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McBride nets three in 4-0 romp over El Salvador in Gold Cup quarterfinals

Keller confused by his fate in England, happy to be playing in Gold Cup.

McBride’s penalty kick drops outclassed Cuba 1-0, earns berth in Gold Cup quarterfinals.

Gold Cup standings, results

U.S.-El Salvador analysis

McBride's offensive display answers many questions about his World Cup worthiness.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Sunday, January 27, 2002) -- A big question mark for the United States going into the CONCACAF Gold Cup was Brian McBride’s ability to bounce back from a series of unfortunate injuries, including a scary episode with a life-threatening blood clot.

If this afternoon's quarterfinal was any indication, McBride is ready to step in and be the target player coach Bruce Arena is looking for. Despite being only partially match fit, he netted three goals in the first 21 minutes, had two more tallies disallowed because of offside calls and narrowly missed on two more occasions as the U.S. rolled over El Salvador 4-0.

He scored with his head, and he scored with his left and right feet, He scored from inside the penalty area and he scored running onto the ball from midfield.

"It feels good to be scoring again,'' McBride said. "My teammates worked really hard for me today. The running off the ball was terrific. Ante (Razov) made a lot of space for me and the players saw me [when open]. I was in the right place to take the chances.''

The opposition was certainly not of the quality the Americans will see in the coming months, but McBride's performance today was about potential, and he showed he can be a decisive player.

"There's no question he's made it back from his injuries, which is good news," Arena said. "He's not where he wants to be, or where I want him to be, and that's just going to take some time. Brian does a lot of good things on the field. I thought his performance against Cuba was outstanding and today, obviously, who can argue with the three goals. He's been good and it's a real good sign to see in the early going that we have Brian back. He's another guy we can put into the mix, and I think it's a real positive.

"He took his chances well. The first wasn't an easy header. He was in the right spots, in front of goal and that's where we want him to be.''

Arena said he needed another week of practice to blend this group of players into a more coordinated unit following a disorganized 1-0 decision over Cuba Monday. Today, the U.S. passed well in the offensive zone, the crossing was much improved, the midfield was dominated and the defenders covered well for one another, stifling the Salvadorans.

A number of U.S. players stood out. Eddie Lewis showed he still has great potential playing midfield, then moving back to defense. Three veterans, goalkeeper Kasey Keller, defender Jeff Agoos and defensive midfielder Chris Armas were as steady as might be expected from players with their great experience.

Midfielder Cobi Jones recorded his 148th cap, within two of tying German defender Lothar Matthaeus for the most ever in the world. Midfielders Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, both 19, showed they will be in serious contention to make the World Cup roster. Striker Ante Razov set up McBride well, then scored a goal of his own in the second half. Defender Pablo Mastroeni is making points since joining the U.S. side as a naturalized citizen.

The conditions today were dreadful, cold and rainy. It poured through most of the match, intensifying in the second half and reducing the Rose Bowl field to a quagmire for the last half hour. That was a shame because it dampened one of the best U.S. showings in quite awhile.

Player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller - 5.5: Had a shaky moment in the early going, but settled in quickly. Never really tested after the first 10 minutes.

Defender Jeff Agoos - 6: Fine match. Settled the defense and was in the right spot all afternoon. Even managed to get into the offense and almost had a rare headed goal from the run of play.

Defender Pablo Mastroeni - 6: Second strong showing in this tournament, demonstrating good speed and field sense. Has put himself in the mix for the World Cup roster.

Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 5: Not really pushed during the first half and came out at halftime after taking a knock.

Defender Frankie Hedjuk - 5: Somewhat steadier than his previous appearances, but still not much of a factor. Made one nice cross resulting in a goal.

Midfielder Chris Armas - 6.5: Showed surprising speed in some situations despite muddy field. Covered a lot of ground defensively.

Midfielder Landon Donovan - 5.5: Disappeared for much of the time he was on the field, but displayed flashes of brilliance, including a terrific pass for one of McBride's goals. Needs to become more consistent for 90 minutes.

Midfielder Cobi Jones - 5.5: A gusty performance. As usual, put in a tremendous effort and had some wonderful touches. But was not consistent for the entire match.

Midfielder Eddie Lewis - 6: Much improved from his last time out with better crosses and more threatening runs on the left flank. Did well when switched to defense after intermission; such versatility could help him find a spot on the World Cup squad.

Forward Ante Razov - 6: Helped set up two of McBride’s goals and scored in the second half. Could have finished better, passed off more often.

Forward Brian McBride - 8: Was unstoppable until Arena replaced him midway through second half. Not only was sensational on attack, but made a couple heady defensive plays. Should improve as he become more match fit.

Reserves

Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley (46th minute for Bocanegra) 5.5: His demonstrated that his speed can be a potent weapon.

Midfielder Brian Maisonneuve (61st minute for Donovan) - no rating: No rating because heavy rain had caused field to deteriorate so badly by the time he entered. First cap since 1998 World Cup.

Midfielder Clint Mathis (63rd minute for McBride) - no rating: . No rating because heavy rain had caused field to deteriorate so badly by the time he entered. Still a ways from being match fit following June knee injury..

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman's "It Seems To Me . . . " appears regularly on SoccerTimes. He can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com..

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