Three Americans notch first goal in 4-0 rout of Canada.
In battle of youth, Canada is no match for the Americans.
By Robert Wagman
(Saturday, January 18, 2003) -- Canada has not defeated the United States in 10 previous meetings over the past 17 years and tonight's easy 4-0 victory by the U.S. at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., showed the Canadians will continue to lose unless they put their best 11 on the field.
Canada, 0-6-4 in the last 10 matches, does not have the depth to beat the U.S. without its better European-based players and was routed tonight even though the Americans started only three of their 2002 World Cup players.
This was a young and generally internationally inexperienced U.S. team. Among the American starters, only attackers Landon Donovan, Clint Mathis and DaMarcus Beasley have played more than a handful of international matches. Players such as midfielder Bobby Convey (used as a defender tonight), defender Dan Califf, midfielder Sasha Victorine and striker Jeff Cunningham have only appeared a few times in a full national-team uniform.
"Obviously, we need new blood in the national team so giving this group a competitive game is important," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said before tonight's game. "I want to see how we do. It's a major opportunity and a challenge for many of these guys to show they can play at this level. I need to see how they will respond."
To put things in perspective, the team the U.S. faced tonight was a mixture of a few veterans, but mostly younger players who likely will make up Canada's Olympic team in 2004. Missing were most of Canada's first line European based players, such as Julian de Guzman (Hannover 96, Germany), Tomasz Radzinski (Everton, England), Jim Brennan (Nottingham Forest, England), Paul Stalteri (Werder Bremen, Germany).
Playing tonight were four Canadian youth team players making their national-team debuts and a total of seven players who are part of the nation's Olympic team pool. Also, San Jose's Dwayne DeRosario broke a metatarsal in training and will be sidelined six-to-eight weeks, and Paul Fenwick (Hibernian, Scotland) had the flu.
The U.S. only outshot Canada 11-9 and Canada actually took more corner kicks, but the Americans dominated from the opening minutes and pretty much took the foot off the gas after going up by four goals early in the second half.
The inexperience of the Canadians showed vividly in all the U.S. goals. In the first half, U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra was completely unmarked when he powered Convey's corner kick into the net. Mathis ran past two defenders to receive Donovan's marvelous pass for the second goal. A minute later, the ball bounced off of two Canadian defenders to midfielder Chris Klein who couldn't have missed if he tried.
In the second half, wide-open midfielder Steve Ralston pushed the ball into an empty net after a nifty bit of passing befuddled the Canadian defense completely. Midfielder Ben Olsen, who started the play, was running next to him and could have scored as easily.
It was good to see Olsen running freely tonight, getting back into match shape after such a long absence from international play. He would have been a starter, but was slowed a bit by a slight groin pull, suffered in training. Later, he took a knock and went down clutching his right ankle, but the injury was not serious.
Arena used the occasion to experiment, particularly to fill what he sees a need for outside defenders. Starting with last November's 2-0 victory over the El Salvador, Arena tried Victorine as a right back. The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder is looking more and more comfortable in the role and ready to successfully make the conversion. Convey was put in at left back tonight and he pushed forward often and defended successfully, though he was not pressured very often.
"I think tonight's game was a good start for us," Arena said. "Although we had a 3-0 goal at half, I thought we were a bit sloppy. We did better in the second half. The field conditions were difficult. It was the first time out this year for both teams, so it certainly wasn't perfect. It's good to get our group back together and start building for qualifying in 2004. For the first game of the new year, I rate it as a good performance."
In the final analysis, Arena and the U.S. probably did not get much out of tonight. Canada applied little pressure and did not make much of a defensive effort either. Some U.S. players undoubtedly helped themselves tonight and no one really played poorly.
The February 8 match against Argentina February 8 in Miami, Fla., will be a very different story. As Donovan noted after the match, "This was fun tonight. We played well. But Argentina isn't Canada. We'll have to be ready."
U.S. player ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 5.5: Not put under much pressure, but still had a few dicey moments. Must hold the ball better, but showed good quickness and came off his line well.
Defender Sasha Victorine - 6: Settling well into his role as an outside defender. A solid defensive effort.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 6.5: Was well positioned throughout the mach. Moved up well into the offense on set plays and scored with a nice header.
Defender Dan Califf - 5.5: A very settled performance, perhaps his best for the national team. Not pressured at all, but played an error-free match. A big improvement from some past outings.
Defender Bobby Convey - 7: A new position, but a wonderful performance. Next to Donovan the best U.S. player tonight. By coming out of the back, he was a big part of the offense.
Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni - 5.5: Played solidly in the defensive midfield until he went out with a minor leg injury.
Midfielder Landon Donavan - 7.5: Did not score, but several wonderful passes led to goals. Was all over the field and continues to look comfortable in a withdrawn position. Provided a veteran performance.
Midfielder Chris Klein - 6: A nice 45 minutes. Scored a goal, made some fine passes and covered a lot of ground.
Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 5.5: As always a lot of pace and an exhausting work rate, but was still prone to be knocked over because of his slight frame. He always bounces up, but still needs to develop more upper body strength.
Forward Clint Mathis - 6: A tidy appearance. Provided a high work rate and some nice combinations with Donovan and others. A coolly-taken goal shows his value when he plays well.
Forward Jeff Cunningham - 5: Never really a factor despite the disorganized Canadian defense. Except for one play resulting in Klein's goal, showed relatively little cohesion with teammates.
Midfielder Richard Mulrooney (36th minute for Mastroeni) - 5.5: Came on early, after Mastroeni's minor injury, and more than held his own in the defensive midfield role. With Convey pushing forward, did well to cover for him when needed. Showed his utility.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando (46th minute for Howard) - 6.5: A nice 45 minutes that included a marvelous reaction save on Canada's only legitimate shot of the night. Certainly helped himself in the race to see who will be number three on the goalkeeping depth chart.
Midfielder Ben Olsen (46th minute for Cunningham)- 6.5: Slotted into the somewhat unfamiliar role of central midfielder, did very well roaming wide from side to side. Showed his usual toughness and he pushed forward relentlessly.
Midfielder Steve Ralston (46th minute for Klein) 6: A solid half that included a nicely finished goal. Combined well with both Convey and Olsen and pushed forward deep into the attack while also making a good defensive effort in midfield.
Forward Taylor Twellman (68th minute for Mathis) - 5.5: A bit banged up in training, showed good hustle in his 22 minutes, but to little overall effect.
Midfielder Peter Vagenas (68th minute for Convey) - 5.5: Essentially came on as a fifth midfielder pushing up the left side. No errors, but not much effect either.
Defender Nick Garcia (78th minute for Victorine) - 5.5: Short appearance to earn his first cap. Not called on to do much.
Robert Wagman is a senior correspondent for SoccerTimes can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org..