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Analysis

U.S. puts in respectable effort, gets decent result in horrendous weather.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Tuesday, June 6, 2000) -- They call it a nor’easter. It might not have appeared that way on television, but recalling the first MLS Cup in 1996 will bring back memories of the playing conditions at the same Foxboro Stadium tonight.

Driving rain, coming down sideways in a steady 35-miles-per-hour wind, with gusts even higher and temperatures around 45 degrees. It was not much of a night for anything, especially playing stylish soccer, and not surprisingly the match reflected the weather.

The story line of the match was simple: opportunistic goal, momentum swing, terribly blown call, lights go out, the United States ties Ireland 1-1, one point for each team in the Nike U.S. Cup standings, move onto New York.

The officials for the match were from Mexico. Some of the Irish were talking conspiracy theory, saying by preventing an Irish victory, Mexico’s chances to win the tournament increased. But, in reality, it appeared to be a case of simple incompetence, somewhat blatant, but not sinister.

U.S. coach Bruce Arena thought his team outplayed the Irish through most of the match and might have gotten the winning second goal had the lights not gone out in the 71st minute. Irish coach Mick McCarthy didn’t see it that way saying, "We all see these matches pretty much from our own perspective."

Actually, Arena was probably closer to the truth. Ireland had few chances. The U.S. had more, but only a couple were serious.

Arena completely changed his lineup from the 11 who started against in Saturday’s 4-0 triumph over South Africa. Ireland, which already had brought a young squad because of injuries and defections, started a much different squad than tied Mexico 2-2 on Sunday.

To an extent, until both coaches started substituting in the second half, it was the U.S. "B" squad versus the heart of Ireland’s very successful under-21s .

In the end the big winner tonight was Mother Nature.

U.S. player ratings

The weather was so horrendous it borders on the unfair to rate any of the players. Several played better than might be expected given the conditions, while some others, did not.

Starters

Goalkeeper Brad Friedel - 5.5: Not called upon to do very much. Not at fault on the goal. Had some positioning problems at times, but generally a sound match.

Defender Frankie Hejduk - 5: A spotty match. Showing the effects of little playing time in Germany. At times made strong defensive efforts, but was not effective in the air. Also did not push ball ahead with any effect.

Defender Gregg Berhalter - 6: Probably the strongest of the U.S. defenders. Played a solid match in the middle. Was not flashy, but did not have to be. Generally handled the Ireland central forwards with little trouble. Staked a claim on a position in the starting 11.

Defender C.J. Brown - 5: Another defender with a spotty match. Made some nice plays but also had several very noticeable gaffes. His problem in recent months have been consistency, and that was a problem again tonight.

Defender Greg Vanney - 5.5: A steady, but unspectacular performance. Made some good defensive stops and on occasion brought the ball forward well and crossed it accurately. Showed he could be depended upon in the future.

Midfielder John O’Brien - 5.5: Did not play a poor match, but added little to the offense. Was steady playing in front of defense but did not act as a link between defense and offense. Seemed a bit lost at times.

Midfielder Ben Olsen - 6: As has become expected of him, provided high energy every minute he was on the field. Had a couple of early chances, but lacked finishing. Still was constantly among the more dangerous Americans on the field.

Midfielder Jovan Kirovski - 5: Very inconsistent match. Got himself in good position on several occasions, but could not supply the finishing touch. Worked hard for the entire match, but in the end without much effect.

Midfielder Steve Ralston - 4.5: Did not make much of an impression in the half he played. Was not a factor in the middle.

Forward Jason Kreis - 6.5: For much of the first half was the best of the U.S. players. Was unlucky not to have scored on one of three good chances. Ranged well back into midfield to control balls. Probably helped himself earn a spot on the squad.

Forward Ante Razov - 5.5: A difficult performance to evaluate. Not a strong match except his performance as the invisible man when he scored while at least three yards offside and directly in front of the goal. Seems to need the ball played to his feet, and during much of the game did not get good service. That improved with Reyna and Stewart in the match and he looked better in the late going.

Reserves

Midfielder Earnie Stewart (46th minute) - 6.0: Added considerably to the U.S. attack in the second half. After he entered momentum shifted towards the U.S. until the lights went out.

Forward Claudio Reyna (59th minute) - 6.0: During much of the first half the U.S. was ineffective in the middle. After Reyna came on the U.S. began to get control of the middle and made several good offensive thrusts. Showed he is one of the team’s indispensable players.

Forward Cobi Jones (65th minute) - 5.5: Did not have much effect after coming on. Had just settled in when the lights went out. Was not a factor after the match resumed.

Forward Tony Sanneh (75th minute) - no rating: Looked better in the midfield than he did Saturday as a defender. But was really not on the field long enough to have much effect.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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