continues to struggle with a groin injury and possibly a hernia, keeping him from Bastia's 3-1 third-round French League Cup loss to Gueugnon and 2-0 Ligue 1 setback to Lille.
In Belgium, American defender Alex Yi did not play for Antwerp which fell to Beveren 3-0.
Robert Wagman is a SoccerTimes senior correspondent and can be e-mailed at email@example.com. Harris King, an American from South Carolina, has lived in Germany for five years. The Business English lecturer at the University of Bamberg can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.