Despite missed chances, U.S., Moore displays top form in mismatch.By Robert Wagman
(Wednesday, August 16, 2000) -- One has to look at the United States 7-0 rout of Barbados tonight as two matches, divided by the two red cards.
The U.S. won both. But in the early going, it showed continued problems finishing. The Americans still managed to build a 2-0 lead before Barbadosí Gus Hurdle was shown red for drilling Cobi Jones in the back of the head with a retaliatory elbow. After the Bajans were down to nine men, it was a walkover, and you can't judge too much by what happened over the final 48 minutes.
Some very good things happened for the U.S. tonight. The biggest, obviously, was the return of striker Joe-Max Moore up front. He dominated from the opening whistle, almost scoring at the nine-second mark and then was robbed by keeper Horace Stout in the 10th minute. This is probably the best any forward has looked for the U.S. in a very, very long time.
Yes, it was Barbados. Yes, it was two men down. But Moore is playing well in a very tough league in Europe and one has to believe, on the basis of tonight, that he is an answer to coach Bruce Arena's prayers.
After the match, Moore told the television audience, "We had a good match. It was a must-win for us, and we got a good win. I wish I had done more, scored some of those early chances. But we knew we had to score goals, and we did." That pretty well sums it up.
Another bright spot tonight for the U.S. was the play of midfielder John O'Brien. He seems to have won a starting job for Ajax of Amsterdam and is now playing with obvious confidence, clearly relishing the Arena scheme where he can do much more offensively than he is allowed to do in the rigid Ajax system.
His play tonight tempered, somewhat, the potential bad news -- the Chris Armas injury. The degree of seriousness wonít be known until the defensive midfielder has an MRI, but he has had medial collateral ligament problems before. If he is out for an extended period, look for O'Brien to step in.
No one really played poorly tonight. There can be a few quibbles. The U.S. scored seven. But a really sharp team, under the circumstances would have had 15. An awful lot of American shots in the second half ended up in the middle of Sam's Army, about 13 rows up. Will those goals come when they are really needed in Mexico City or Port-of-Spain, next spring.
Foxboro Stadium had a pro-U.S. crowd, but 18,334 is about what the News England Revolution draws for Major League Soccer matches on a nice night. Ten thousand more fans might have been expected, even for Barbados.
So chalk up the three points. Now its Guatemala on September 3, when Guatemala will be coming to RFK Stadium in Washington, D..C. without perhaps its two best players: Carlos (El Pescadito) Ruiz, the go-to guy when a big goal is needed, suspended because he received yellow cards is successive matches, and starting central defender Gustavo Cabrera, red-carded last night against Costa Rica.
U.S. player ratings
Goalkeeper Brad Friedel - 8: Yes, he had nothing to do over the last 70 minutes. But in the first 20 when it was still a match, he was sharp, and his distribution was nothing short of sensational. He deserves to be playing in the Englandís Premier League or someone's first division.
Defender David Regis - 6.5: Continues to look more comfortable in Arena's offense. Was solid on defense and pushed forward all over the field offensively. Got on the field for French side Metz over the weekend for the first time in eight months and is just looking better. The tape over his diamond earring studs does look a bit strange.
Defender Eddie Pope - 7: Arena says Pope is starting to look like himself again, and he's right. A very solid match defensively, and a nice goal scored. Still not 100 percent physically and taken out protectively by Arena. But without the MLS playoffs to worry about, will get more time to heal completely.
Defender Gregg Berhalter - 6.5: With Carlos Llamosa and Jeff Agoos still too tender, got the start in the middle and made the most of it. A steady, solid performance. Probably the best he has looked under Arena. Now if he can get his club situation straightened out, should have a productive year.
Defender Tony Sanneh - 6.5: Offensively, was all over the field. Did not score, but really pushed the offense forward in the early going which is what Arena wants. Effectively, played much of the match as an attacking midfielder. After an up and down pre-season in Germany, this was the performance he needed.
Midfielder Chris Armas - 7: Until he went down with a potentially serious injury near the end of the first half, had a very strong performance. Got more into the offense, and was there defensively every time he was needed in the first 25 minutes.
Midfielder Claudio Reyna - 7.5: Another strong match for the player who now seems indispensable. His passing was crisp, he moved the attack well and had several good scoring chances himself. Was not 100 percent fit after several busy weeks in Scotland where the Glasgow Rangers are in both early Champions League matches and league play.
Midfielder Cobi Jones - 5.5: Started out on the left side in place of Lewis. Played with his usual great energy and caused Barbados constant problems with his speed, but still has problems with his finishing. Realistically could have, and probably should have had four goals. Was more into the match than the past two, but still lacks quality at critical times.
Midfielder Earnie Stewart - 6.5: Basically as fast and energetic as Jones with much better finishing. Passed the ball well, made several scintillating runs. Looking more confident after good preseason in the Netherlands.
Forward Brian McBride - 6.5: A up-and-down match. Made some wonderful plays, scored a very nice goal, but missed several chances he should have converted. In other words, looked like a player who is still coming back after missing almost two months of the season with a broken cheekbone.
Forward Joe-Max Moore - 8: A different player than the last time he played for the U.S. a year ago. He has turned into a solid professional playing in one of the world's toughest leagues. He was clearly the best player on the field and maybe should have scored more and can be faulted for not converting some of his early chances. But watching him, it would seem the U.S. would have had better results in its opening two matches had he been on the field in Costa Rica and Guatemala.
Midfielder John O'Brien (44th minute) - 6.5: He came on early for the injured Armas and not only played a solid match defensively, but got much more involved in the offense then he has in the past. Yes, it was against a nine-man team back on its heels, but this is the role Olympic coach Clive Charles wants him to play next month and he played it very well tonight.
Midfielder Tab Ramos (54th minute) - 6.5: Wonderful goal, wonderful effort. Showed he can still play, and can still help this team.
Midfielder Eddie Lewis (59th minute) - 6: Probably climbed slightly out of Arena's doghouse after subar performances in the first two road qualifiers. Did not do anything spectacularly, but played solidly. He is helped by the fact that with Ben Olsen out, the U.S. really does not have anyone who excels on the left side.
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at email@example.com.