U.S. Men's schedule
American offensive explosion in 4-0 romp over Honduras mitigated by weakness of opponent.
(Saturday, March 2, 2002) -- The United States enjoyed one of its best offensive afternoons in quite a while today, rolling over Honduras 4-0 and creating a dozen more legitimate chances before 38,534 celebrating fans at SAFECO Field.
While the dominating victory was certainly impressive, it has to be understood in the context of the opposition. This was far from Hondurasí first side with only a couple of the players who crafted the 3-2 upset of the Americans in World Cup qualifying September 1 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
"I think this was a really good afternoon for us," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "We played really well and got a good effort out of the guys today."
Probably the biggest story for the Americans was the play of its goal scorers, Landon Donovan and Clint Mathis who each netted a pair. Both could end up playing pivotal roles in the upcoming World Cup, and their performances today helped define what their roles might be.
Donovan, who has been less than effective in some national-team starts at forward, showed he is both more comfortable and more dangerous playing in the midfield. On both of his goals, he was able to run through or past some less than stellar defenders, then calmly wait for the goalkeeper to commit before finishing. More than that, he showed how creative he can be when playing an opponent who gives him room in the midfield, Now, he needs to grow to have matches like this one against quality opponents.
Mathis, who is clearly still not in top shape following his long rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, made a big statement today that he should be the second forward, pairing with Brian McBride. Mathis is another U.S. player who often appears more comfortable coming out of midfield than playing up top, but today he doggedly played a true forwardís role and did well.
"This was a good way for me to come back and get a sniff," Mathis said. "I watched a lot of soccer during that time and just did a lot of rehabilitation getting my leg strong, but this was a great way to come back."
One play today highlighted the good and the bad of this team. In the 28th minute, Saul Martinez, a quality forward and probably the best player on the field for Honduras, split defenders Eddie Pope and Pablo Mastroeni, who both reacted much too slowly. Martinez came in alone on Keller who did not react slowly, instead coming alertly off his line to make a fine diving save. It was the turning point of the match.
There were a lot of positives for Arena from this outing. Except for the poorly executed offside trap that Martinez beat, his defense played well. It was a makeshift unit, with a hurting Jeff Agoos only able to go a half on the left side, Eddie Pope, just returning from injury, in the middle and a seldom-used Richard Mulrooney on the right side But it played with surprising effectiveness, albeit against a Honduran front line that could generate little in the way of offense.
The U.S. moved the ball well in the midfield and, for the first time in awhile, the midfielders combined well with the forwards. There was nice passing and good service from both wings.
Obviously, the Americans are going to face much tougher tests in upcoming friendlies in Germany and Ireland, and even March 10 in Birmingham, Ala., against Ecuador, a World Cup-bound squad that was embarrassed by its early elimination from Januaryís Gold Cup. However, todayís result is satisfying with a number of players helping their chances of making the 23-man roster for South Korea and Japan.
U.S. player ratings:
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller - 6.5: Only asked to come up big one time and he did with a point-blank save on Martinezís breakaway. Other than that, only had to play the ball a couple of times in an error-free afternoon.
Defender Jeff Agoos - 6: Shook off a sore back to put in a solid half at left back. Moved often and well into the center to back up Mastroeni.
Defender Pablo Mastroeni - 5.5: Not a bad outing, but not overly distinguished either. Worked well with Agoos, but has not clearly determined if he has a play consistently on the international level
Defender Eddie Pope - 5.5: Given the difficulties he has had coming back from injuries, just to put in 90 minutes is a good first step. Had a bit of trouble from time to time and really did not assert himself. But a good first match back.
Defender Richard Mulrooney - 5.5: Made good long passes out of the back end and covered his side of the field well. Made few errors, and overall had a satisfying afternoon.
Midfielder Chris Armas - 7: As usual, strong in the defensive half, but showed today he can push the ball forward effectively and combine nicely in the offensive end. His run made Donovanís first goal happen, thus securing the result.
Midfielder Landon Donavan - 7: Showed he is vastly more comfortable in the midfield than at forward. The quality of the opposition notwithstanding, calmly finished his two goals. One of his best national team outings to date.
Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 5.5: As he usually does, showed that his speed can make a huge difference. Is rapidly developing into a good two-way player and made some fine defensive stops early. His combination with Lewis was integral to the third goal.
Midfielder Brian Maisonneuve - 5: Had some good touches and made some fine combination passed, but overall did not have a big impact in the half he played.
Forward Clint Mathis - 6.5: Showed some signs of rust in his first national-team start in nine months since tearing ACL, but but had a terrific match and staked a claim on the second forward position.
Forward Brian McBride - 7: Assisted two goals and made passes that could have easily led to a couple more. A hustling performance with purpose.
Defender Eddie Lewis (46th minute for Agoos) - 5.5: Showed versatility with a rare appearance at left back. Put in a good 45 minutes, but was not forced to play much defense so he was free to push the ball up the left side. Assisted Mathisí second goal.
Midfielder Brian West (46th minute for Maisonneuve)- 5.5: Showed good speed, made several quality crosses and a beautiful through ball to set Donovan free for final U.S. goal..
Midfielder Richie Williams (60th minute for Armas) - 5.5: If he makes the final World Cup roster, it will be in this role, as a late replacement in the defense midfield. Was not called on to do much, but showed he is a calm veteran. Did nothing to hurt his chances to make the final roster.
Midfielder Bobby Convey (60th minute for Beasley) - 5: A few good touches and made no glaring errors, but also had little impact. Part of a learning experience.
Forward Jeff Cunningham (65th minute for Mathis) - 5: Running out of time to make an impression. Didnít make one here despite a couple nice combinations with Donovan and West.