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  • McBride's two goals spark 4-0 romp over Honduras as Reyna reaches 100-cap milestone.

    Analysis

    U.S. heads into qualifying on positive note after drubbing Honduras.

    By Robert Wagman
    SoccerTimes

    (Thursday, June 3, 3004) -- The United States men produced a good result last night, recording a 4-0 shutout in a friendly against a younger and less experienced Honduras at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

    Against a team it will likely have to face down the road in World Cup qualifying, the U.S. controlled the midfield and the tempo to the point that Honduras did not have a real opportunity on goal all evening, except for an Amado Guevara free kick that sailed wide in the first half.

    The Americans' opponent was not the same team Honduras coach Bora Milutinovic will field for World Cup qualifying, except possibly the first-round series against the Netherlands Antilles. Missing from Los Catrachos' lineup tonight were most of the European-based players including goalkeeper Noel Valladares, midfielder Julio Cesar de Leon -- the Honduran U.S. coach Bruce Arena most fears -- and strikers David Suazo and Samuel Caballero.

    Tonight, Brian McBride was sharp for the U.S., scoring a pair of goals in the first half. Forward Conor Casey showed he is the most improved U.S. player, one who is forcing his way into starter's role. Claudio Reyna was steady as ever in the midfield, and the somewhat patched together defense was solid.

    On paper tonight, the U.S. played a standard 4-4-2 offense but, with Reyna and Landon Donovan in the midfield, the U.S. played without a real right-side midfielder. That role went to right outside defender Steve Cherundolo who not only pushed the ball out of the back, but moved into the attack, often resembling a fifth midfielder. It was in that role he crossed so well to McBride for the opening goal.

    The most interesting substitution Arena made tonight was the halftime insertion of Eddie Lewis for DaMarcus Beasley on the left side of midfield. It would be hard to find two players who play the same position so differently. Beasley is a straight-ahead attacker who relies on speed and determination, while Lewis is a classical winger, playing up and down the side, a deadly crosser from the run of play and off set pieces.

    The U.S. team looks and plays differently, depending on whether Beasley or Lewis is in, so who plays on the left flank is a function of how Arena wants to play against a given opponent.

    Milutinovic could definitely have used a better result tonight. He is under considerable pressure with Honduras winless in eight games (0-4-4) since he was named national-team coach at a salary that is something of a scandal in the relatively poor country.

    Tonight, Milutinovic found himself with a dilemma. He needed a positive result, but he is taking a team to the Summer Olympics, so he had a young team to prepare for Athens. He also wanted to give his European players a bit of a rest after their long season, so he called in seven players, including young midfielder Jerry Palacios, from Olimpia.

    Perhaps trying to earn a draw, or win with a lucky counter-attack, Milutinovic played with five in the midfield, including two defensive midfielders, and only one forward. He started with Carlos Pavon up front, and later brought in Milton (Tyson) Nunez in the 59th minute, instead of starting both which he would normally do. The strategy didn't really work when Honduras gave up the two goals to McBride, and the cause became hopeless when Guevara ejected in the 40th minute.

    The Americans certainly looked ready for their opening World Cup qualifying series against Grenada, beginning June 13 in Columbus, Ohio.


    U.S. player ratings

    Starters

    Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 5.5: Could not have had a much easier night. Did nothing really wrong, but still shows a tendency to get himself out of position and at times his distribution left much to be desired.

    Defender Greg Vanney - 5.5: A solid effort. Was successful, at times, pushing the ball forward and worked with Beasley in front of him.

    Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 5.5: Did fine in the middle, although his best position could be outside on the left where he plays for Fulham in England.

    Defender Tony Sanneh 6: Scored a nice goal. He started playing central defense in Germany but, at heart, he still sees himself as an attacking midfielder or an outside defender who pushes forward. He certainly did well tonight and showed he can play internationally in the middle of the back line. His long-term value to the U.S. is he can play three or four positions well.

    Defender Steve Cherundolo - 6: Pushed forward with effect all night, yet stopped everything that came his way defensively. A strong performance.

    Midfielder Chris Armas - 5.5: Remains unsung for his contribution. Playing behind Reyna and Donovan, he frees them to push forward without looking over their shoulders to worry about defensive responsibilities.

    Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 5.5: Played with pace and determination, but his fundamental problem remains -- he creates chances but has difficulty finishing them. He easily could have had, and should have had, a goal or two.

    Midfielder Claudio Reyna - 6: The engine that keeps the U.S. going. Rarely spectacular, but does the little things that help the U.S. control the middle. His 100th outing for the U.S was as solid as most.

    Midfielder Landon Donovan - 5: One spectacular long run, several wonderful passes, some hard work on both ends, but he disappeared for long stretches.

    Forward Brian McBride - 7: Two clinical finishes, something some of his teammates failed to do tonight. HIs strong performance leads to the conclusion that he has become a more finished player thanks to playing the last six months in England.

    Forward Conor Casey 6.5: Clearly the most improved player on the U.S. roster. Not just a physical forward anymore, he can range from side to side, hold the ball well and creats both for himself and others. A bright future awaits.

    Reserves

    Defender Bobby Convey (46th minute for Vanney) - 6: Inserted as a defender, but played like an attacking midfielder at heart, which he is. At times, he attacked deep into the offensive third.

    Midfielder Eddie Lewis (46th minute for Beasley) - 6: A strong performance. Still the best American with crosses and free kicks from the left side, he covered defensively for Convey when he charged forward.

    Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni (46th minute for Armas) - 5.0: Far from his strongest recent performance. Appeared shaky early and never seemed to settle in. Had trouble containing the swift Nunez. Has been playing defense recently both at the club level and, at times, for the U.S., so he might be a bit rusty in the midfield.

    Midfielder Earnie Stewart (63rd minute for Casey) - 5.5: His 99th cap was well earned. Showed he still has the pace to perform at international level, playing well both offensively and defensively.

    Defender Cory Gibbs (72nd minute for Bocanegra) - 5.5: Certainly did nothing wrong in his brief appearance, but like Bocanegra, might be better on the outside than in the middle.

    Robert Wagman is a SoccerTimes senior correspondent. E-mail Robert Wagman.

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